When a new era dawns in any organisation the habit is usually to turn towards motivational techniques to effect the necessary change. This is however exactly what prevents most organisations from changing effectively.
While traditional motivational activities work very well for creating shared intentions – usually based on hope, fear, or peer pressure – real change only happens through sustained and disciplined action.
The missing link between intent and action for change is the skill to change one’s own behaviour.We often expect people to adapt to change – especially when we’re excited about a new opportunity – without ever teaching them how to change.
This expectation is as unfair as asking an artist to do the job of a trained accountant. They might be very willing to, but unless they receive the same training, they will be largely unable to, or at least be unable to perform at the same level.
Translate the reason for change
The first step in developing the skill to change is to ensure that everyone affected understands exactly what should change and why.
While this might seem obvious, change management campaigns are often reduced to clever catch phrases developed by marketing departments.
Very few organisations invest in translating change messages into a context that is relevant to and understood by various groups and individuals.
Never assume that everyone understands why change is necessary. It is easy to mistake shared intent for true understanding. This is often a symptom of too much focus on motivating change, without the necessary backup by a clearly understood reason for change.
The logical reason for change will be the basis of discipline that’s left after the initial motivation – driven by emotion – has subsided.
It is also imperative to be very specific on which behaviours are expected to change.
People find it easier to change if they are told exactly what is expected of them in terms of both undesired and replacement behaviour, rather than leaving it up to individual interpretation.
Understand the complexity of resistance to change
Even the most compelling reasons for change, and the clearest communication is however not a guarantee for changed behaviour.
Humans are neurologically, psychologically, and sociologically programmed to resist change as a survival mechanism. We are hardwired to think that we can only ensure our future survival if we can control what the future will look like.
Organisations have to teach those that will be affected by change how to accept the unfamiliar and remain focused on the core purpose of the organisation. Resistance to change is dependent on so many complexities that the “mind over matter” approach of most change management programmes is unrealistic. Organisations that empathise with its people and train them on how to reduce the habitual resistance will see much better results.
Don’t count on linear results
Traditional change management programmes rely on motivation led by a change champion, and an entire group moving from one point to another through massive effort.
The problem with this linear approach is that it is not suited to the agile world in which we live. Very often, we find that change has changed by the time we get to where we thought it was going to be.
This strengthens my argument against relying too heavily on change driven by motivation, and led by a single source.
Change driven by several individuals or smaller groups – who have been trained in how to change their own behaviour to effect change – might not deliver results that align with each other simultaneously. It does however allow for these individuals and groups to take responsibility and be accountable for continuous movement towards a shared goal.
While linear results might look better in a report, more organic results have a compound effect across an organisation. Before you expect something different of people, first make sure that they understand exactly what is expected of them, and take responsibility as an organisation for equipping them to do differently. It might seem unnecessarily frustrating and lengthy in the beginning, but it will be an investment that continues to provide returns.
Buzzwords like social sharing, interconnectedness, engagement, immediacy and transparency have left the confines of social media discussions dominated by marketers and have started scaring professionals across all levels and functions of organisations.
The Robotics and the ‘New’ Supply Chain: 2015-2020 report produced by www.RoboticsBusinessReview.com included some clues to supply chain changes that need immediate action:
While forecasting and the increased adoption of demand driven materials resource planning (DDMRP) have already made significant inroads in reducing inventory levels and response times, data collected through social channels can increase the ability of forecasting systems to track where problems might occur before they occur.
Social media at its core is not about tweeting and liking and pinning and instagramming, but about access to information at a rate and volume that we’ve never experienced before.
Adrian Gonzalez, founder and president of Adelante SCM, is spot-on in saying “social media can – and should – play a central role in supply chain management. After all, social networking is not really about socialising, but about facilitating peopleto- people communication and collaboration.”
Humans over the ages have always had an inherent need to gain and share information. With fast-growing popularity of broadcast mass media in the 1900s it became possible to share messages with large audiences quite quickly. However, it remained only in reach of those with big budgets and access to creative content creators.
The digital revolution took mass media one step further by making it possible for anyone with an internet connection to circumvent the privilege and limitations of traditional mass media. The social media revolution made it possible for everyone to share a message instantaneously, and as a result the speed of gaining and sharing information has increased to the extent where businesses and industries managed according to tried and true practices are struggling to keep up.
In 2008 the Future Supply Chain report (available from http://bit.ly/2016FutureSupplyChain) compiled by the Global Commerce initiative included a number of issues that required the urgent attention of supply chain professionals to find solutions that threaten supply chains. With 2016– when the report advised these challenges be minimised– already history, most supply chains still struggle with the same issues: collaboration, integration, balancing customer satisfaction and supply chain performance, increased energy prices, and e-commerce.
Similarly the report advised ‘systems of transactions’ be changed to ‘systems of engagement’ and predicted that access to these systems would no longer be limited to a select few companies with big budgets but to all allowing the younger generation of supply chain practitioners to lead the way. This process of change is hindered by experienced professionals who refuse to accept the impact of social media on business. As valuable as these professionals and their skills, knowledge and experience are, they have inadvertently become the ones who are placing supply chains at serious risk. Social media has already started impacting demand planning, sourcing strategies and transportation capacity of existing supply chains, and the impact is likely to increase exponentially.
Supply chains that are truly social demand a change in the DNA of the supply chain by making buyers part of the chain through being socially informed and who enable forecasting and feedback by, for example:
It is of utmost importance that social supply chain conversations not focus on the popularity or comparison of existing social media platforms. The conversation should much rather focus on the genuine acceptance of customer demands that now include simplicity and absolute transparency. Social thinking is not about tools; it’s about a social mindset. Supply chains willing to truly listen, collaborate and share will find themselves in a less threatened position for future growth.
The biggest challenge for supply chain professionals willing to embrace the necessary changes is to convince the entire supply chain to consider approaches that are currently resisted because they pose a risk to the status quo.
The benefits of social supply chains, however, far outweigh the risks:
Manage exceptions and risks faster – Supply chains can save time by evaluating the financial and operational consequences of any proposed changes in a timely and effective manner, and reach a quick consensus and compromise on the course of action. An e-mail to 50 people that might be able to work on a solution takes considerably more time to process and return feedback than a post on an internal, collaborative social network that can simultaneously reach 50 000 people who already have the answer.
Shorten inventory lead times – “The speed of the chain is not really related to the systems used by the various companies – it’s all about people, and people talking to people,” said Tony Martins, the VP of Supply Chain at TEVA Canada. “Traditional command and control structures are outdated. Social media can create a virtual table around which resellers, wholesalers, manufacturers and suppliers can sit at the same time, and work towards fulfilling market needs all at the same time … not in a linear process as is currently the case.”
Reduce response times – Being able to alter distribution based on social data, available in real time and at low cost is no longer a distant dream, but a reality already in use globally. Demand for new products based on trends can adjust import quantities, delivery schedules and even inform innovation. Adverse weather conditions forcing delivery delays can be logged and communicated before posing a threat to driver and fleet safety or customer satisfaction. Low stock level alerts can be triggered simultaneously at the retailer, manufacturer and distributor.
Leverage supplier communities – By leveraging supplier communities to make business decisions and improvements to the supply chain and the systems managing it can have a significant reduction in research, development and even IT support costs.
Transparency – Social networks can provide a wider view of the supply chain and enable a large kinetic entity, rather than static and separated cogs.
Innovate and improve – Social networking can help companies generate more – and better – ideas for improving supply chain processes and solving existing problems by tapping the collective insights, knowledge and expertise of employees across all levels of the enterprise (and beyond). If companies are already using ‘crowdsourcing’ to drive innovation in product development, why not apply the same concept to drive innovation in supply chain management?
Measure effectively – Fill-rate, accuracy and on-time delivery type metrics only inform how well we did our jobs, but do not provide the full view of how well we serviced our customers. Insights generated by monitoring social media channels provide extremely valuable insight that can have significant impact on supply chain planning.
Supply chains have run out of time to be comfortable and complex. In less than 18 months end-users will have found or designed a way to bypass the traditional supply chain by simply using existing technologies in new ways. It is time to take to heart the wisdom of Charles Darwin: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
The popularity of wearable technology has had an impact on far more than just fashion and digital design trends. The ever-growing trend that will soon cause a flurry of frantic activity in marketing offices around the world is the impending change in information consumption.
Both studies based on formal research and those based on pure observation have proven that information consumption trends have changed significantly in a short period of time.
These days the most popular written pieces tend to be those divided by sub-headings, as it helps readers who have learned the skill of consuming short bytes of information at lightning speeds, to stick to longer form content. Even the decision on whether or not to read the full written piece is sometimes based on the value of information received from reading only the subheadings.
Long form content will always have a place, as people have an innate need to gather information. It is the format and length of lure that leads to informational long form pieces that has and will continue changing.
Major shakeups in the recent past for content creators (writers, marketers, PR professionals, journalists, videographers etc) include:
Wearable technology, whether it is a smart watch or smart set of eyewear, has brought about a new disruption. With tiny screens, room for only a single message, adapted scrolling functionality, wearable technology demands extreme brevity like no tool before it.
For content creators, who spend countless hours producing perfectly poised materials, the looming change in information consumption is a scary business. What many clients don’t realise is that it takes the same amount of time, if not longer, to create a piece of content that is suitable for the brevity demanded by developing mobile technologies, than a longer piece suitable for print or computer.
Content creators need to become skilled in formats suitable for the extreme brevity that is demanded by wearable tech, and will also have to educate their clients on the need for messages in a variety of formats.