There are over 10,000 change management books on Amazon. The return of search on the site gives a list of endless titles. You might ask, “Why are so many people writing about change management?” Followed by, “Does anyone read the books? Why then is Lora writing about it?” These are all good questions.
Three weeks ago, I attempted to put my life back together from a recent move. Each morning, when I woke-up, I faced an endless pile of boxes. “Ugh,” I muttered under my breath as I shuffled from my bed each morning. I started with 350 boxes and I have gradually worked through about a hundred of the them. The pile seems to never end. I hate moving as much as I hate taxes.
To lighten the task, I pretend that each box is a gift to myself. Unsure what it is inside the box when I start to open it, I find that each is a connection to my past. My challenge to myself is “How did I accumulate so much stuff? And, what do I really need?”
No doubt. Moving is hard work. I took a week off from work to try to get my life in order. However, I went right from the fire to the frying pan. The week following the move, I facilitated the Supply Chain Insights Global Summit.
The coordination of the Global Summit is taxing both mentally and physically. While I love seeing and working with supply chain leaders, there is no way to sugar coat the work that it takes to coordinate an event of a hundred people. It takes a toll.
Here are my thoughts on change management before and after the conference.
My Thoughts Before the Supply Chain Insights Global Summit
As I completed the mindless ripping of tape and sorting through the contents of the boxes, my mind wondered. I thought about the chart in Figure 1 and the topic of change management. Circling in my mind is the question, “Why would a company expect a software vendor to offer services in change management? Why are business leaders not taking more ownership of change management? And, what makes it so hard?”
Figure 1. Gaps in Supply Chain Technology Provider Performance in the Eyes of Business Users
I feel bruised. Recently, I coordinated a change management project for a major manufacturing company. I do not like doing this kind of work, but a friend begged me to help. The team worked hard. We made a lot of progress, but the impact was small. Why? The business leader said all of the right things at the start of the project, but was not present to lead the effort. The business leadership team missed the check-ins and failed to follow-up on their action items. The result? Frustration for all.
The goal of the project was to test and learn. The focus was to test new solutions to improve demand management. There was clear communication that the team could fail forward, but the group was so “scared for their jobs” that failure in a test and learn mode was not a viable option. The team wanted the “safe path forward.” We attempted to execute a series of small incremental learning projects, but the supply chain planning team wanted a defined project plan with an “as is” and “to be” state with a well-defined ROI. I pushed hard against the business objectives, but hit a wall of change management. In many ways, the process of unpacking was cleansing; however, I strongly believe that only a business leader can drive a business transformation. A third-party can help, but cannot lead the effort. These were my thoughts before the conference. I felt even more strongly on these points post conference.
Thoughts on Change Management Post Conference
I handpick the case studies for the Global Summit. Over the course of the year, I look for the best presenters , and develop the program based on what I see.
- Leaders Take Ownership of Change Management. They Do Not Delegate The Responsibility to Consultants or Technology Providers. Passion exudes when a business leader drives change. I smiled during the presentations by business leaders at the summit. Pride filled the room. These projects were clearly business led.
- The Focus Is on Transformation not Technology. While technology is an enabler, the best case studies focus on transformation using technology. The focus is on outcomes not digital innovation. The best change efforts focus on solving hairy, business problems and improving business results. (For clarity on the importance of what may seem like a nuance, please listen to the case studies in the podcasts at the bottom of this post.)
- Terminology Matters. Nick Lynch, Shell tells a great story to make this point. To drive revenue, many business consultants re-named S&OP as Integrated Business Planning (IBP). While many leaders–I usually find that they are consultants trying to sell services– argue that there is a major difference, I have not drunk the Kool-Aid. I think that there are many labels for a S&OP-like process, but I like Nick’s story of naming S&OP Integrated Business Value (IBV). Nick’s argument is that when business leaders ask commercial teams to help with planning that they question the effort because they do not see their job as planning. However, when the focus is on joint value, the culture changes driving greater alignment and collaboration. The focus is on outcomes not on a planning process that lacks cross-functional ownership. As Nick spoke, I flashed back to the renaming of the Cisco teams’ transformation as the Integrated Business Value team. Renaming the supply chain team was instrumental for Cisco to move past a functional approach to drive cross-functional transformation.
- It Takes Time. Teams Need to Know Where They Are Going. At the Summit, leader-after-leader posted their multi-year journey. It was clear that painting the picture of change transformation was essential to align employees to drive the outcomes. To understand, let’s reference the Schneider case study/timeline from the conference that I include here.
For Schneider, each phase was 2-3 years in duration. Change takes focus and time.
I love Mourad Tamoud’s story. He is the SVP of Global Supply Chain for Schneider Electric. As he spoke, it was clear. There were no doubts. This effort was leader driven. Notice the focus of forward project momentum coupled with simplification.
In reflection, I know of no meaningful change driven by a consultant or a technologist.
Moving is a good time to reflect on life goals and change habits. In this move, I am doing both. I know that I will never again put my self in the position of driving change without the support of a visionary business leader. I also now have an appreciation for the difference of academic approaches and lasting outcomes. I clearly do not think that change management coordination is the role of a technology provider.
What do you think? I look forward to your thoughts.