The Supply Chain team was generally viewed as lacking in skill and capability by those outside the organization. Customers and other internal functions viewed Supply Chain as a dysfunctional organization as evidenced by the poor Supply Chain performance metrics. And external benchmarking placed our Supply Chain last amongst our competitors. Going to infinity and beyond was a tall task to say the least.
Inside the Supply Chain organization there were a lot of very smart people. But there was no trust, teamwork or synergy. The culture was one more of complacency than of trend setting. And there was a lack of inspired leadership.
Something had to change!
Taking a Leap of Faith
The CEO had recently brought a new CPO on board. He was an animated, yet inspiring leader. Someone in HR had become aware of a company that helped transform teams into world-class organizations.
They required a substantial time commitment to do the training required. The CEO was looking for any functional leaders to try out this approach. The CPO raised his handed and volunteered to take the Supply Chain team through this experience.
When he introduced the idea to the team there was certainly some groaning because this would require an investment of almost half of the time of the top 25 Supply Chain leaders over the next 3 months. But everyone agreed that we had to try to do something different so we all made the commitment to support this effort.
The Training Journey Begins!
The tone set at the beginning of the training session was humbling and bordered on demoralizing. The CEO basically stated that the Supply Chain team was failing the organization. Customers were upset. Our Financial performance was suffering. Our Operational performance was lacking. And morale was in the ditch. This was our low point!
The Trainer then began what would be several months of intense training. As the Trainer went through the lessons it was clear that it was going to be a somewhat confrontational exercise. When someone answered a question or offered an opinion that wasn’t in line with what the consultant wanted to appear the Trainer would go on the attack. Or at least that’s what it seemed like at the time.
When individuals would challenge the Trainer on what was being said the back and forth debate would continue. It didn’t endear the Trainer to the rest of us as he challenged and hammered away at our colleagues. It emboldened some to be stronger and more vocal in their convictions. And for others it caused them to withdraw. Regardless over the ensuing days and weeks the Trainer wore them all down.
It took awhile to understand what was going on. But it did become clear. The Trainer was shaping behaviour. He was trying to free us of the poor and unproductive attitudes and habits that had permeated everyone in different ways.
And in retrospect it was what was necessary. Giving a mild-mannered, passive presentation would have had the same result that people always complain about. They remember only a tiny fraction of what was being taught and they certainly don’t make significant change thereafter.
This training was different entirely. The aggressive presentation of skills and techniques, and the focus on breaking us of bad behaviours and attitudes, created a blank canvas on which the Trainer could implant the new techniques and skills needed to fundamentally transform us.
These new behaviours would catapult us from being a dysfunctional team to being a world-class organization. To infinity and beyond! That was the promise. So what were the techniques that were being taught to us?
Training Lessons To Create a World Class Team
1. Build Trust and Get Rid of Your Baggage
Any team that has internal distrust of others will not be as efficient and as effective as possible. People spend more time either advancing their own hidden agendas, or thwarting the efforts of others, because there is a fundamental distrust of others. Whether you like or dislike someone else, you can still have trust or distrust!
Recognizing this the Trainer created an exercise that was designed to enable us to get rid of all of this negative baggage. With over 25 people in the room there were innumerable points of communication between individuals or groups of people.
Simply the Trainer had every person come face to face with every other person. In that interaction each person had the chance to say if they had an issue with the other person. If they didn’t they would declare that there was no issue. If they did they the person would describe the situation, the other person would acknowledge this feedback, then they would discuss it and then discard that emotional baggage.
It took a long time for every pair of individuals to interact. But what was left was trust! All of the emotional baggage that people had been carrying with respect to others had been dealt with.
If other issues were to crop up in the future then we were to deal with them the exact same way. Confront it head on immediately and then move on. There was no room for this negative baggage.
Trust in each other was an essential element of a high performing team!
2. Make Commitments/Promises, not Estimates
It happens every day. Someone is asked to do something, they say they will do it, and then when the time comes the work is either not done or is late or incomplete.
It’s easy to say you will do something but when there is no accountability and there is no repercussion if the promise is not met then there is no integrity, dependability or reliability in existence. And this is a sign of a poor performing organization.
We did this all the time. Our culture was the same. And this had to stop!
The Trainer helped us understand the difference between a commitment, or promise, and the alternative. If we made a commitment then that was a promise to do something with NO exceptions or excuses. If we only wanted to make an estimate then call it out as such. But if you made a commitment then you had to pull out all stops to make it happen.
You could NEVER miss a commitment or promise that you made.
By example, on one day we were discussing what time our meeting would start the next morning. There was a huge snow storm coming which would certainly make traffic more difficult. When we discussed meeting at 7:30am one person said they would try to get in by that time.
That was not a commitment. That person was letting the team down. There was no trying in that false promise. As the Trainer articulated that person, like everyone else, had to PROMISE to be there at 7:30am with no excuses. If they had to leave early, take a different route, or plan some other contingency then that is what they had to do. But there was no compromise.
A commitment is a promise that MUST BE MET with NO EXCEPTIONS!
3. Embrace the Possibilities!
It also happens every day that people are faced with huge problems and seemingly insurmountable challenges. They don’t know what to do and as such they can’t see their way to tackle the problem at hand. And often people will given reasons or excuses as to why things can’t be done. This is frequently an easier thing to do than putting in the effort to overcome the challenge in the first place.
But when all is said and done the only things that can’t be done are that we can’t avoid death and we can’t avoid taxes (although some try). EVERYTHING ELSE IS POSSIBLE.
Every day people around the world are achieving remarkable things. Problems are being solved. Things are being invented. Processes are being created and improved.
Just because you can’t see how to do something, or you don’t have the experience (or even support) that is no reason to give up.
The Trainer taught us the “Top of the Mountain” visualization approach. As a mountain climber myself I understood the analogy.
When you are at the trailhead at the bottom of the mountain you can not see your route to get to the top of the mountain. You can generally see only a short distance ahead. You take a few steps and as you proceed more of the route opens up to you. Sometimes it is clear. And sometimes you head off in the wrong direction. This is how many people tackle problems.
But alternatively imagine that you are standing at the top of the mountain. From that vantage point you can generally look back down the mountain and see the route that you took to succeed. So apply that approach to tackling a problem. Imagine that you hit your goal, whatever that was. Now think back to the last step you took to achieve that goal. And then the step before that which you had to take, and so on until you work your way back to your starting point. You will then have a list of steps, or actions, that you have to take to get to your goal. It works!
4. Call out the Rackets!
The next jewel which we took away was “Call out the Rackets”. This always happens every day.
Bob is asked to do something. Bob says he can’t do it because Joe in Finance can’t get him his reports on time or Tina in HR doesn’t have the access needed to provide the information. That is the “Racket” that Bob likes to wield.
Has Bob even talked to Joe or Tina? Or is this just an off the cuff excuse? If you challenge Bob you will very often find that the information is not correct. Or Bob hasn’t even asked Joe or Tina if there is a solution because it inhibits his ability to do his job? And Joe or Tina may very well find an answer if they only knew the impact on Bob. But instead Bob likes to just use his “Racket” which becomes a false impediment to him doing his job.
By recognizing this language and behaviour it is easy to call it out. There is not need for anyone to be defensive. They often does this out of reflex because wielding a “Racket” can be an easy way to get out of doing something. But it is dysfunctional and destructive behaviour.
Call out the Rackets! If you listen for them you will hear them everywhere and every day!
To Infinity and Beyond in Conclusion
After 3 months of intense training in these techniques the Supply Chain team was completely transformed. Our attitude, our language and our behaviour had shifted 180 degrees!
And we really felt like a well oiled machine and a highly effective team in the truest sense of the word.
We set out 4 or 5 key objectives and projects that we would tackle as a team. The goals that were set for each of these project would, when accomplished, transform us from becoming a lack lustre Supply Chain team to being one of the top Supply Chain teams in our field.
And over the coming quarters and years that proved to be true. In the area of Inventory Management, Supply Chain effectiveness and Customer Satisfaction we went from being worst in our industry to being first! Read our article From Worst to First! A true example of going to infinity and beyond.
This was made possible because of the training that we went through. We took it to heart and to mind. And we lived each of those principles each and every day.
Our CEO, our Customers and our Employees could now be proud of the Supply Chain team and leadership. And every other organization was now looking to us so that they could learn to undergo their own transformation.