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Leading Through Change and Transformation: Supply Chain Leadership Series Ep 13

By Published On: October 5, 2023

Listen to this Episode!

Host: Chris Gaffney

Co-Hosts: Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple

In this Episode:

In Episode 13 of the “Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series Podcast,” we delve into the intricacies of advancing your career by mastering the art of Leading Change and Transformation. Those proficient in managing constant change and steering teams through transformations not only hold high value but also set themselves apart from the masses. Tune in to identify the traits of individuals who possess keen self-awareness about their own responses to change, as well as those of others. Grasp the nuances of guiding others through change by adopting discipline, establishing cadences, maintaining routines, implementing measures, and ensuring transparent and consistent communication throughout the transformation process. Delve into the latest research insights on change and transformation. Equip yourself with strategies to build a persuasive case for change, foster commitment, and ensure your team’s mental readiness. Uncover the primary reasons for transformational setbacks and strategies to mitigate or lessen their impact. Harness the insights from this episode to evolve as an adept transformational leader.

What is the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Series?

The Supply Chain Careers Leadership series expands its previous content format into a more in-depth focus on leadership development. This program is a series of 10+ episodes that are hosted by our very own supply chain executive, Chris Gaffney. These episodes explore subject matter and topics that relate to excelling as a leader in the business world, much of which Chris has gleaned as VP of Supply Chain at Coca-Cola. Familiar faces and fellow supply chain leaders, Rodney Apple and Mike Ogle chime in with their experience and knowledge, all of which can be used by supply chain leaders to develop and advance their careers.

[00:00:00] Chris Gaffney: Welcome to the Supply Chain Careers Leadership Podcast, and I’m your host, Chris Gaffney, and I’ll be joined by my co host, Mike Ogle and Rodney Appel. We’re excited in this series to talk about a number of key impact areas for leadership and development for supply chain professionals, students, and employees.

We’re going to talk about how you can work more effectively as an individual. to create your own space for development, how you can differentiate in the workforce, how you can chart your own path to grow and develop, and how you can guide your own career. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

[00:00:38] Mike Ogle: This podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group.

The industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit SCM talent [email protected] to search for or to post supply chain jobs. Visit the supply chain job [email protected]. Are you tired of struggling to optimize your supply chain? Look no further than Profit Point. Be experts in supply chain, network design and technology integration solutions.

Visit profit to learn more. That’s

[00:01:13] Rodney Apple: Welcome to the supply chain careers podcast. This is the leadership series, featuring our host. Chris Gaffney, my name is Rodney Apple. I’m here alongside with Mike Ogle. Today, we’re going to serve as your co host on this episode. Just a friendly reminder.

We have covered quite a bit as it relates to leading yourself. So those first 10 episodes, if you have not checked them out, they are timeless advice for improving your own productivity, work life balance and related topics. Today, we’re getting into leading change and transformation,

[00:01:53] Mike Ogle: You know, wow, 13 episodes.

Chris, how does this episode on leading change fit into the leadership series at this point?

[00:02:01] Chris Gaffney: Mike, this one, I think, really gets to two of our four categories. This is definitely a differentiator. You are going to experience this whole reality of large scale change and transformation as an individual contributor or as a leader.

The way business is running today, almost any aspect of what’s going on in society, large change is just a fact of life. Being on the front end of this curve, being able to support change and lead others through change, lead yourself through change, I think is a differentiator. It is also fundamentally a skill and capability, so it’s about growth as well.

Those are two of our four big buckets, and so I think this one is relevant, and I think it’s really timely. Given frankly, what we see and hear from a lot of our clients and folks out there in the market today. So, I, I think we typically start with kind of our experiences in this and. What I would say for me, we’ve talked about particularly in this leadership space when you’re leading teams.

There’s a lot to do when you first lead that team. You’ve got to build credibility. You’ve got to build your own management systems. You’ve got to get effective. And doing the basics of leading a team in running the business and there’s a lot to that then when you get one of these large changes thrown on top of you you’re like wow i was spending all my time running the business now we’ve got to change the business and those who figure that out are the people and we’ve seen that in some of our other podcast.

The people whose careers can really accelerate because it is a challenging capability. And I would say, from my standpoint, I got into that comfort zone where I had roles operating roles. When I said, I know what I’m doing, I got aligned with the team, we got moving along and all the sudden something would happen.

And in all honesty at Coke, in many cases, it was a, an organizational change where all the sudden in the midst of where we thought everything was just cranking along, someone would say, Nope, we’re going to shift the organization. Now spend a big bunch of time on that. And the trick was, how do you keep the team focused?

While this change is going on, I think that was something I struggled with. The good news at coke is you had lots of opportunities for that. So the 1st. Large change that I had where I really tried to use some of the tools that we’re talking about today. Is when we created Coca Cola supply at Coca Cola, and this was a virtual company between Coca Cola North America.

And at the time, the large father in the U. S. Coca Cola enterprises. And we believe there was an opportunity for much better kind of tangible collaboration between 2 large supply chains and those 2 supply chain leadership group says we think we could do this in a very different way. And basically carved off 150 people and said, we’re going to go create this virtual company.

And I had the opportunity to lead that. It was a massive change. Half of those people had to literally change employment, including myself, went to work for a different company, which has its own set of tangible changes. Got to go home and tell, tell your significant other, we’re getting our healthcare from somebody else.

Benefits change. All of those things retirement 401, all that stuff changes and then the work change. We physically changed location and we were then serving different client basis. So it was a big change, but we brought in resources through our HR team who were. Very focused on this change space, and we decided we would actually train and embed a lot of the techniques that we’re talking about today to help us execute that change and effectively deliver on it.

I would tell you that’s probably the highest engagement in any team that I’ve ever have. I still have a picture of an offsite we did with that entire team sitting on my desk. And we felt like the business results were very material with that group and ultimately we felt like it was in one way or another a catalyst to a larger decision that ultimately led to the Koch company acquiring CCE.

So that was kind of my first experience in really trying to use the tools to do it.

[00:06:34] Mike Ogle: Those major challenges and change moments can either unify or tear

[00:06:39] Chris Gaffney: apart. There’s no question about it. And I think we’ll come back later. Lots of these things don’t go well. And so I think that’s hopefully what we get at today for those who have these looming, what are some kind of tricks of the trade or kind of classically the cheat codes that help you increase your probability of getting it right.

So I kind of love to hear your takes Rodney and Mike on your experience and kind of running through these large scale changes in your experience as well.

[00:07:08] Mike Ogle: So, you’ve got me on this team of 3 that is currently on the university side and 17 years of association experience as well. So, I’d say, 1st of all, I’m not going to really go deep into the university side because universities tend to move slow.

It’s not the place that you tend to see a whole lot of transformation and change, but you’d be surprised sometimes, depending on which kind of department or which staff function somebody might be on. But on the professor’s side, we’re like independent contractors. Working in departments and colleges together and really one of the last to change unless there’s a major threat to particular research projects or research center or the viability of an academic unit.

So, it’s only when change really gets thrust upon, but you’d be surprised at the new reporting requirements and things that end up coming in that people grouse and try to get together and figure out how they’re going to make it work for their piece of the organization. I do say, however, that I think some of the experiences from my 17 years on the association organization side will be much better.

So I used to manage about five to six groups at a time that consisted of about 10 to 40 people each. And I won’t call them teams because in no way were they really teams, except that they were typically competitors when they were outside of the room. And to even be in the room, these were A type leaders.

There were many shifts to working formats and programs and topics that we dealt with, and it was driven by the constantly changing dynamics of the business world. In particular, of course, and everybody knows in supply chain logistics, material handling, there’s a lot of change that ends up taking place and things that you have to adjust to.

There are some people who are resistant to that. They may be coming out of that conservative viewpoint. They just like going to the same kinds of meetings, the same kinds of reports that they get all the time. But there’s too much change in industry for that to happen. What this really called for was some carefully managed change of some long standing programs, but some just wanted to stay the course.

But like many things in life. I think something that I tend to repeat a lot to my own students is that when the pain of not changing exceeds the pain of changing, then change and transformation can really take place or should take place. In our situations, there were major programs, there were vendors that were changed over, tools that were used, reorganization of reporting and meetings that all ended up being pretty painful, but was very much needed.

The biggest challenge was presenting the case for change. Knowing the resistance path and pain points that you ended up having in those kinds of people and the organizations, the things to anticipating the resistance and how it was going to be dealt with being able to find the champions, the people who understood the need for change and were supportive and have them lean on the resistors, but in the right way, because there really is an art to being able to make that happen.

And I’d say one of the last points I wanted to point out here is having that really good plan, a detailed plan, attention to detail in a plan for how to go through the steps of the transformation. And it’s not just making the actual change itself. It’s how to sell it. And how to communicate it and get to the comfort and collaborative level to where everybody’s ready to truly make that change.

And they feel like a team that everybody’s like, all right, let’s all go and get after it. And then the feedback to make sure that, that you communicate how things really turned out and what’s happening as you’re on the path. So that’s what really spelled success for us.

[00:10:52] Rodney Apple: Good stuff, Mike, from my angle in the recruiter, executive search chair and supply chain for 20 plus years, if anything has been constant and supply chain has been changed and it just well adapted and well versed in this for my own firm, SCM Talent Group, we currently working on reshaping our organizational structure right now.

And you, you hit on this, Mike and Chris, it’s important. And what doesn’t work is, is. Coming from the top down and just shoving in their face. This is the new way we’re doing things. I think it’s critical to have that. Involvement, and he said selling the change, what are the impacts, the benefits, not just to the company, but to each individual, because they have to be embracing it, or it’s just not going to work.

And then, as I look back at my corporate days on the recruiting side, heavily involved with these transformation, Chris, as you mentioned, there’s a lift and a shift of a cross functional team that is dedicated to that transformation. But oftentimes I’m in the seat with, Oh, I’ve got a lot of positions to backfill.

So that’s where I get to work. But oftentimes it’s bringing in people into these transformations, bringing in a skillset that doesn’t exist. And then we’ve got our clients that are always going through change. Oftentimes we’re approach, we have the wrong leader. They’re coming in with that authoritative approach.

And so we need folks that can come in and are more, we talked about servant leadership. That are change agents could be a turnaround for a facility. That’s it’s often requested whether it’s a plan or distribution center or business unit. So we’re often getting those requests. And so I know I’m talking from a high level, but I think.

The point that I’m making from my particular lens on the talent acquisition side is that if you’re working in supply chain, you really have to embrace change because supply chain is rapidly evolving and it has to be a big team effort with the right plan in place. That plan may shift and ebb and flow, and that’s expected happens all the time.

And then you have to have your associates down to the ground floor that are part of that solution. They know what it’s going to do to their work and how it’s going to impact it. And ultimately, what are the benefits and value that are going to be gained when we come out on the other end of this? So those are some of my perspectives.

And Chris, we’ve and Mike, we’ve had a quite a few people on our podcast that had been part of these large scale change efforts and transformations. Any that you’d like to call out, Chris, that would be beneficial to our audience.

[00:13:32] Chris Gaffney: I will actually focus on a number of the things that Martha Buffington mentioned in her session with us, because I think it summarizes a lot of what I think are some of the great perspectives.

Martha, having been in multiple environments where these changes have occurred, she has seen them when she was an individual contributor, she’s seen them when she was a junior leader, and she’s led them as a senior leader. And so I think her perspective is really valuable. So first she spoke about it.

From the front line standpoint, and I think her perspective there was you could see this going on all around you and it honestly could be pretty chaotic and I think one of the main message she has said was you got to control what you control and you can control your own performance. You can control your own.

Development plan, I’ve always said to people, if you’re not comfortable with change, invest in your development and performance, because those things, no one can take away from you. And they serve you well, either in your current environment, or they equip you to compete in a different environment. In all those situations, get your job done, commit to your development plan, and to the extent that you can be self aware.

Lean into the change. Most people don’t like it. The stats would probably say a very high percentage of people would prefer that these changes not occur, even if they understand that they have to. It’s just not in their nature. But if you as an individual can lean into that, I think that’s important.

Martha also talked about remembering having that empathy for when she was an individual contributor, how important it was to lead Through those changes and what really was important for her was good discipline cadences and routines and measures and communication. So you reduce the chaos for the frontline folks.

They understand we’ll be talking to you every 2 to 4 weeks to give you a status of what’s going on. We’ll let you know where we’re on track and off track. I think even when things aren’t crystal clear, just the consistency helps people be a bit more comfortable with that. And I think as Martha went through multiple cultures and saw large changes, she realized the need to be more flexible.

I think she, she had some situations where she probably earlier on was thinking more black and white. We have to get from here to there. And I think some of her experience has taught her that you have to accept that there’s more gray than you would like. And I think be more comfortable with that. And I think.

Reading the room a bit more and that’s true, both above and below understand that if that leadership culture is changing and your support that you thought existed for the change has migrated, you have to deal with that reality and then adjust to it. But I think the last thing she said that I think is very important is if you are a leader, always try to put yourself in the shoes.

Of your team and say, how are they dealing with this? Because I think that keeps you high on the empathy scale and also keeps you be that active listening to say, how is this landing on other people? Is it landing as we intended? And if not, what are we going to need to do to adjust? So some really good perspectives.

If you haven’t listened to Martha, go back and listen to her episode. I think it might have been episode 46 if I’m not mistaken. But anyway, Thanks.

[00:17:05] Rodney Apple: Yeah, and I think another one that was really good, Chris, that comes to mind is Jeff Markey’s, who led that very large scale global supply chain transformation for the Coca Cola company.

Someone that you and I both worked with closely. So that’s another good one to go back and listen to is that was probably something that might make case studies in business school. I

[00:17:25] Chris Gaffney: would imagine at some point when I do my best of, I definitely am plagiarizing some of Jeff’s advice to me. So we’ll, we’ll come back to that shortly.

[00:17:33] Mike Ogle: So, Chris, if you think about the academic side, some of the research that has been done out there, what have you seen out of the academic research that can really inform us a little bit better about how to approach change management and making transformations successful?

[00:17:48] Chris Gaffney: There is a tremendous amount of science in this, and we are going to refer to it probably from ye, the best.

Academic book on this is a book called heart of change. And the author is cotter. K. O. T. T. E. R. And we’ll talk a bit more about that research. What a lot of that research formalizes is what you have both said as we’ve talked about our own experiences. And the 1st thing is that in order for people to engage and commit to a change, they need to understand.

The what the why and the how and that what is understanding the change and what’s expected of them. The why is give them enough information that they can understand and believe in the need for the change. That’s that pain of change being worth more than the or less than the pain of not changing. Be part of that change and know that someone cares about their perceptions of the change and then they need to understand the how they need to know what’s expected of them and make sure that they are equipped that they have the tools, knowledge and information to play their role in the change and then an understanding of how they can be involved in it because people’s commitment to change increases when they feel like they are involved in it.

And so I think that’s 1 framework that what, why and how that’s a very standard thing to assess for all the people that who that are involved in it. And I think we were taught also about what was called the change curve that when you go through a change, every single person has a unique version of going through 4 stages and that 1st stage is denial.

The 2nd phase is resistance, which can be active or passive. The 3rd phase is then exploration, create some openness to it. And the 4th phase is commitment. And what we learned is if you have 100 people, there is a distribution of those who go through those stages quickly. And those who go those go through those stages slowly.

And I think the research says is, you have to take people and accept people where they are and help them through. Those phases as part of your plan, but except that not everybody leans in on this. I think those are a couple of frameworks that I think are very research based that helped us made that tangible using a term that I think actually came from some of the research is and it’s called the with them and that’s what’s in it for me and.

What i always reminded myself and my teams that you may think people are employed by your company but the first company they work for is i incorporated right it’s their home team and when you engage people in a change if you expect them to sustain it when you leave. They have to see a self interest in that they have to see that they will be better off by participating in the change.

So we would also very intentionally go by role and say what’s in it for these people and be very overt about telling them that so that they could see that and wrestle with that and hopefully ultimately anchor on that. We also then saw a formula for change that that became something that we used, Mike, you talked about some of this as well.

And it gets into some of the framework that we talked about before the 3 steps. But the 1st thing is building that case for change being super clear. Why are we doing this? Why do we believe that the benefits? Are worth the effort to do that. That’s clarifying that need to change as the 1st step. The 2nd piece then is driving commitment and that may be done at multiple echelons in the organization.

How do you get key leaders? How do you get the leaders below them, then how do you get people who might be disciples to help deeper in the ranks earlier, support that change and build, build a consensus through the organization and you’re going to use those people through the process, you get them involved back to the how of this.

In developing the plan, what are the approaches and actions required to move the people through those change stages we talked about and basically ensure that the organization is prepared mentally, but also equipped to be able to be successful in whatever the to state is from and to if you’re changing the work, you’re changing other things that you’ve given the people tools and training that they actually can be confident that they can be successful.

And then you go out and execute it. And this is where that project discipline project management discipline comes into that. And then you’ve got to do that classic plan to check that the track and monitor adjust. Understand and assess and solicit the risks that are out there and then do the improvement and keep going.

I think that formula worked well with us and. That’s when we got into another framework, which we, we, we call that project management PMO and project support, which is a lot of classic project management discipline, and then executing through those structured routines that Martha talked about having a project plan, understanding when you’re on track and off track and just kind of meat potatoes every week.

Where are we? What did we need to get done? What didn’t get done last week? How do we solve for that? What are the risks moving out in front of us and that kind of discipline of that PMO project management office driving that is a key, I think, capability that we brought into that. So that’s what the science tells us

[00:23:47] Mike Ogle: During this short break, we recognize that this podcast is made possible by SCM talent group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm visit SCM talent group.

At SCM to search for or to post supply chain jobs, visit the supply chain job [email protected]. Are you tired of struggling to optimize your supply chain? Look no further than Profit Point the experts in supply chain, network design and technology integration solutions. Visit profit to learn more.

That’s profit

[00:24:25] Rodney Apple: Chris could you speak to how communication plans, the importance of them, from my vantage point, this is where I see things unravel, if you don’t have clear, concise, and I would say frequent communication, whats your take on that?

[00:24:39] Chris Gaffney: I learned that from a boss that I had at Blackstock, in one of the early big changes that we had.

And Tom was… He’s a very emotional guy, very committed guy, very intense guy, but he taught me a lot. And one of the things he said is when we’re going to go through one of these things, and this was evolving a reduction in force or there were head count was going to be implicated here. So people had that anxiety, which is extremely real.

And he said, here’s what we commit to you. We are going to give you an update. And I don’t think it was every week or every two weeks. He said, you will hear from us consistently every two weeks, even if we don’t have new information, we’re going to come at you so that you can at least count on that consistency.

I think. That’s a great lesson. Okay. That people at least say, I’m not going to be in the dark because people will fill in that gap with their own information. That’s usually worst case. But I think the other piece of communication that’s important is 2 way and the successful transformations that I was part of, there were repeated surveys where we went out and said, do you understand what we are trying to do?

Do you understand why we are trying to do? Are you equipped? And if people came back and they threw up all over it, we would say, We have a large gap. Let’s figure out what that is. Many cases they were anonymous. We at least ask for their team. We can say this team’s in a better place. This is not we use that for our corrective actions.

I think those 2 things of communication 1st consistency and the 2nd 2 way. So you’re hearing and you can adjust and you don’t live in this fantasy land of everything’s wonderful with the frontline troops are not happy. You need to know that you may not like it. But the sooner you can do something about it.

[00:26:31] Rodney Apple: Chris, we’ve talked about our own stories with change. We’ve talked about some of our guests, some of the bigger transformations. We’ve gone through the academic and research, what the experts say as it relates to the framework. But I think the big 64, 000 question here is, according to statistics, 70 percent of large scale transformations fail.

[00:26:55] Chris Gaffney: Why do you think they fail? So I’m going to tell you what the research says. And then we can talk about what all of my in the wild experience and feedback from my peers says that, but Cotter, when he did this work, and this work has been out there for a long time, but it stood the test of time, came up with a clear list of why transformations fail.

And I can think of some of the work I’m doing right now that’s treading water because some of these things are a reality. But the first thing is not establishing a great enough sense of urgency. And I, I am aware of, uh, a transformation that’s actually quite successful, but it’s running along at five miles an hour and it could take 20 years to complete.

So if you don’t have a sense of urgency, people are busy enough running the business that they’ve said, this is, this must not be that important. So if they want to run this at five miles an hour, I’ll handle that. And I think that’s important. You don’t gain enough altitude or speed. The second one is you haven’t created a powerful enough guiding coalition if it’s the CEO’s great idea but nobody else anchors to it and he doesn’t expect his leadership team to own it and then drive it down you won’t have any traction and if you’ve got some i’ve been at this level also deeper in the organization maybe a click below the sea level and you’ve got this great idea i can remember we had that for the demand driven supply chain.

But I didn’t get support from above or support from the pier. So I was just the clanging gong. It might have been a great idea, but people said I could do the math and see that there’s not huge support for this. So I can find a way to give you the Heisman and we’re not going to move forward on that. I think lack of vision is important if people don’t understand how this connects to how the business needs to compete differently or could be successful out in the future.

It’s very hard for people to say, what’s the point that back to Mike’s point that lack of vision gives people that there’s not enough pain currently to motivate me to move to where you’re headed. One of the things that we say, and you said it in communication, Rodney is most people have to hear these messages.

We used to say 3 times. I don’t know. Now it might be 30 times a lot of repetition. In communicating a vision, so people understand and ultimately can articulate it. What are we trying to do if they can’t articulate it back to you in an elevator speech, which is like less than 50 words, then they don’t get it yet.

And you lose so much of that in the classic telephone when you go deeper in the organization, you’ve got to really over communicate almost to the extreme. I think that’s a big deal. And if you throw that plan out there and you don’t allow people support and clear the barriers that come to them, it can grind to a halt.

Um, I have a mentee right now who is in the front line driving a large scale change, has obstacles, has tools and tools that don’t work as advertised and is not getting the right air cover. And the lines of battle won’t advance if you don’t have that air cover, so you can get stuck and that’s where, where you have a big issue.

I think the other thing that’s important is. You can’t have all the gold at the end of the rainbow. If people don’t get some wins along the way, they will run out of gas. This is not a marathon where you get to eat a big meal at the end. You got to give people the gels and the power aids along the way.

Otherwise they just run out of energy. So I think that’s a real problem. I think a lot of senior leaders also like to move on. So they want to declare victory as fast as possible. And the frontline troops are like. We’re in the first quarter and you’ve out there declaring, we’ve won the game. You don’t know what’s going on.

And as soon as you declare victory, you want to move the resources elsewhere. So I think that’s a big issue. And then I think another project we’re working on right now is if they’re not, if the changes aren’t anchored in the corporation’s culture, people will see that and they know that and they’ll call a foul on that.

So I think that’s what the science says.

[00:31:00] Mike Ogle: Chris, when you mentioned Cotter asking the, the 3 major questions, it reminded me of the storytelling or journalism side of things where you’re trying to use the complete 5 W’s and 1 H, the who, what, when, where, how and why and being able to answer each of those things.

So it made me think of something I’ve heard suggested before. That if you concentrate on trying to envision where you’re headed, one of the ways that you can do that is to almost write yourself a one pager that was the project is done. And here’s how it was successful and how everybody reacted. It almost puts that here’s how it ended up.

You were telling the great story at the end of how it was successful. And then you have to do the same thing. That’s just as important. Why did this fail? Why did we write this track, this one page tragedy? of how this project, this transformation did not work out. If you look at those two things and get a little better picture overall, it may be helpful as one of the things that you look at in trying to pursue a major change or transformation.

[00:32:10] Chris Gaffney: I think some people do that in their vision so that the people can see the tangible benefits, right? If you’re trying to change your market position or whatever, they’ll go through these exercises and say, what would it look and feel if we were now the market leader? And I think making that real. Mike is what I think that really does for people and so that people get the vision.

So I think that’s how I react to that. And I think the other thing is understanding those sources of failure before you go down the path allows you to do a bit of. Error proofing in the lean six of the guys call that a failure mode effects and analysis. But if you can say what could go wrong, how do we plan for that?

Or how do we try to design it out? And at least in our repetitive cadences constantly be checking for where we might have obstacles planned or unplanned and clear those out as fast as possible. So we can keep moving. Absolutely.

[00:33:11] Mike Ogle: And Rodney talked about the, the 70 percent of large changes and transformations that fail.

So what is unique about the ones that actually do succeed?

[00:33:21] Chris Gaffney: And, and I’m probably going to dig in here and tell you the real world experience, because I do know some people we’ve referenced some of their names who have just gotten to be black belted this. They don’t shy away from it. They’re some cases seek this workout.

So I will tell you some of the. Very things that I’ve heard on top of what we’ve already talked about in many cases. You get 1 of these transformations going, you get a lot of support and in some cases, you get a budget to go drive this change. 1 of the things to be super cautious about is a lot of people will come out of the blocks real slow.

And they’ll burn a lot of the money early and then they get out onto the road of the transformation. And all of a sudden, the budget tightens up and you really hurt yourself and run the risk of not being able to get it done. Being really careful about burning your budget early is important. And I know some people who intentionally now work on kind of a pay as they go strategy is get those wins.

With tangible economic value and fund the project as you go, then you really protect yourself from the finance guys coming back and saying, gosh, this is taking so long and costing so much. So I think that’s important. We talked about getting the coalition of the willing, but we, we use a term that is clearly, I would say is a term of endearment, but we went and looked for the people that we would call the snake killers.

These were people who were extremely experienced. Very poised, very confident they could lead through these changes. They could come in and support teams. They would give other people a lot of confidence working side beside. It’s like the special forces folks amongst the regular troops. Those people are really valuable.

If you can find them and support them in many cases, they’ve been there and done that. If you have a change that involves. In particular technology and you’re having to go through multiple sites, you’ve got to get each site stable before you move on. Otherwise, you’re leaving a train of wreckage behind you and people who still need help.

I think, I think that’s important. In many cases, you’re going to use partners and because you’ve got to augment your capacity, your capability. And I think being really rigorous about who you pick. Is a huge differentiator and it can’t be the people who market the best. It can’t be people who have the right political relationships.

It’s really gotta be. People who’ve done this before can demonstrate that can reference that. So you’re confident that they are really going to be a resource to help your team in this time. So I think those are some things that to me have proven really valuable. I would also say in the case. Where you’re going at multiple sites, a strategy that’s worked really well has been what I call a pull forward approach that if you have sites in your future, you bring resources from those sites to an existing implementation.

So they can see tangible value, they can provide some of that excess capacity, and they can then be much more equipped with what a site is really going to be experienced when the implementation comes to it. Their site. So I think those are, I think some of the practical things in terms of building the plan and building the approach.

[00:36:55] Rodney Apple: Chris, phenomenal advice and perspectives. But we all know, having worked in a few big, large behemoth corporations myself, that there is a lot of red tape bureaucracy and, and politics that you have to meander through and sometimes they can. These transformations examples, a new senior leader comes in and puts the kibosh on the whole thing.

What is your advice there for navigating those turbulent political waters?

[00:37:23] Chris Gaffney: If you are a leader and you’re self aware, one of the things that you want to do is create the culture where you want to hear about things that are off track. And we used to say, I want to welcome the yellows and the reds. If you walk into a update.

And everything’s green. You should be concerned. Your concern should be that your team is not comfortable letting when things are off track. So you’ve got to find a way to role model that when the reds and the yellows come up, you say, we need to bring the resources to solve that problem as opposed to saying.

Why did this happen and who am I going to headhunt to address that? So that’s the self aware leader. I think many large changes come from the center, a corporate center, and then they are executed out in the field. And I think there’s a real risk in that case, because in many cases, the folks in the center are distant from the pain and.

I, I think you’ve got to do a couple of things there in, in some cases, make sure the center led people have to go out and see the front lines and feel the pain of the people that are out there. And I think if you’re a leader, you have to be comfortable with your field leaders calling the ball on this and saying, this isn’t where it needs to be because people pay a price in the somebody at the top has staked their own reputation on this large change.

And in many cases has made a lot of promises. If the folks at the top are trying to manage up on this. That is a real risk. I think if you’re running 1 of these projects, you got to make sure that you understand that risk is out there. If you’re in the middle of these projects, in many cases, it’s going to require you to take a stand and sometimes take a risk.

If something is not where it needs to be, and the environment is not such where people want to hear that. Ideally, the top folks can hear that feedback from the front line, but you need to understand that in all cases. Everybody, particularly these large transformations, they are pivotal to people’s careers.

If they’re successful, people accelerate from these if they’re not, they do damage people. And so everyone in here from the front line to the top has that with him. And so I think being aware that’s a reality and making sure that those personal motivations. Don’t compromise judgment and decisions in how, how the plan is executed.

And if it’s off track, how resources are brought to address those issues. I think that’s a very real point of caution. And I think I think I’ll repeat it back to that 2 way communication. You’ve got to have ways for people to vent and let what’s really going on because I think that’s probably the biggest pain is that the folks in the corporate headquarters.

Think everything is fine and the folks at the front line say, why did we go through this? This is not what was advertised back to what Mike said. They’re now saying this pain was not worth it. Okay. We’re stuck in the middle. We can’t get to this perceived place where things were going to be better. And if you’re not hearing that, and that is not addressed, then you’re running a risk.

Then you’re back into this high risk of failure because those people at the front line will not deliver different business results. And you’re then going to have those very real engagement issues and you run the risk of people saying. I’m out so I think those are some pretty hard lessons that I’ve heard from a lot of the folks that I’ve talked to.

[00:40:59] Mike Ogle: And one of the things that I had to be taught early on in dealing with all these a type people in a around a room was that some of them will look to particular individuals who have been leaders who have been outspoken in the past and if they don’t speak up either positive or negative.

Somehow they’re headed off to the bar after the meeting, and there’s a little group of four or five that are going to either become naysayers or supporters in a hurry and good luck dealing with that. After the meeting, it can be difficult. So being able to get their input is good. But I think one of the other cautions is just being able to understand that maybe you’ve talked with those people in advance.

And you understand what that story is going to be. You’ve all, you know what the reaction is going to be. Their impact on the rest of the people around the room. And you don’t want them to be too much of an impact early on, so that others are afraid to speak up. So there’s so many different dynamics that you have to be careful of, and making sure you can read the room.

[00:42:01] Rodney Apple: Excellent points, Mike and Chris, that was that was solid. I think this is a very hot topic. It has been for quite some time, but I would argue in the last few years through the pandemic and coming out of the pandemic and this nonstop bullwhip effect evolutions of technology labor challenges that I could go on and on, but transformations.

Is a big deal and I hope our audience has gained a lot of great insights and advice, uh, that can help them with their own change and transformations. Chris, where are we headed to next for the next episode?

[00:42:37] Chris Gaffney: Continuing in this topic of leading others, we would like to. Get into a very topical discussion, and that is leading in the hybrid world.

The reality is the pendulum is swinging back for lots of people. But I think the reality is some form of hybrid is going to continue. We’re going to talk about where are we and where are we headed. And how to lead thoughtfully and effectively in kind of this remote and hybrid working world. So we hope this one is very pertinent for all of our audiences.

Look for that one coming up next. Wonderful.

[00:43:19] Rodney Apple: Thanks again, Chris and thanks audience. We appreciate you listening. If you find this content interesting or useful, we encourage you to head over to talent dot com under the resources and insights tab. You’re going to find all sorts of content. We’ve been developing for over a decade.

That relates to supply chain careers, professional development, and we even dive into supply chain insights and analysis of this leadership series is really getting a lot of traction from folks that are. At that senior executive or C suite level, but it’s also resonating with folks that are striving to get to that level.

We encourage folks that are serious about leadership and. Taking their career to new heights to, to check out our content. And if you like what you’ve heard today on this episode, please subscribe, give us a rating, share it with anyone in your network that you think could benefit from it. Thanks again for listening.

We’ll see you on the next episode.

[00:44:21] Mike Ogle: This podcast is made possible by SCM talent group. The industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit SCM talent [email protected] to search for or to post supply chain jobs. Visit the supply chain job [email protected].


Who is Chris Gaffney?

  • Co-Founder, Edge Supply Chain, providing Supply Chain Services to the CPG Industry
  • 25 Years w/ Coca-Cola holding Supply Chain leadership roles:
    • VP of Global Strategic Supply Chain
    • President of Global Supply
    • SVP of Product Supply Systems
    • VP of Logistics for North America

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