Magazine article Industrial Management

Education Is the Key to Successful Supply Chain Management Implementation

Magazine article Industrial Management

Education Is the Key to Successful Supply Chain Management Implementation

Article excerpt

Implementing new systems is a sink or swim situation for project managers. Projects do fail. It is a simple fact that sometimes (most times) things don't end up the way we expected. Imagine this scenario: John is a project manager at ABC Inc. He is managing his first large systems implementation project, called Order Management Initiative (OMI). And John is faced with a difficult decision. His $2 million budget is already spent, the software is not fully implemented, and the users have yet to be trained. The original project plan called for a fully customized end-user training program that sounded worthwhile-18 months ago. But now, with the timeline already pushed out, management breathing down his back about the mushrooming budget, and users who believe this system will never get off the ground, he wonders about the value of that fancy customized training program. John doesn't have the software running yet; how can he possibly spend more money on something as frivolous as customized training?

The simple answer is: He has to or the project will surely fail.

A project starts with a full head of steam to go, do, win! But as time progresses and milestones are reached, it is important to maintain enthusiasm to keep people committed to the effort. Projects fail for many reasons, including poor management, lack of resources, and changing priorities. But many of these are really just symptoms of a more fundamental problem: lack of knowledge. Education is the key to sustaining the interest and excitement that will carry a project to a successful conclusion.

"The general population affected by change does not have the body of knowledge to do the things required by the transformation," write D. Scott Sink and William T. Morris in By What Method? Our project manager John is a good example. Since John has never managed a systems implementation project before, he is probably lacking in experiential skills to help him get through this. Who is teaching him the best way to manage such a project? Probably no one.

Phase I-Analysis

Education is critical at every step of a large implementation project. Early on, the team running the project needs to be educated about the issues at hand. Taking the time during the analysis phase to gain a solid understanding of the problem can prevent serious crisis down the road. What are the existing processes? Where are they weak? Where can they be improved? These are the types of questions the team needs to ask.

Analysis entails gathering data, summarizing it, writing a report that captures the way things are done currently, pointing out room for improvement, and providing suggestions for implementing change. Once opportunities for improvement have been identified, the team should discuss which improvement initiatives to undertake, prioritize those initiatives, and develop a plan to implement them.

Once the analysis report is completed, the results and potential solutions must be communicated to the team. The oldfashioned way to communicate these results would have been to formulate a memo, send it to everyone on the team, and wait for feedback. While this method does ensure that findings are communicated accurately and clearly, it can be rather impersonal and doesn't do much to create buy-in from the team.

The best way to get people involved and motivated is to gather the team face-toface and hold an organized session to review the findings and discuss the possible solutions. This effort may be more time consuming, but it will result in stronger commitment to the project and its intended outcomes because the team members will have significantly contributed to the determination.

Let's get back to John's OMI project. His team did an analysis of the STBT supply chain and concluded that one of ABC Inc.'s biggest problems was order fulfillment. But because they were under pressure to find a solution fast, they did not go deep enough into the nature of order fulfillment processes and protocols to get to the root of the problem. …

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