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Tuesday, 25 March 2014 00:00

Want Change? Show, Don't Tell

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Sometimes, memos just aren't enough

The supply chain department in a global healthcare organization was given a clear directive:  Cut $50 millin in costs in the next 12 months or there are going to be serious cutbacks, and this department won't be immune.

Mid-level supply chain manager Adam was both ambitious and smart, and had all kinds of ideas for saving $50 million.  In weekly meeting after weekly meeting, he presented his ideas using carefully prepared PowerPoint slides.  Everyone around the table murmured appreciatively, but nothing ever seemed to happen.

In his researches, Adam had discovered that the company purchased latex gloves in all 22 countries in which it operated, and it always purchased the same brand.  The problem was that the prices from country to country varied widely:  Gloves that cost 10 cents a pair in, say, Canada, were costing as much as 40 cents a pair in other countries.

latex gloves change management

With a total spend of more than $250 million in latex gloves every year, Adam figured the company could easily save $50 million just by reducing the number of suppliers they used around the world, and established a consistent pricing structure.

However, knowing that another memo or PowerPoint deck would fall on deaf ears, Adam tried a different approach.

He contacted all 22 of the company's offices around the world, and asked them to send him a pair of gloves and the price they were paying per pair.  In the next weekly meeting, he bypassed the PowerPoint presentation and instead laid out all 22 pairs of gloves on the table.  To each pair of gloves was attached a price tag indicating the cost of the pair in the country in which they'd been purchased.  Then he wrote '$50 million' on the whiteboard at the front of the room.

As other staff members filed in, they looked at the gloves on the table, looked at the whiteboard, and started to ask questions.

The result?  Adam had approval to move forward on his glove purchasing rationalization plan within 10 minutes, after weeks of geting nowhere.

Why?  Because his 'display' was more engaging than yet another email, memo or PowerPoint presentation; because it didn't require his co-workers to read through paragraphs of text to understand; and because most people realize that any concept which can be explained that simply is probably a good one.  He'd hit all the right notes:  He'd increased engagement, reduced effort and generated in-the-moment consensus.

The lesson for change management professionals - and, indeed, for anyone who wants to effect change in their organization but is meeting roadblocks - is that it's easier to engage people when you can demonstrate your point in a more compelling way, and engagement is the first step to effective change implementation.

Read 11929 times Last modified on Thursday, 27 March 2014 22:28

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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