When Supply Chains Kill Thousands That Could Become Millions!!

fixtheSCBy now it is obvious that the Ebola epidemic (regional) has the potential to turn into a pandemic(global).  Every agency (WHO, CDC etc. etc. ) has been extremely vocal about the threat.  Not only is the virus spreading but it is also mutating.  New strains are already emerging and spreading and the threat of the next mutation becoming airborne cannot be ruled out.  Entire suburbs are being quarantined, violence has erupted, air/ship traffic is non-existent and yet the virus spreads and is a few international passengers away from total disaster – from a few thousand tragic deaths to catastrophe.  All because of the lack of a Supply Chain.

 A potential solution does exist (small bio-tech) which has saved a few lives (ZMapp) but unfortunately it cannot be manufactured fast enough on a sufficient scale and then delivered to the areas where it’s needed the most.  The traditional model would be for experimental trials to test out the drug, then the small bio-tech scales up somehow or the  patent is acquired by a bigger player and then  the drug is commercially released at a price point that would let it make its profits until the drug becomes generic and affordable.  Clearly this particular Supply Chain cannot wait that long to be developed.

 A different model is needed that can accelerate at warp speed the delivery of ZMapp (or other solutions) to not only save those in the region but also prevent a global catastrophe.  Competitors have to collaborate.  While the profit motive of bio-tech firms is what leads to advances like this, a solution must be found that might protect the profit (a financial guarantee by WHO?) and therefore allow ZMapp to release its patent.  Johnson& Johnson and Bavarian Nordic are pooling their research and are therefore accelerating their trials and release of their drug.  Perhaps a consortium facilitated by a global body that would allow the various companies to pool their research and be guaranteed a return is an option? 

That only addresses part of the problem.  Governments also have a role to play in providing a regulatory regimen that is flexible enough to deal with desperate times.  While ensuring safety is critical (so we’re not compounding the problem) prudent risk management should dictate a more accelerated approach to development and trials.  Not only that, but governments also  need to play a very active investment role in providing capital(link). 

After scaling manufacturing, ensuring distribution is still a major challenge.  Transportation can only happen if the pilots/crews are willing to go to these areas.  That means  they need to feel confident  they will have access to the drugs, if they are infected.  That’s a totally different flavor of Supply Chain Risk Management than we are used to?  That logic extends to the distribution channel that actually delivers the drug to the patients (doctors and nurses) and there is a huge shortage of that currently in the infected areas and the supply continues to dwindle as medical professionals are leaving in droves for fear of infection.  That risk has to be mitigated for that channel immediately.

Desperate times require desperate measures and desperate ideas.  Normal Supply Chain models clearly cannot work in situations like this and we as a profession must challenge ourselves to come up with a totally disruptive model that can be deployed immediately.  The lives we save may be ours?  We would love to hear any disruptive ideas that you may have to address this challenge.


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When The Strategy Consultants Leave……


Nothing against the strategy consulting firms and we do our fair share of that kind of work but it is intriguing to find bewildered client after bewildered client – once the strategy firms have left.  Leaving behind  a client Executive Team convinced of the tremendous value that is lying untapped inside their organization only if their organizational leaders could get their act together and Transform their organization.  No mention is made of the various elements of any Transformation Roadmap that must be put in place (Governance, Competencies, Change Management etc. etc. etc.).  The effort required from the Executive Team is especially absent and especially critical.

Large numbers are thrown around (red herrings) that generate lots of excitement at the Executive level and dread at the leadership level.  There is no mention of the “investment” that will be needed for the Transformation – investment of resources, political capital, executive and leadership attention, churn, funding for training and external help, etc.  In the absence of all of these things, the timelines and expected results become unrealistic and the Transformation is doomed for failure before it even begins.

While nothing that the strategy firms have said is ever wrong, it’s what’s not said that causes the problem.  If their strategies are not Adopted, the value from their work diminishes significantly and leads to frustration at the leadership level – who wait with dread for the next strategic engagement with their Executives.  How many times have you been at the receiving end of what I’m describing?  There is no discussion of where the resources are going to come from and whether the active and visible political support will be delivered by the Executive team.  Expecting different results from the same group of people without enhancing or changing their competencies seems illogical but far too many Transformation plans don’t address that.  Not having an active Change Management competency to help manage the inevitable churn is just adding significant risk yet it is often ignored.  Implementing governance structures to help resolve issues and accelerate decision making seems obvious but very often missing.  Yet no mention is made of most of these – and these are all, ALL – Predictable and Inevitable – for ANY Transformation. 

The poor leaders of the organization feel like they’ve been through the wringer after a year or so when hardly any progress is being made on the Transformation and the executives keep asking for progress updates against the promised results that the consultants presented.  Funding requests are viewed skeptically because the results are not there.  The organization has been through churn and people are losing trust in their leaders – yet more and more is expected from them.  As they say – the height of folly is to keep doing the same thing over and over again yet expect different results.  The executives make a change in the leadership and wait for the next strategy consultant to come in – and the cycle starts all over again.


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Selling the Change – Think Like a Sales Person . . . . . Part II

changesLast week we started exploring “Selling the Change” and approaching it from a sales perspective.  We all recognize that change is hard.   As professionals in a Shared Services environment (Procurement, Supply Chain, Strategic Sourcing) one of our primary roles is that of a change agent as we are trying to play a more strategic role within our organization.  Getting suppliers to work with us under a more strategic context is the easy part.  Getting our own organization (sometimes even our own Procurement people) to do things differently is another story. Building a better process or adding new technology is not how you make change happen.  It must be sold!!!  Without the cooperation and acceptance of your internal business partners, you will never be successful.  So, “Sell the Change” you must.

Here are the Top Ten Critical Selling Principles:

  • Principle #1: Identify your Market Segment (stakeholders)
  • Principle #2: Know how the customer (stakeholder) likes to receive communication
  • Principle #3: Build the Brand
  • Principle #4: Selling the Product
  • Principle #5: Educate your customer (stakeholder)
  • Principle #6: Develop Effective Collateral
  • Principle #7: Establish a Need / “Burning platform”
  • Principle #8: Highlight the Value of Change
  • Principle #9: Anticipate Objections
  • Principle #10: Illustrate what Others have Achieved

Last week we took a closer look at the First 5 Principles.  Now, let’s take a look at the Last 5 Principles:

Principle #6:  Develop Effective Collateral
Under this principle you may have a picture in your head of a sales person whipping out a fancy, slick brochure or folder that points out all of the “features” they are offering.  But effective collateral takes what may be a complex process or thought and makes it simple.  Decide on the key messages you are trying to deliver and make them:

  • Simple but not simplistic
  • Creative as well as analytical
  • Always, Always, answer the question “so what”

Principle #7: Establish a Need / “Burning Platform”
This principle is critical because in order to sell the change you need to find a compelling reason for someone(s) to change.  In many organizations, change may be required simply to survive – “if we don’t make this change, we will go out of business”.  In other cases, the change can be positioned more positively – “this new system will give us a competitive advantage” OR “this leadership program will allow you to be in-line for a promotion”.  Regardless of the reason, this must be presented to your customer (stakeholder) and will be at the foundation of your sales pitch.

 Principle #8:  Highlight the Value of Change
Have you ever heard of WIIFM or What’s In It For Me / Them?  This is also a critical component of your sales presentation.  Understanding what is valued by your customer/ stakeholder (their Value Drivers) is necessary for a “sale”.  You need to sell the benefits to them, which means that your  pitch must be customized to each stakeholder.  In addition, if your solutions are designed based on the value drivers of your customer adoption, will be easier as well.

Principle #9:  Anticipate Objections
This principle is also important.  Take the time up front to anticipate any objections your customer/stakeholder will have and build them into your approach.  For example, here is one of my favorites:


Being prepared to respond to any objections will let the stakeholder know that you took the time to address both their needs and concerns.

Principle #10:   Illustrate What Others Have Achieved

Everyone likes to hear what others have achieved and accomplished.  In addition, stakeholders may not be comfortable being on the leading (bleeding) edge of change.  Providing benchmark information will go a long way to help sell the change.

Well, we have now covered the Top Ten Critical Selling Principles which we applied to “Selling the Change”.   Here are some other tips to consider:

  • Sell to all levels of the organization – not just executives
  • Always pre-sell to executives to make certain you have
    political coverage
  • Involve your non-Sourcing  / Supply Chain team members
    to sell too 
  • Sell early and often
  • There is no such thing as relevant over communication
  • Benefits sell, features don’t
  • Tailor your “pitch”  – different audiences require different messages

 By the way, do you know who should be the first person you hire for any major change initiative?  It should be a sale / marketing professional . . . .think about that :-) !

Let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . . .

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Selling the Change –Think Like a Sales Person . . . .

changeIn my blog a few weeks ago “Culture Eats Strategy . . . . or Does It? ” we talked about the need to either work with, or change, corporate culture in a time of transformation.  In either case, Selling the Change is essential. Whether you are going through a transformation or NOT, change is all around us and we cannot escape it.  The ability to embrace and manage change is THE most critical competency every professional needs to have.  In a Shared Services (e.g. Procurement, Sourcing, Supply Chain, IT, Finance, HR, etc.) environment in particular, we are often called upon to lead our internal business partners through change.  Having the competency, tools and experience in selling that change can be the difference between success and failure.

Here are a few things to consider:

10 Reasons why Change Efforts Fail (The first four tie directly back to Selling the Change):

  1. Lack of a clear vision
  2. “What’s in it for me” is unclear
  3. Senior management wants to help – doesn’t know how
  4. Lack of an ongoing communication process
  5. Decision processes not clearly defined
  6. Failure to deliver early, real results
  7. Everything is high priority
  8. Old performance measures block change
  9. The voice of the customer is absent
  10. Stuck in the status quo or current way of thinking

Why is it important to Sell the Change:

  • Establishes a “burning platform” – creates a sense of urgency
  • Highlights the value of change
  • Addresses  issues / concerns / fears
  • Secures support and alignment
  • Prepares targets / organization on  “what to expect”
  • Allows you to share successes and lessons learned

So why treat selling the change from the perspective of the sales person?  The real question is Why not?  The sales process is easy to understand (that’s easy for me to say :-) !), has stood the test of time and can work for anything you are trying to sell – so why not CHANGE?

Here are the Top Ten Critical Selling Principles:

  • Principle #1: Identify your Market Segment (stakeholders)
  • Principle #2: Know how the customer (stakeholder) likes to receive communication
  • Principle #3: Build the Brand
  • Principle #4: Sell the Product
  • Principle #5: Educate your customer (stakeholder)
  • Principle #6: Develop Effective Collateral
  • Principle #7: Establish a Need / “Burning platform”
  • Principle #8: Highlight the Value of Change
  • Principle #9: Anticipate Objections
  • Principle #10: Illustrate what Others have Achieved

Let’s take a closer look at the First 5 Principles:

Principle #1: Identify your Market Segment (stakeholders)

This one is simple – you should NEVER start a change initiative unless you have clearly identified your stakeholders and done an analysis to determine if they are a friend or a foe. This will be at the foundation of your selling plan because you need to know WHO you are selling to and what you need to sell.  This is identifying your Market Segment.  A stakeholder analysis tool and management plan must be part of your change management toolkit.

Principle #2: Know how the customer (stakeholder) likes to receive communication

This principle requires that you start to build a relationship with your customer – in this case your stakeholder.  Understanding how your stakeholder feels about the change will be important as you develop your ongoing communication strategy.

Principle #3: Build the Brand

It may sound hokey but branding a change initiative is a way to draw attention to the product (change) and the VALUE the product (change) will deliver.  If you are going to brand – name, logo, packaging, messages MUST all be aligned with the VALUE.

Principle #4: Sell the Product

Selling is a team sport!  Not only should your change agents (e.g. category managers, sourcing leads, supply chain leaders) sell but also you should engage executives, sponsors and supportive business unit personnel to help you sell.  Provide them with the tools they will need to be effective.

Principle #5: Educate your customer (stakeholder)

Customers (stakeholders) who understand what you are selling are more likely to buy.  People can’t support what they can’t understand. The goal is to have “committed” stakeholders, not just blind compliance.  Understanding can win over resistors.  Keep in mind that education is not “training”. Training teaches the HOW – Education teaches the WHY.

I hope I have started to sell you (educate) on why Selling the Change requires you to think and act like a salesperson.  I have run out of time (and word count) so I will finish up next time.

 Let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . . .



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Another Meeting – Don’t Waste My Time . . .

timeismoney . . . . or that of the 20 other invitees!  Does this sound and feel familiar?  If not, I would like to know where you work because they have cracked the code that seems to have escaped MOST companies / organizations.  Most of our clients are looking for ways to cut out waste.  They go about it by streamlining processes, eliminating work, running LEAN initiatives, etc. all in an effort to move from tactical to strategic and it is a noble effort.  My argument here is NOT that these efforts won’t bear fruit – I am sure they will.  But, there might be an easier, more immediate payback by looking at the amount of time they and their staffs spend in meetings.

By the way, I am not against meetings.  I actually prefer human interaction and live (even if it is virtual) communication / collaboration over text and email (reading thousands of emails can also be a huge time sucker).  The problem lies in the fact that most meetings are a complete waste of time.  People are late, the right people don’t show up, there is no clear objective or agenda and I can go on and on.  This is such an important issue that “Effective Meetings” is a half- day session in The Mpower Group’s Supply Chain University and one of the most highly rated – go figure.   I must admit that when we first offered it as a training session I was embarrassed, since I think most of the concepts are common sense.  But frankly, in business as in life, common sense does not always prevail.

I chuckled when I read an article from Forbes.com and Kotter International (yes, John Kotter, the Change Management guru) “I Want That Hour Back: The Meeting Invitee’s Bill of Rights”.  The article points out that if a company can eliminate meetings that “don’t matter” and employees can focus on those that do, then days, weeks and even months can be reclaimed to get real work done.  While my clients are looking for much more difficult ways to improve efficiency, making meetings more effective can be a painless fix.  By the way, the BEST meeting is the one that does not take place at ALL unless needed.

I have a personal story here that I like to share with my trainees and it is a true story.  About 10 years ago I was on a professional executive board of my business school.  Every member was very senior and had an MBA from this institution.  Every year we had an annual retreat which lasted about eight hours on a Saturday.   It was the responsibility of the board chair to set the agenda and run the meeting.  Here is how this played out:

  • I was handed the agenda as I arrived which had over 25 items on it
  • The only timing in the agenda was the start time and the end time
  • There was no stated objective
  • There was no indication of which items were info share, discussion or decision required
  • We never got off the first agenda item
  • The discussion was disjointed and went off into tangents that had nothing to do with any of the agenda items
  • There were no decisions made
  • There were no action items at the end of the meeting
  • This meeting was facilitated (hardly) by an MBA with 20 MBAs in attendance 

That was 168 hours of executive time that I assume some charitable organization would have loved to take advantage of.  It was a complete waste of everyone’s time.  I resigned from the board soon thereafter.

Here is a simple process that we use and ties nicely into the article’s Bill of Rights:




1. Clearly articulated objectives sent in advance
2. A focused invitee list
3. A well-considered agenda
4. A thoughtfully designed experience
5. Reasonable preparation sent with sufficient time to complete

Please note that ½ of the activities all take place BEFORE the meeting.  This is critical – don’t hold a meeting unless you have the time to PLAN.


6.  Start on time and end early
7.  Ensure everyone is paying attention in the meeting
8.  Key decisions and questions placed up-front
9.  Alert facilitation

 Strong facilitation is key to a successful meeting.  Make sure that you have an energetic and focused facilitator – especially for looong meetings.


10. Thoughtful, brief and timely notes of discussions, decisions and action

 Take the time to summarize the results and ensure that the objective was met.  Also record the results and get confirmation that all attendees know what the action items are.  

If you are the meeting organizer / facilitator then respect the rights of the attendees and follow these simple steps.  If you are an attendee – JUST SAY NO unless your rights AND time are respected.  Focusing on effective meetings can go a long way to raising your “stock” within your organization so try it. 

Tell us what you think – join in the conversation . . . . .. 

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