I interviewed Holger Nauheimer who discussed Change Management and Supply Chains.







It’s good to speak with you today, Holger, and I looking forward to hearing your views today on change management and supply chains. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself?


Hi, Dustin, thanks for having me today. I’m an international facilitator of change. That means I work with large multinational companies, also with nonprofit organizations. I’m particularly interested in the human aspect of organizations; that means how teams perform, what leadership patterns we need in modern organizations, and we can engage employees in what they are doing and how we can motivate employees. That’s basically the field I’m working in. I work globally, including Asia, Middle East, Europe, all over the world.


Thank you. What is change management and why is it needed for supply chains?


Let me start talking a bit about change management, Dustin. The expression change management has been around for quite a while, like 30 years, and nobody exactly knows what it means, so I can only provide you with my understanding. I think change management is about aligning people’s purposes—what’s important for them—with the organization’s purpose. That means we need to understand concerns of people and need to see what the barriers for change, need to see what the barriers are for effective collaboration, then gradually start to optimize such systems of collaboration. That’s my understanding of change management: looking at the human aspect of complex change processes. That’s, in a nutshell, what we understand of change management. Probably, the term change management is a little bit misleading because it suggests you can manage change. I prefer to talk more about change facilitation because we are working in complex systems, complex social systems, so it’s more to facilitate or enable change rather than manage it and to work with what’s emerging in the system.


Is there anything more you can say about how you recommend it should be carried out?


That depends on the situation. Let me talk a little bit more about how I see change management fits into your topic of supply chains, and maybe then we can get more into specifics and how to carry it out, okay?




I’m not particularly specialized in supply chains, but, for me, it’s always a good laughter when I’m with my clients, with their team, and people are saying, “Hey, it’s not our fault for what goes wrong. Supply chain hasn't done their job properly.” It seems like supply chain serves as a perfect scapegoat for everything which doesn't work out. Is that something you experience also?


Yes, I’ve heard of that.


Okay. So, the challenge is that supply chain management is quite a linear approach. I would say it’s an engineering approach, which assumes that if we put all resources into place, actually, we should get good results. Of course, reality proves that, very often, this is not the case. This is because supply chain management meets with the reality of what I call a complex social system. And what we have understood in the past 20 years in change management is that, let’s say engineering approaches to management must fail because of the complexity of human beings and their relationships. Let’s take an example. I know you’re working in Asia, so let’s look at a typical Chinese setting, a typical supply chain in China. There are so many different aspects to consider there; aspects of authority, aspects of governments. There are very mixed stakeholders, including governments, suppliers, employees, and so on. All these stakeholders have different loyalties, and supply chain is not necessarily their top priority for loyalty. That makes things very complex; that makes things depending on issues like trust, on relationships, which means that from a change-management aspect to supply chains, we would look into issues of collaboration or trust. We would have to look into the motivation of people. What motivates people to collaborate in supply chain? Which means that you don’t need to only manage the supply chain alone; you need to manage relationships. That’s basically change management. What I’m saying is, what we can offer as change facilitators to supply chain management is, first of all, look into patterns of collaboration. How do people work together, and what are the barriers and blocks to collaboration? Obviously, we need totally new leadership practices, particularly when we’re talking about matrix organizations. When we talk about virtual teams, we need leadership patterns that go from control and command toward increasing alignment, increasing engagement, and particularly building trust between stakeholders. I think this trust issue is one of the hottest issues in change management nowadays. How do we really increase trust? In particular, how do we increase trust when we’re talking about virtual teams?


How do you recommend it be carried out?


That depends, of course, on the situation. There’s no general recommendation for change facilitation, but what I’m saying is: You have to look into the stakeholders and their relationships. That means, rather than only have meetings which focus on what needs to be done, have meetings where people also talk about how it is done and how they relate to each other. That means much more collaborative meetings. I think the development of agile management certainly points to the right direction. Obviously, in order to have these kinds of collaborative, open meetings, we have to, again, establish that element of trust in organizations, which means talking to people. This is a leadership task, obviously. Leaderships learning to talk to people and to understand what their purposes are, what’s important to them, to understand what their concerns are, what worries them, and to understands what their boundaries are and in which relationships they have their limits. Start to have conversations that really matter, where people really start to develop trust and don’t just pretend they were honest. You know what I mean? It’s really about getting people to be ready to participate in open and honest conversations and talk off their mind. I think, depending on the culture of the company or the culture that you're working in, this is quite a challenge, particularly if people very much adhere to authorities. We’re talking about a totally new leaderships style which enables rather than controls and commands. What we’re talking about is, we need a lot of training and coaching and facilitation in supply chains.


Thank you. My last question is: Can you briefly discuss the upcoming event that you’re involved with, called the Berlin Change Days?


Sure, yeah. About six years ago we started to organize an international conference in Berlin. We call it the Berlin Change Days. It’s a conference where people who are interested in exactly the topic I was talking about—change, participation, collaboration, leadership—come together and present new approaches to change. It’s really a kind of network meeting, and people show their new approaches, they show their tools, and we try to organize a learning journey together. It’s about 140 folks from around the world, and it’s happening every year, the first weekend of November.


Thanks again for sharing today your views on change management for supply chains.


Thanks for having me, a pleasure.




About Holmer Nauheimer




For 30 years, Dr. Holger Nauheimer has been an expert on change management, organisational development, leadership and virtual collaboration. He has a world-wide reputation on the subject, gained by his publications on the web, such as The Change Management Toolbook, and the Change Journey. Holger has worked in more than 70 countries of Europe, Africa, Asia, and America as a trainer, facilitator of change, and consultant. His client base encompasses large global companies such as BP, DHL, Deutsche Telekom, Vattenfall, Airbus, etc. as well as international non-profit organisations such as the United Nations.



Holmer Nauheimer

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Berlin Change Days 2014

holger nauheimer - collaboration | leadership | new organizations