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3 Steps to Improve Change Initiatives in Your Supply Chain

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Let’s all agree that change is one of the few constants in supply chain. There is always a new product to be developed or a new customer to serve. In our Gartner 2019 CEO and Senior Executives Survey we found that 87% of survey respondents expect some form of change to their business model by 2021.

Take the retail industry as an example: As sales continuing to shift online and retailers rethink the role of the store, the constant changes present significant opportunities for chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) to position themselves and the supply chain as critical business partners capable of successfully delivering profitable change initiatives. However, to implement change, CSCOs need to act and set their department up for success.

There are three key steps CSCOs should take to ensure that all levels of the organization are aligned, prepared and capable of delivering effective change that supports business goals.

Step 1: Align the supply chain strategy with the CEO’s priorities and communicate your vision and impact across the business
One of the CSCO’s core responsibilities is to drive alignment of the supply chain vision and strategy with the CEO’s business objectives. However, defining this vision is only the first step. Next, the CSCO must ensure that their department understands and is aligned with the vision. This is critical, as individual contributors within the supply chain are likely to have a very different view of the supply chain’s role than those in more senior positions.

Additionally, different departments will have different sets of pressures that will influence how they interpret what’s important. It’s important to link the impact of supply chain activities with the strategic objective.

Step 2: Challenge the status quo through continuous assessment of the degree your team has adopted and understands the business impact of the change initiative
Implementing a new vision or strategy always requires change. Alignment may have been achieved across the organization in terms of the final destination, but it’s common to have differing views on how to get there. Senior leadership, for example, is more likely to identify that their organization is “change-agile,” while middle management and individual contributors see strength in small, continuous improvements.

It’s the CSCO’s job to assess and determine whether misalignment exists within the organizations by identifying how the company typically handles change and then focus on closing gaps and building capabilities that will enable the organization to become more agile in its approach.

Step 3: Pinpoint critical talent capabilities, pilot an assessment of proficiency levels and implement a roadmap to close gaps
Talent capability gaps can be an obstacle to delivering business impact through change initiatives. Close the capability gaps by driving specific talent development programs that identify current state and set out the steps required to deliver the desired supply chain performance and business impact.

About the author: Thomas O’Connor is senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice.

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