Behavior, the blind spot in Supply Chain Excellence

Introduction to the Shingo Model and its Guiding Principles
Luc Baetens

I met a Supply Chain Director recently who told me about his frustration about how ineffective his new Integrated Business Planning was. “Luc,” he told me, “we have spent so much time and money defining the new process, the reports we were going to use, the monthly meetings we would have. But even after all this effort, only the people in Supply Chain take this process seriously. The others just continue working as they did before.”

“So,” I asked him, “even with your PDG (it was a French company) joining the Management Business Review meeting (that closes the IBP cycle), nobody takes it seriously?”

“Well,” he answered, “our PDG is too busy lately with our latest reorganization so he asked me to preside the meeting for now.”

This year, Möbius became an affiliate to the Shingo Institute and trained about 30 consultants to the basics of the Shingo Model. The Shingo Model describes in a holistic and coherent way what the most successful companies do to reach exceptional levels of Operational Excellence. I got the chance to become 1 of our 4 certified Shingo facilitators. After more than 15 years working with companies to improve their supply chains, I couldn’t help wondering how the newly learnt Shingo principles could help me to make the efforts on supply chain improvements more effective. And I came to a surprising conclusion.

It’s the behavior, stupid!

At the center of the Shingo model, there is behavior. According to Shingo ideal results require ideal behavior. Our Shingo teachers taught us to look for ideal behavior: “What is the behavior you want to see?”

In Supply Chain, I have seen professionals spend considerable time and effort on designing and implementing ever more sophisticated tools and processes, often with uncertain results and far less impact than hoped for. But I have rarely heard supply chain leaders ask these questions: “What behavior do we want to see in our improved supply chain?” And then, “How do the processes, organizations and tools we put in place help to promote that behavior?”

Behavior can be observed, described and recorded.

In fact, we know this already. When talking about failed IT implementations: “They spent a fortune on that … tool but the users refused to use it and did everything in Excel instead.” Doing everything in Excel is behavior…

Or about ineffective processes: “We defined a detailed playbook for Sales & Operations Planning but still we see that people come to the meetings completely unprepared.” Behavior again …

Having the benefits of advanced processes and tools degraded by unadapted behavior is a pity and a waste of time and money. Especially because behavior is much easier to describe than processes and tools. Let’s do it with an example. Suppose we want to improve adherence to plan.

What is the behavior you want to see?

“We want to see production supervisors propose changes to the production schedule in advance to avoid issues with people’s holidays.”

“We want to see our production supervisors go ask our planners what to do if they cannot respect the production schedule.”

“We want to see our planners on the shopfloor discussing with maintenance people on progress and timing of machine repair.”

“We want to see production managers ask questions to their supervisors if the schedule is not respected.”

How do the processes, organizations and tools help to promote that behavior? Or, put differently, how can we make it easier for people to adopt ideal behavior instead of unwanted behavior? Think about the questions below. I am sure you will find interesting ways to influence behavior to reach the objective.

Can we think of ways to make it easier for supervisors to go and talk to schedulers instead of deviating from the schedule on their own?

Can we change processes to make it evident that supervisors talk to schedulers about their people’s holidays?

Tools and processes are still needed of course, but as a way to promote and support ideal behavior. Sales & Operations Planning becomes a process to make it easier for sales and marketing management to share their insights in market trends with production, research & development and procurement. A global advanced planning and scheduling tool becomes the ideal support to communicate efficiently and frequently between sales, planning and production about what is going to come and how to react to that in a coherent way.

By starting from behavior, improving supply chain performance can be translated easily to all levels of the organization. How do you expect a Supply Chain Director to behave in an environment where supply chain reliability is crucial? Or a Chief Operating Officer?

At first, I found it difficult to think in terms of behavior. I was more comfortable describing expected results, capabilities, skills. But once I got into it, I became enthusiastic about the new way of looking at things. Try it and let me know if you can also find the value of behavior in the path towards Supply Chain Excellence.

Thanks for reading

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