Change Management using Soft Skills Training – by Dr. Ray Carter

Evaluating the main methods of change management is a key practical skill required by all procurement, supply chain leaders and managers.

The rate of change in recent years is immeasurable. There are numerous examples in the world of supply chain management. For example quality control and checking became quality assurance, organisations that used to employ stock checkers, progressing clerks, order placers etc. now have automated systems and the list goes on.

The focus has moved from win/lose transactional purchasing to strategic win/win procurement. Collaboration and agility are the new key words.

The trend toward global sourcing and outsourcing is another classic example. The impact of new technology, including the internet in relation to sourcing and communications would easily warrant a book, let alone a few lines in this article.

The move from traditional hard edge KPI to softer intangibles and emotional intelligence is another example of how much the role of supply chain management has changed and no doubt more soft skills will be needed by those in supply chain management.

Procurement and supply chain leaders need to effectively manage these constant changes and challenges to encourage their teams to embrace change. There are various change models and mine is a practical approach, framed around the need for participation, communication, education and motivation in the change management process.

Participation: The need to engage with all stakeholders in any change process is critical and that begins with encouraging and facilitating active and willing participation. In any change programme the feeling of being helpless and not in control of events can be very disturbing to people. Therefore the use internal focus groups and cross functional management teams can provide that sense of ownership and buy-in.

Communication: In any change programme people are desperate to know what is happening or more crucially what is going to happen and in the absence of information the “rumour mill” fills the that gap. Often the rumours are embellished and sexed up and the forecast outcomes are worse than the reality. Clear, candid and unambiguous communication is what is required, this can take the form of presentations, interviews, and focus groups.

Education: There is need for the team to really understand what the changes mean, the implications for the organisation and their role within it. In my experience, many people adopt the “blocker” stance, due to a lack of real understanding of what the proposed changes will actually mean to them. This reinforces the need for clear and candid communication, whereby people can be lifted out the blocker mode and moved into the advocate position.

Motivation: The process of accepting change and new ways of working can be eased by highlighting the benefits. This is not just in terms of financial rewards and security, but also opportunities for challenging and stimulating work, job satisfaction, career development and upskilling.

Regardless of what model is used, change is rarely an easy process, but leaders and managers have a responsibility to ensure that the period from denial to normalisation is a short and a painless as possible for all concerned.


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