Successful Change Management Meets the CPO and VP of Supply Chain


So many change management programs in procurement and supply chain fail – as do broader procurement transformation efforts that seem to be repeated every few years inside far too many companies. Today, we continue to share what we learned in our interview with Paladin Associates’ Barb Ardell on the topic. Also see the first and second installment of this series.

Spend Matters: What are characteristics of procurement and supply chain organizations that succeed with change management programs?

Barb Ardell: Successful organizations invest the time and money to make change happen. One of my favorite business quotes is, “We never have time to do it right, but we always have time to do it over.” Or as Dilbert described, they want “Big improvements for free!”

We seem to make the same mistake over and over by short-cutting the process and hoping we’ll get by (or that we’ll be transferred before the s**it hits the fan).

More specifically, successful organizations know the keys for motivating change. Most organizations rely heavily on external rewards (carrots and sticks). While these are necessary, they’re also tricky and often not sustainable.

Instead, we should rely more heavily on internal motivation by connecting to the values people already hold. Ian O’Brien, vice president of supply chain at American Cancer Society (and our first Influencing Change client) described how American Cancer did this for their corporate transformation.

SM: What is their story?

BA: ACS was centralizing from 13 business units to a central corporate structure. Corporate leadership framed this change as allowing them to go from saving 350 lives a day to 1,000 lives per day. Ian’s organization was going through a simultaneous transformation that involved an e-procurement implementation. Ian translated this corporate mission to his organization by framing their role to “focus ACS and supplier resources to end cancer faster.”

We also tend to rely heavily on verbal persuasion to change behavior. This is notoriously ineffective. It is the equivalent of trying to communicate to a person who speaks a different language by talking louder. Crazy! Instead, we should provide direct (a field trip) or vicarious experiences (tell meaningful stories) that are much more powerful in affecting change.

Successful organizations also employ the power of peer pressure through the identification and strategic use of opinion leaders. Opinion leaders aren’t hierarchical positions but rather individuals within the organization who are well respected and well connected. You don’t get to decide if they will influence your change effort. They will, either for or against you. And the bulk of the organization won’t change until they do.

Importantly, successful organizations use all Six Sources of Influence (motivation and ability as affected by personal, social and structural forces) simultaneously to make change inevitable.

Up next: Quotes and statistics to build the business case for investing in change management

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