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Fun & Collaboration: Power in Supply Chain Transformations

By Bernard Milian
Seven people sitting on the floor Conversing & Laughing

“Transformation” is the buzzword of the moment. “Digital” transformation, “Supply Chain” transformation, “Demand Driven” transformation, “Demand Driven Digital Supply Chain” transformation – let’s go for it!…

ASCM is even announcing a new APICS CTSC training and certification course: Certified in Transformation for Supply Chain CTSC Exam Content Manual (

For supply chain leaders, the ability to transform the company has become a key skill – and one that is still all too rare.

Not all fashionable transformations are successful, far from it. Especially when it comes to global, multi-site, multi-cultural companies.

Over the years we’ve witnessed some very successful Demand Driven transformations – we’ve humbly contributed to them, but the recipe for success lay elsewhere.

With experience, I’ve come to realize that from the very first weeks of the project, we can detect either encouraging or worrying signals.

I recently took part in a series of workshops to design the future supply chain operating model for a global company embarking on an ambitious transformation program, and I’m taking bets that it’s going to be a great success, as there are many encouraging early signs.

The success of a transformation does not depend on the complexity of the problems to be addressed. 

The company in question has highly technical manufacturing processes, produces complex products, and its workflows are… torturous. Its software environment is heterogeneous and constantly evolving. The project is end-to-end, including distribution, production, scheduling, execution, inter-site flows of semi-finished products, and procurement. 

In short, there’s every reason to worry!

Why am I so optimistic about the chances of success?

The transformation makes sense

There is a broad consensus among the teams that we need to change the current model. The transformation underway covers the entire supply chain, and the vision is shared. The participants find meaning in this companywide perspective.

In addition to this overview, the project is also a concrete response to day-to-day concerns – even though the project has only been running for a handful of weeks, planners are already experimenting with the new tools in real-life conditions and validating or correcting operating scenarios. These software tools are attractive and easy to use, which makes them want to go further.

With the big picture in view, and the day-to-day implications, it’s easier for everyone to see the future, and the transformation is not anxiety-inducing. 

Teams work together and have fun

The company in question has several manufacturing and distribution sites, in several countries. Historically, there was not necessarily a strong sense of collaboration – there may even have been a form of internal competition. Each site had developed its way of doing things – using Excel, for example.

Participants from each site included in the first deployment wave are involved in designing the target Demand Driven model. They have been trained in the same basic principles and have a common language. Above all, during the work sessions, they have fun together, they ask each other lots of questions, they make fun of each other, and they enjoy the exchange.

This is undoubtedly the main success factor, and what makes me most optimistic. In any transformation, there are difficulties. Problems will arise, in this project as in others. If the participants have fun working on the project, if they like each other, and if they can experiment and ask silly questions, they’ll find solutions. 

Between remote and on-site workshops, this transformation program, which has only just begun, is already spreading a common vision and practices across remote sites on several continents.

This is one of the strengths of Demand Driven transformations, which we have observed in several similar deployments: implementing a common operating mode across disparate sites and teams – federating these teams, and engaging them together in a continuous improvement process.

There’s an inspiring leader and we don’t dawdle

As we’ve pointed out in previous articles, a major transformation can’t take place without a champion, an inspirational leader, whom most teams want to help them succeed.

This leader listens and knows how to take risks and make decisions. He or she knows how to emphasize what’s important and set aside the exceptions that will be dealt with on the margins. He encourages simplification. His/her enthusiasm is obvious and infectious.

The program is running at a steady pace. There’s a shared sense of urgency, milestones are near, concrete, and with celebrated progress.

No successful transformation without fun

We are social animals. To transform things, we need meaning, desire, and shared pleasure. When organizing your initiatives, think about it: humor, the pleasure of working together, the pleasure of building something, and easy interaction are key ingredients for success!

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