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Slow is the New Fast: Change Management and Your Supply Chain

picsnailHave you ever been asked a question a number of times and been unable come up with an answer that seems complete? You’ve tried and tried, but you can’t seem to put your finger on what’s missing. At a superficial level, it seems that all of the elements are there, but there’s still that hollow sound if you knock on it hard enough.

Then, after weeks or months (or years?) of thinking about it, you give up. Either the answer doesn’t exist or you’re not smart enough to find it or articulate it properly. Might as well stop dwelling on it and move on to other things.

That’s when the answer floats up from the depths of your unconscious mind and into plain sight. Ironically, the answer is found only after you stop looking for it.

We recently experienced that.

Over the years we’ve been asked a number of times about our approach to implementing new supply chain planning processes. How do you do it? Why is it successful? What are the main reasons? What advice would you give folks?

The answers we give to these questions make sense – get things down and agreed to on paper before moving ahead, don’t skimp on education and change management activities, focus on process and people first, technology second, etc. As “correct” and sensible as that may sound, lots of folks could probably say the same things. Our answers seemed superficial and hollow.

Then we got hit on the old noggin with a can of raw genius.

If you know anything about marketing then you know who Seth Godin is. He’s the author of 7 best-selling marketing and business books and his thoughts have transformed how people have been thinking about marketing for the past 50 years.

In spite of the fact that we’re supply chain guys, we love Seth. He’s often been described as a marketing genius. We disagree. In our opinion he’s a Super-Genius – the Wiley E. Coyote of modern marketing (and no, he’s not paying us to say this).

Seth has a very popular blog (sethgodwin.typepad.com) where he riffs and rants about all kinds of stuff, mostly marketing related. His thinking is often quite profound, but completely unrelated to what we do. Much like a good crossword puzzle, we always considered Seth to be great exercise for the mind, but not explicitly useful to a couple of supply chain consultants.

Then we came across this post:

Belief

People never believe what you tell them.
They seldom believe what you show them.
They often believe what their friends tell them.
They always believe what they tell themselves.

Seth was using these four points to describe why traditional advertising is becoming less and less effective as a means to winning loyal customers. He may not know it, but he also now qualifies as an expert in change management!

Even more importantly, Seth has given us the means to describe our implementation and consulting approach without that hollow sound. Sure, we tell people stuff – through our book, websites, blogs , our newsletter, etc. And as consultants, we also show folks lots of stuff – without PowerPoint, we’d be dead. But we’ve always recognized that the purpose of “showing and telling” is to inform, not to convert.

The real rubber hits the road when we engage clients and work together with them to design how their future planning processes will work within their organization. We call it process design, but it’s also a critical component of education.

Granted, this process can be slower than having all the answers and telling everyone what to do. But while some of the bars on the Gantt chart may be a little shorter, how will the change truly happen and be sustained? How can we be sure that they truly understand and believe unless we are sure that they’re telling themselves that they’re on the right path?

Think of two apprentice mechanics. The first has read books attended classes observed while a transmission was being replaced by an expert mechanic. The second did most of the work himself, with the expert looking over his shoulder and being there to answer questions. Which apprentice would you want working on your car?

People need to chart their own course, with some help from an experienced coach. They need to convince and teach themselves. Change management is really about unlearning the old and learning the new – rushing this process is done at your peril. By starting slow and methodically thinking things through, you give yourself the best chance of a smooth implementation with real results that can be sustained and improved upon. Slower is actually faster.

Thank you Seth! For teaching us something about our approach and about how we think

anyone should attempt to change their supply chain planning processes.

Seth wrote a great book called “Small is the new big”.
Maybe we’ll write one titled, “Slow is the new fast”.

 

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