Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Change management - strategic weapon for competitiveness

Gap between intent and implementation
2014 supplychainforesight respondents ranked lack of relevant skills and talent as the number one strategic business constraint. Whilst skills development of employees ranked as a top area for investment for long term gain in supplychainforesight 2015, this is seen as an area of clear intent but lack of implementation.

This article outlines the necessity for bridging this gap.

Arming for Change
Why is there a hesitation on the part of organisations to invest in skills if possessing relevant skills is identified as having the biggest positive impact on achieving a sustainable future?
Since “Identifying and managing change” is the top strategic objective in this year’s supplychainforesight survey, what strategic constraints were identified as preventing this from happening? The top 3 were: - (lack of) willingness to change/breaking old habits/relationships, supply chain information and intelligence and reactive vs. proactive approach.

These constraints can be addressed by training, provided it is understood that training is a process which will lead to changes in behaviour, performance or both. Of these constraints, the second (supply chain information and intelligence)  is a technical competency which will require some theory and a great deal of practice to impart. Such a need responds well to formal training.

The first and last constraints (willingness to change/breaking old habits/relationships and reactive vs. proactive approach) provide the biggest opportunity for business sustainability because they are attitudinal. They inevitably require substantial behavioural and cultural changes which in turn indicate a more holistic approach aimed at both the organisation and the individuals in it.

Change initiatives are time consuming and costly, significantly impacting the organisation’s drive toward success. Since we are living in a climate of rapid and radical change, supply chain organisations need to resolve how to successfully adapt and sustain change.
The first step requires the whole company to participate in workshops whose purpose is to identify why there is a need to change. Unless each person within the organisation can see for him or herself what is happening out there to necessitate changes in the way the company does its business, very little will happen. Such recognition can only be achieved through participation at all levels in workshops where senior management identifies strategic threats and opportunities whilst those at the coalface recommend the changes needed to deal with them.

By incorporating these recommendations into the company’s future strategy, top management will win the hearts and minds of those who must behave differently if the initiatives are to deliver and sustain their strategic benefits.

Whilst this consultative approach to developing organisational strategy will identify the need to change, it must also identify the measurable indicators which will show that the organisation has achieved its change goals and the target dates by which they need to be achieved.

At the heart of this method lies the identification of the key skills which will transform the organisation. An adaption of an old saying is very apt, “To change into what we’ve never been before, we need to do what we’ve never done before”.   To do what we’ve never done before means acquiring the relevant skills to do those things and this is where the winners emerge from the pack. Companies that will thrive in this climate of radical change are those which are aggressively upskilling each team member so that they are equipped and confident to thrive in a changed environment. This means not only the acquisition of new, “hard” technical skills but also the “soft” skills needed to adapt to change.

One of the most exciting things about managing change is that the job is never done: no sooner have we transformed the organisation to meet one set of changes than there will be a new set of changes facing us.

In conclusion, the important factor that makes organisations effective at change is having a culture that embraces continual change. After all, delivering strategic change is only half of the story. The other half is all about sustaining the change.

Is your organisation proactive or reactive when it comes to change?

What steps are you taking to bring about a culture of change in your organisations?

What skills do you see as being key to a sustainable future in the supply chain management field?