Home' MHD Supply Chain Solutions : MHD Nov-Dec 2014 Contents 68
With technology continually evolving
and the marketplace constantly
changing, it goes without saying that
improvement projects are a necessity in gaining
or maintaining competitive advantage. Managing
change has become a way of life at corporate
level and educating people is a vital factor in its
success. It's surprising, then, how many execu-
tives still get it wrong.
In the headlong rush for change, many
executives underestimate the importance
of getting the basics right. How you interact
with and educate your staff can have a huge
impact on the implementation of a culture of
The first thing a manager has to do is define
the scope of a project and the time it will take.
This has to be realistic -- not too wide or too fast.
Once the scope's set, it is fundamental the
message is communicated throughout the
organisation. The critical factor most often
ignored is the need to take the message to the
entire audience - people must be engaged with
the project, because it is upon their actions that
success depends. Missing out a group like the
shop floor, for example, and then expecting them
to pick it up on the run is a recipe for disaster.
A major project doesn't mean chucking the
whole organisation up in the air and seeing what
comes down again; you have to give people time
for the implications to sink in, so they can adapt
to the new technology or processes.
In successful organisations, the entire
workforce has a level of understanding of how
the whole business runs, its strategy and where
it's trying to go. This vision must come from
and belong to the senior executive. You have to
do some very advanced thinking about where
you want your business to be heading, the
processes you need, and the performance levels
that will be necessary.
You are asking your staff to aim for something
that may not happen for 18 months. Throughout
that period you have to help them believe that
eventually the picture painted really will come
true and it will be worth it for everyone. The
project is about getting them in that frame
of mind, but if someone doesn't provide that
vision, they simply won't reach the end.
The road map for success is deceptively simple:
• Set a realistic scope and timescale.
• Ensure you have buy-in at every level of the
• Find the right project manager.
• Appoint a team that is not only capable of
driving change through their own depart-
ments but can also work together.
• Allocate the tasks.
• Equip the team with the facilities and technol-
ogy they need to handle the project effectively.
• Communicate and educate thoroughly.
• Monitor results and give on-going support.
Sustainable change requires top-down
commitment and bottom-up ownership of the
new ways of working, and it is the manager's
role to ensure this occurs.
Are your executives working
below their pay grade?
Senior executives getting involved in the day-to-
day running of the business, be it deliberately or
unwillingly, may not on the face of it, be a major
issue but it is, in fact, a classic symptom of an
organisation out of control.
If senior executives are spending the time on
day-to-day issues, it first begs the question: who
in the organisation is focusing on the business
strategy and driving the business forward; and
second, what are the middle managers doing?
Organisations must have the capability
to manage the future at the same time as
dealing with the daily operational demands.
This requires clearly defined roles and
responsibilities: the senior executive should be
responsible for developing the business plans
and strategy, while the middle managers and
frontline staff are in charge of executing them.
The distinction between these two roles is
the business horizon: the outlook of the senior
executive being mid-long term, while middle
management focuses on the shorter term. This
is a distinction without which unplanned events
and fire-fighting are the norm, and routine
things don't happen routinely. Typically, such
organisations share the same characteristics:
• Functional 'silos' resulting in lack of integra-
tion of core business processes.
• Unrealistic plans.
• Inaccurate data.
• Lack of process measurement and the related
• A workforce with poor understanding of
businesses processes and their roles and
Middle managers and team leaders are paid
to manage weekly and daily operations of the
business and must be left to do so, whilst the
senior executive steers the ship. However, it isn't
unusual for executives to have been promoted
to their positions because they were good at
fire fighting. These executives often feel more
comfortable, even enjoy, operating in such
environments. It is important to recognise the
executive who deliberately starts fires, so he or
she can experience the satisfaction of managing
the crisis and being seen to save the day.
The danger for these fire-fighting executives is
summed up by the words of one wise company
director, who said: "If I have got two people
doing the same job, I have a good opportunity to
get rid of the most expensive one."
An organisation that can't gain control of its
everyday business processes and get to a state
where 'the routine things happen routinely'
faces the serious threat of being outperformed
by the competition.
There is incentive for everyone to gain control
and start managing the future.
Making the routine things
happen routinely -- the secret
to sustained improvement
The toolbox of improvement techniques avail-
able to the modern executive has expanded
rapidly in the last 25 years. From Lean man-
ufacturing, to Six Sigma, to Kaizen, there are
plenty of tools available to choose from, and a
wide range of companies and individuals to help
you apply them, or even apply them for you. As
with all things, there will be varying degrees of
success, but something that remains common
with many of these programmes, is the absence
of sustained, long-term improvement.
As an Oliver Wight consultant, I have been
asked to assist many an organisation after it had
implemented an improvement initiative (and
sometimes multiple initiatives) that didn't deliver
HOW TO MANAGE
STUART HARMAN AND MIKE REED
MHD SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS --- NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2014
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