Applying the principles of supply chain management: tips for success
Patrick Etokudo, SCMP, has worked in all areas of supply chain management and currently manages major projects in supply chain at Enbridge Energy Inc. as Director, Supply Chain Management.
Speaking recently at a gathering of supply chain professionals at the SCMA annual conference in Halifax, Etokudo said that supply chain is not only about the procurement of goods and services-it is “much more than what most of us in the room do”.
Citing Martin Christopher, a renowned Professor of Marketing and Logistics at the Cranfield School of Management in the U.K., Etokudo said it is “supply chains that compete; companies do not”.
Implementing change management principles in supply chain was the topic of Etokudo’s discussion. He stressed that to do this is to be focused on “achieving requirements that are important to the customer. It’s impossible to be strategic if you are not taking the long term view. Doing things the way you’ve always done them can be an enemy of progress,” he said.
Looking at the value expectations of a modern organization, progress is often slow.
Why? Largely because people have a fear of the unknown.
“People hold on to certain beliefs, believing they know supply chain. Sometimes we do not have the depth, sometimes we need a different set of skills and competencies-sometimes these are not there when we start. We can learn from the trailblazers,” Etokudo said.
Most of us are just not good at change management because naturally, most of us find comfort in the status quo.
What change management tools can help transform organizations?
“Most will change if the case is made (for it). Change is easy, but transition is hard, so it’s important to stay the course by setting a vision that is shared (by all stakeholders). This is a critical first step. Sometimes authority is good but even a mandate can be fleeting if you don’t have people behind the vision,” he said.
It’s important that you don’t seek to be “revolutionary” all the time in your approach to change.
“It’s important that you create early wins, little victories, the low hanging fruit that points to the inevitability of the change, and the ‘go forward’ nature of the strategy. The supply chain function is badly in need of people who think strategically,” said Etokudo.
Any goals and objectives of the change must be aligned with the company’s strategic direction.
“If the goals and objectives are at odds with the strategic direction of the company, you’ll be fighting a lost cause. People get confused and become very tactical, and passive resistance develops. Good people start to get bored and frustrated, and the bottom line takes a direct hit,” said Etokudo.
It’s by creating co-ownership that you’ll have an easier time getting the critical mass around your vision.
“You should not attempt to push through change if you’re lacking the troops behind you. What’s the pathway to sharing? It’s to communicate, to sell, but also to listen and to seem to be listening,” Etokudo said.
“People want to be associated with success. You can adjust the roadmap to incite feedback. But as a leader you probably want to spend 60-70% of your time engaging people,” he said.
The next step is to find and leverage the champions of change.
“It’s natural for people to resist change. There are those who are early adopters. You also have those who are just fed up with the way things are-go and find those guys, and cultivate their support,” he said.
Engaging, engaging and engaging, assuming engagement goes two ways, is a critical step, because leaders are also human beings, and they also have their fears.
“They are as vulnerable as the rest of us, so talk to them, sharing not just your vision but your ultimate objective,” he said.
You have to be able to demonstrate you’ve achieved what you wanted to according to what the status quo and milestones were, by measuring, sharing and course-correcting.
“I’m an avid believer in scorecards, but we should be honest when things are not going well. I don’t think that when we lose our place on a target that it’s bad to go back and say what we didn’t achieve, and realize where you were short. When you set up your scorecard don’t set it up to achieve efficiencies when you’re implementing supply chain management. It’s even more important to measure value creation, and system adoption,” Etokudo said.
Julia Kuzeljevich is Editor of Canadian Shipper. She has been writing about transportation and logistics issues since 1999. All posts by Julia Kuzeljevich