In a fascinating (video) interview by Supply Chain Brain’s Bob Bowman, Andy Walker spoke of how Merck goes about introducing major changes for improvement into their culture and environment. Mr. Walker is Head of Supply Chain Strategy for Merck.

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In the interview, Walker talked about how some of the changes that were being made, especially in the realm of extended supply chain management, were really turning people’s worlds upside down. He said, “We’ve brought in something that is completely new.”

 

Getting buy-in

 

Walker understood that to achieve real success and reap the greatest gains from these dramatic changes and the investments of time, energy and money that were entailed, Merck had “to get the adoption” from the end-users and the people and functions connected with the changes.

 

These new and dramatic changes, Walker stated, led to “a lot of nervousness [and] a lot of apprehension.” Merck needed a way to, not force this upon the people involved, but “work through this with the people” that were going to be most affected—both upstream and downstream of the changes.

 

How did Merck going about dispelling the nervousness and apprehension about massive changes?

 

“What we did,” Walker told the interviewer, “is we got those people actually involved in the design” [emphasis added] of the solution to the challenges they faced.

 

Nothing better

 

This approach is exactly right! It’s the approach we use with our clients as much as they will allow us to do so.

 

Getting the people whose lives are going to be affected by significant changes actively involved in designing the solutions to their problems immediately and effectively turns them from enemies of change to allies in the implementation of the change.

 

No one struggles against, or undermines progress toward, the implementation of his or her own invention.

 

Making the users the “inventors” of their own solutions means they will become strong advocates and fight for—rather than against—the impending change. They have had a hand in designing something that they now—irrevocably—believe with confidence will make their lives better. If they didn’t believe that, they would have designed it in a different way.

 

In our approach, we actually get the people involved in the process of both discovering the real (root) causes of the many challenges they face in attaining their goals, and in designing the solutions to overcoming those root causes.

 

This has proven to be very effective where companies allow the time and are willing to gather the cross-functional team to accomplish this. We use a guided process applying Eliyahu Goldratt’s Thinking Processes to help their team discover causes and design solutions.

 

We think Andy Walker and the team at Merck are on the right track and applaud them for their success.

 

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How do you get buy-in for major changes in your organization? Do you involve a cross-functional team—that includes end-users—or are decisions primarily made by management and then pushed down into the organization? Let us know. We would like to hear about your experiences.

Please leave your comments below.

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