Implementing an effective S&OP process requires effective management of personnel, systems, and process issues. Of these three areas, the change management aspects of personnel issues are often the most challenging. Organizational change strategies fail most frequently due to the inability of management to lead their teams through the transition process. Are supply planners and demand planners communicating? Is sales operations providing timely input? Are issues being resolved in a timely manner? How will disagreements be resolved?
As a corporate process, S&OP requires strong leadership and a keen understanding of change management.
There are two elements to organizational change: Personal transitions and Organizational transitions.
An old paradigm in change management was that it was only the organizational that was going through the change, de-emphasizing the personal aspect. But an organization is made up of a triad of people, process and technology. We understand that the only part of that triad that might have resistance to change is the personal. As a result, an organizational change strategy must focus not only on organizational transitions; it must also focus on personal transitions. From a leadership perspective, this means proactively understanding the affect on various stakeholders and leaders, for example looking at:
• Who in the organization is going to gain and lose power – S&OP team? Supply team? Demand Team? Sales. Has a fully powered S&OP team been created?
• Who in the organization might experience a positive or a negative careers move
• Who might be exposed when the changes show how poorly things were done in the past
• Who has the most to risk by making these changing and why
In order to understand, from each of their perspectives the perceived risk, time should be spent conducting interviews as well as a leader and stakeholder analysis. The reason this is critical to building sustainable change is that you will then know what the objections are and how best to be proactive in handling those.
From this process one can gain buy-in with the people who can give or decline support for the project. If the stakeholder or leader feels as though you have their best interest in mind, they are more likely to support suggested changes down the road. If they do not feel included, they can block the project altogether, even if the changes make good business sense. The leader interviews and analysis is a process that needs special attention, unique planning and tailored action to ensure that more resistance is not created
Next, leaders need to understand the three phases of personal transition, none of which can be skipped or discounted if they want a positive return on the investment. The three phases include:
• The Neutral Zone
• New Beginnings
Many leaders ignore the first two, expecting employees to be in the new beginnings stage right after a change is announced. However, this means ignoring how humans process change. Since all humans go through this process, it needs to be acknowledged as part of the leadership activities.
The financial impact (business performance/productivity and project time line) to the transition phases can be significant. The depth (loss of productivity) and width (increased time line) of the transition phases is directly proportional to how well the change is handled by leaders. If leaders do a poor job of leading change, the Valley of Despair will widen and deepen, meaning that the project will run over budget, over schedule and the scope will creep. However, if leaders have been trained in change management, research shows they can skillfully lead employees through the transition phases with the least amount of impact to the project.
The stages of managing the personal transitions include employee:
• Awareness and Understanding
When leaders have mastered leading personal transitions, they can lead the overall organizational transition. When they have mastered organizational change leadership, they will be able to reduce the time and productivity dip as seen in Figure 2. The goal with teaching leaders to lead change is to reduce the personal transition dip and thereby reduce the organizational transition dip.
Pursue Transformational Leadership Skills
In order to be successful with transformational scale change, leaders must deploy different skills, some of which they may need to add to their current skill set. Some leaders may also need to evaluate their attitude and beliefs about how to handle change. Through an edification process, leaders can begin that shift.
We have found that the leadership skills required for leading large-scale change versus day-to-day management are in fact very different. One of the first aspects of leading change is to understand that 80 percent of any group will resist change. The other 20 percent are those that will get behind the change and pull the other 80 percent along. In order to motivate those 20 percent and eventually enroll the other 80 percent, a leader may need new leadership skills. What you don’t want is to create resistance in the 80 percent group, because no matter how excited the 20 percent group is, negative group-think is nearly impossible to overcome.
Research also shows that one of the primary reasons that so few programs produce the expected results is that change leaders don’t understand the distinction between asking versus telling, when they lead. The traditional methodology used for leading change projects requires these steps:
1. Identify the problem
2. Tell people how to do their jobs differently
3. Spend huge amounts of time, energy and money trying to overcome resistance and recover from decreased morale
Many leaders tell people what they need to do differently, versus spending the time to enroll and engage the employees in an interactive dialogue where they are asked what they think. The telling is part of what puts people in a threatened mode I it is easier when someone else, especially an expert, gives us the answer. The problems come later when resistance develops and someone else’s approach does not work for us. Asking versus telling is one of the keys to reducing the resistance to change.
An effective leader of change also understands that change naturally creates conflict. A leader’s ability to handle conflict will directly impact their effectiveness in leading change. As agents of change, a leader’s responsibility is to take the change, which is normally thought of as crisis, and communicate it as an opportunity. In order to do that, they need to have an understanding of what makes the conflict improve and what makes it worse.
3. Develop an Leadership Engagement Action Plan
With an understanding of how change works and the skills necessary for effective transformation, Project leaders and executives can assess their own change leadership skills and create an engagement action plan for the lifecycle of the initiative. This plan should deal with clearing organizational resistance, participating in early visioning sessions, supporting the project delivery team, communicating clearly and repeatedly on the reason for change, articulating and supporting the business case and truly being engaged in the transformation effort.
Experience has shown that leaders get actively involved when there is a crisis in an S&OP project are able to quickly resolve issues. A reflective and pro-active leader in this situation should recognize that earlier involvement – real involvement and engagement many times can prevent serious issues. However, a formal change management process properly initiated early is the best way to prevent such issues from occurring.