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Today’s customer-driven markets environment is becoming increasingly complex, unpredictable and uncertain for companies that operate in highly globalised markets. The grown pressure to create competitive advantages is driving shorter product life cycles combined with faster technological leaps. This situation results in the effect that a continuously growing number of entities faces an ambivalent challenge of trying to cut costs further while being more responsive and flexible towards changing customer requirements. A survey executed by McKinsey in 2011 (The challenges ahead for supply chains) revealed the biggest challenges nowadays that companies in cyclic industries have to cope with are uncertainty and market demand volatility.

A static supply chain fails to flex as customer needs change and will be known as the “one-size-fits-all” approach of the organisation and the supply chain remains insensitive to customer ever-changing needs and demands.

Flexibility

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein

According to SCOR (supply chain operations reference) supply chain flexibility is divided into two segments. The first segment deals with Customer-facing metrics and the second segment deals with Internal-facing metrics. The success of flexibility is to satisfy both metrics within any organisation that intends to be flexible. Let us test this with an example.

Supplier One – Carries red, blue, black and white cars of the same model in order to meet the customer needs instantaneously. Based on customer-facing supply chain metrics, supplier one scores high marks because they are flexible and meet customer needs. Whereas by carrying all above-mentioned colours, the supplier inventory carrying costs are high and scores low marks when assessed based on internal facing metrics.

Supplier Two – Carries one popular colour per model in the showroom. And based on customer’s requirements sources different colour car from the dealership network across the country with an assured delivery date. Customers are willing to wait in case of capital investments. This supplier will score high both on customer-facing metrics and internal facing metrics.

The global and dynamic markets demand better quality, more product variances and extended services including higher reliability and faster deliveries. Each of those requirements can be a crucial differentiator that decide whether a company sustains on the market or not. Besides that, customized products with short lead times characterize the current situation in various industries. Flexibility is not all about customer-centric objectives and ending up with financial losses. It is all about being flexible to meet customer needs by able influencing customer requirements.

Collaboration and flexibility

Collaboration increases flexibility and makes it easier for organisations to meet customer needs. The stakeholders (both internal and external) within the supply chain start embracing change rather than fearing it and learn to turn a potentially challenging situation into an opportunity. In fact, this type of teamwork and collaboration are the very foundations of agile work methodologies, which allow teams to be more flexible and thus, responsive.

Change Drivers

In any flexible supply chain change is the way of life. The drivers will be there in every organisation exerting force for a change that’s not recognised within the organisation. Some companies will be slow in recognising the drivers that initiates flexibility and collaboration through the change process and that ultimately leads to customer satisfaction. But the need for coming to grips with change is inevitable. Flexibility with a collaborative approach and willingness to change is the ultimate mantra for business success.


Source:Alamy stock photo

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“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Why Change (the storey behind the change)?

“Global growth is projected to reach 3.9 percent in 2018 and 2019, in line with the forecast of the April 2018 World Economic Outlook (WEO), but the expansion is becoming less even, and risks to the outlook are mounting.
The rate of expansion appears to have peaked in some major economies and growth has become less synchronized. In the United States, near-term momentum is strengthening in line with the April WEO forecast, and the US dollar has appreciated by around 5 percent in recent weeks.

Growth projections have been revised down for the euro area, Japan, and the United Kingdom, reflecting negative surprises to activity in early 2018. Among emerging market and developing economies, growth prospects are also becoming more uneven, amid rising oil prices, higher yields in the United States, escalating trade tensions, and market pressures on the currencies of some economies with weaker fundamentals.

Growth projections have been revised down for Argentina, Brazil, and India, while the outlook for some oil exporters has strengthened”. – Source: International Monetary Fund.

The advanced economies growth rate is not anywhere near the emerging economies or the global economy projected rate. When things are not moving in the right direction, what is required is to initiate a change to propel the growth.

The Change Process – Kotter’s theory

Change Management – Kotter’s theory of change management explains that the change process goes through eight phases as explained above. Business transformation or innovation is driven by three forces and they are people, process and technology. However, people are a critical part as they drive process improvement and they use and optimise the technology. However, people are apprehensive about change mainly because of fear of failure. Fear as two options, the first option is to forget everything and run or face everything and rise. However, we are all human and when we are drawn out of comfort zone we go through four phases as shown below.

The first phase is a comfort zone, the second one is fear zone and the third one is the learning zone and finally, when we conquer fear we enter the growth zone.  Unless one comes out of the comfort zone, nothing changes.

“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

Change management is the process, tools and techniques to manage the people side of change to achieve the required business outcome in order to align with organisational goals and objectives. Change management is the process of incorporating the organizational tools that can be utilized to help individuals make successful personal transitions resulting in the adoption and realization of change.

The Reality

“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus

The survey conducted by Deloitte indicated that “Change is a transition from one state to another. Change is continuous and embraces all areas of life and activity of a single person, organisation or society at large.” And 68% of survey participants agreed to this conclusion.

Change Management is meant to support the organisation in its transition from the current to the target state of the organisation and people are a critical part of the change process and any change should be managed from stage to stage, the process of change needs controlled approach, the objective of the change management is the targeted future state of the organisation.

The Resistance

The biggest hurdle to any change management is resistance. This theory was substantiated by the findings of the Deloitte survey as explained below:

When we talk about organizational change we need to mention that this process isn’t simply a journey from point A to point B. You will need to pass many barriers if you want to succeed in your intentions to improve your organisational performance. One of the biggest barriers is resistance to change as an integral part of each change process. Few of the reasons for resistance are listed below:

1. Lack of Clarity
2. Losing the control
3. Threat to comfort
4. Job’s security
5. Implications on personal plans
6. Misunderstanding the process
7. Mistrust – Lack of confidence in the proposed change
8. Fear of unknown – Fear of failure?
9. Lack of communication and transparency
10. Peer pressure.

Overcoming resistance to change

“Leadership is an organizational imperative when managing change, and leaders who inspire a cultural shift in their staff have the greatest success in managing change. In a PwC survey, nearly two-thirds of staff surveyed felt that a top leader is in charge of change management, and almost half felt that top leaders should be in charge of cultural change. The good news here is that the same number of people felt that cultural change is also their responsibility.” The biggest problem we face today is the cultural change and which is in today’s world is being outsourced. The main reason for that is fear of failure. Today’s leaders have to recognise the grit the power of passion revealed by Angela Duckworth. Her theory reveals that effort * tallet = skill and skill * Effort = Achievement. Leaders are not brave enough to take up the challenge and they expect their colleagues to go through the cultural change driven by an outside agency who do not understand the emotional and cultural intricacies of the organisation.

The simple answer to tackle the resistance is to address the resistance to change. My recommendation in tackling the resistance to change is as follows:

1. Show empathy and not sympathy with the affected people.
2. Educate the people involved in the change about the change and the outcome.
3. Be transparent, share both positive and negative outcomes of the change.
4. Communicate effectively (walk the talk), both verbal and written.
5. Identify change agents and drive through the change agents.
6. It is not a top-down process, it is bottom-up engagement.
7. Be a leader and lead the change from the front and be accountable.
8. Understand the cultural and emotional challenges of the team and take initiatives to address them.

Let me end this article with wise words of Kelly A Morgan – “Changes are inevitable and not always controllable. What can be controlled is how you manage, react to and work through the change process.”


Source: Cartoon Image Copyright Fotolia – by cartoonresource

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We hear this phrase “Change Management” as frequently as “Excuse me”, one has to be really excused because change management has become a fad, far from reality. Change Management is a process and a journey towards desired future state from current ineffective state. This could involve mostly people, but other elements that go through a change and they could include Business Processes, Technology, Business Activities etc.

When leaders or managers are planning to manage change, there are five key principles that need to be kept in mind:
Principle1- Different People React Differently To Change
Principle2- Everyone Has Fundamental Needs That Have To Be Met
Principle3- Change Often Involves A Loss, And People Go Through The “Loss Curve“
Principle4- Expectations Need To Be Managed Realistically
Principle5- Fears Have To Be Dealt With

Miracles do not happen, we the people and transformational leaders make it happen. Change management should be as simple as changing your attire. However, it is complicated because it deals with human behaviour and the change draws people out of their comfort zone and creates anxiety stemming out of fear of failure.

In my opinion, change management is not a business process but mindset management process. As soon as people feel comfortable with what is called as change will embrace it without any mental blocks.

It is not as simple as said and done. What it takes it to make it simple and easy to achieve? Few interesting dynamics pop-ups in my mind and they are emotional intelligence, listening skills, communication skills, ability to walk the talk. One could question that listening is part of communication skills. Technically no, practically yes. The technical definition of communication is “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium”. As you can notice, listening is not part of communication. When you are unable to listen to other’s perspective, how can you exchange information effectively? Listen and Silent are spelt with same letters. Think about it. Practically, listening is part of communication because when the exchange of information is considered as an interactive process, one cannot exchange information effectively unless one understands other party’s thought process. See what happened to the patient (below graphic) on the operation table.

“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” Zeno of Citium

The idiom emotional intelligence is becoming more popular recently. But what is it? “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” If we dissect the definition, the critical words are aware, control, express and handle are the keywords of emotional intelligence. Be aware of the other person’s emotional state, control your emotions, express without hurting other’s emotions, and handle emotional conflict effectively. And finally, show empathy and focus on the issue and not the person.

“As more and more artificial intelligence is entering into the world, more and more emotional intelligence must enter into leadership.” – Amit Ray

In the change management mode, the leaders and the change managers talk a lot to convince people about the change and that is ‘talk the talk’. However, to make the change successful, it is absolutely necessary to ‘Walk the talk’. This means actions speak louder than words. Words are critical as all the people involved in the change process may not have very good comprehending abilities. Hence, it is absolutely necessary to convey the change in as many ways as possible. It could be a good idea to display posters about the change with motivational quotes such as, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”; “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”; “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”; “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”; “He who rejects change is the architect of decay”; “We can do it together”; “We can do it!”.

In this article, I have put the cart in front of the horse. I should have discussed the barriers to the change management before addressing those challenges. I have worked for a CEO who wanted the solution first and the problem next. I have followed his philosophy in articulating about the change management. Now let us look at the barriers.

“The only walls that exist are those you have placed in your mind. And whatever obstacles you conceive, exist only because you have forgotten what you have already achieved.” Suzy Kassem

In my opinion, there are no barriers to change, they are virtual barriers, let us examine them. The first one is “Resistance to Change”. The resistance could be political or mind block arising out of fear of failure. And the direct resistance could be due to fear of unknown and indirect due to political reasons.

Before embarking on the change it is necessary to understand the current state (organisational cultural scan) even before thinking about the change. Some traditional organisations may not be ready for change, they are used to doing things in their own way and style. The culture, processes and systems of large organizations dwarf the complexity of a change management idea/attempt. Please remember that an architect wouldn’t renovate a building without looking at the existing blueprints. The current state of the organisation is the blueprint for the change management process.

Managing changes in any organization can be compared to repairing an aircraft when airborne. Change is always a moving target because as we travel through the change journey, expectations change, business dynamics change and outcomes also could change. Long drawn change process may have many integration points that are potential to fail.

In current globalised economy, business is dynamic and fast paced which initiates change management. External factors such as competition play a vital role. In many cases, external forces drive organizational change. Competition, external threats, technological change, market conditions and economic forces are all common drivers of change. Organizations may expedite a change in response to external threats.

Change is not compulsory and at the same time one cannot exist and grow without change. Change is inevitable.

“After all, if you do not resist the apparently inevitable, you will never know how inevitable the inevitable was.” – Terry Eagleton

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