Do you ever find yourself sitting at your desk, just staring off into the distance somewhere thinking to yourself, “It seems like I’ve tried everything to improve the performance of my DeathtoStock_Creative Community3.jpgsupply chain (or, my company), and nothing seems to really stick. I can’t seem to find any keys to long-lasting success. I seem to be able to make short runs at improvement, but I’m not seeing long-term improvement.”


Becoming a tribal leader for change


Seth Godin, writing in Tribes (Godin, Seth. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. London: Piatkus, 2008.), gives us a solemn reminder:


We live in a world where we have the leverage to make things happen, the desire to do work we believe in, and a marketplace that is begging us to be remarkable. And yet, in the middle of these changes, we still get stuck.


Stuck following archaic rules.


Stuck in industries that not only avoid change but actively fight it.


Stuck in fear of what our boss will say, stuck because we’re afraid we’ll get into trouble.


By the way, even many who are, in fact, “the boss,” are also stuck in fear—fear if being wrong; fear of making a mistake. Because of this, they tend to stick to the well-worn paths. They get stuck doing the same things every other mediocre player in their industry is doing. They get stuck doing these same things over and over and over again, always hoping in vain from some real and long-lasting improvement that never seems to come.


Does this describe you? Does it describe your company? Does it describe your supply chain?


Leadership isn’t about authority


Godin (in Tribes) briefly relates the story of Thomas Barnett who changed the Pentagon from the bottom up. Almost singlehandedly, “Mr. Barnett overhauled the concept to address more directly the post-9/11 world,” the Wall Street Journal reported.


Without status or rank, “Barnett led a tribe that was passionate about change. He galvanized them, inspired them, and connected them, though his ideas,” Godin says.

“One man with no authority suddenly becomes a key figure. Tribes give each of us the very same opportunity. Skill and attitude are essential. Authority is not. In fact, authority can get in the way,” opines Godin.


Steps to tribal leadership and real change

  1. Create a sense of urgency – Getting people excited about change means showing them that their lives (both individually and within the context of the company or supply chain) can be better off if they are willing to join you in your adventure into (perhaps) uncharted territory. After all, you’ve already proven over and over that the well-known paths don’t really lead to long-term improvement—just more firefighting.
  2. Build a guiding coalition – Get a small, but strategic, handful of people on-board with your goals and methods early. Having tools that help them see your reasoning can help. We suggest using the Thinking Processes that originated with Eliyahu Goldratt and the Theory of Constraints.
  3. Form a strategic vision and define key initiatives – Conceiving a truly effective strategic vision is not beyond your skillset. However, clarifying that vision and articulating it to your tribe can be more difficult. Here again, we find in working with our clients that using the Thinking Processes to be extremely valuable. In particular, the process moves from the development of a CRT (Current Reality Tree), in order to understand your current situation, to the development of a FRT (Future Reality Tree) as the articulation of your “strategic vision.” Next comes the use of the TrT (Transition Tree) to help define and articulate key initiatives require for ongoing improvement.
  4. Enlist a volunteer army – With a vision and concrete actions that can be clearly communicated to a larger group—thanks to the Thinking Processes toolset—you are ready to enlist more volunteers; that is, to enlarge your tribe.
  5. Enable action by removing barriers – Building your Transition Tree has already helped you and your tribe foresee the obstacles to improvement. Plus, using the TrT as a tool, your tribe has already figured out what logical actions need to be taken to overcome these obstacles. Now, it’s time to take action.
  6. Generate short-term wins – Our experience in helping clients implement a process of ongoing improvement (POOGI) using the Thinking Processes shows that, almost without exception, there are at least a handful of things that can be done immediately, and a little or no cost, that will lead to immediate improvements that pay off handsomely in terms of increase Throughput and cash-flow.
  7. Sustain and accelerate – Tribes built around the Thinking Processes tend to become obsessed with the concept of ongoing improvement. Sustaining the POOGI is not a chore, and improvement tends to accelerate over time.
  8. Don’t let inertia set in – POOGI tribes tend to begin seeing change as the normal condition, because it is impossible to improve without change. If improvement is to be ongoing, then change must also be ongoing.


It is important to realize that a Thinking Processes-based POOGI almost always results in a long-term change in the culture of the supply chain or company.


But, after years of trying the same methods over and over with little to show for it in terms of long-term gains, isn’t it time to try something new? It’s time to say: “Enough is enough! Let’s try something new—something we haven’t tried before.”



Please tell us about your POOGI efforts. What is working? What is not working? What new things have you tried in the three to five years?


Leave your comments below. We would really like to hear from you.


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