Kardinal’s advice on how to lead change in Supply Chain

The success rate of digital or organizational projects carried out in companies is low – the failure rate is as high as 70% (according to a McKinsey study), a figure that has remained stable for decades. Most failures are due to a lack of support for employees and not taking into account the impact that changes can have on their everyday work. This essential support must be provided by implementing a proper change management process, which is unfortunately all too often both inadequate and inefficient.

In Supply Chain, digitalization is not always easy, processes are still very much manual. Changing habits naturally creates worries and questions for those affected by it.

What fears can teams have? How can change be successfully achieved? What approaches can logistics companies apply?

Here’s our advice and best practices to help your employees embrace the changes essential for your company to grow.

Managing employee opposition to a new project

Any change involves a shift in reference points: we know what we’re losing without being 100% sure of what we’re going to get. In front of the unknown, human beings can naturally experience reluctance. This resistance is a reflex that arises when confronted with a perceived danger that disrupts the balance of one’s work environment. It becomes all the more prevalent when employees are unaware of what is at stake, when they feel abandoned or left alone, when change is suddenly forced upon them and with little explanations. To limit team fears, it is essential to prepare for change in advance and involve them in the process, ensuring that they understand what is at stake. This is what we call change management. This implies taking into account the impact of change on the different aspects of their work: equipment, relationships, financial, psychological…

In Supply Chain, digitalization projects increasingly involve the use of Artificial Intelligence. This technology generates a number of fears. According to a survey by the ODOXA research institute, 60% of French people are afraid of AI and 46% fear that it will replace their work. This fear can be seen when rolling-out a route optimization software, which requires proper team support during such a digitalization project.

Homme travaillant sur un ordinateur

The first challenge is to clearly define everyone’s role (the business expert and the machine): the machine takes care of time-consuming tasks with very little value (complex mathematical calculations) to help humans and increase the value of their work. The machine allows them to save valuable time that they can use to monitor the company’s activity more precisely and thus make better decisions. Their tasks are more human-oriented: managing employees, managing customer relations, making strategic decisions based on their field experience, etc. It is also essential to make them aware of the benefits of AI in their daily work: easier processes, better performance, etc.

When implementing Kardinal’s software solution, we support our customers in their change management, especially with users directly impacted by it. This includes training and regular follow-up meetings to ensure that the software is properly used, but also to answer any questions they may have. We help our customers reassure their teams that our software is a decision support tool for route optimization and is not intended to replace their work as planners. The solution automates route calculations using our algorithms, allowing supervisors to adjust and validate them before sending them to operational teams.

How to successfully manage change: Kardinal's advice

For a successful change management, support must be provided throughout the project: before, during and after the implementation. Our approach is based on 3 key steps in change management: preparation, support and adjustment.

Preparing for change management

1. Define targets

Why implement this project? What will be the benefits? Answer these questions by defining the expected results. The objectives show what will change as a result of the project, by mapping the starting point and the end point. Remember to include a time frame in the description of your objectives: the urgency of a situation that needs to change, an outdated tool that is not relevant anymore, a new contract, etc.

The implementation of a new software is by nature a sudden but intentional process for a company. The decision to roll out a new tool is based on business, environmental and operational constraints. This is the vision that must be shared.

The objectives for switching to Kardinal’s route optimization software can be divided into 4 categories:

  Time saving

  • For managers: in route dispatching
  • For drivers: in route planning
  • In handling unforeseen events and hazards

  Savings and performance

  • For drivers: more orders delivered, fewer kilometers traveled
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Better overview of past activity

  Human resources

  • Compliance with work schedules
  • Breaks are taken on time
  • Achievable and less stressful routes

 Service quality

  • Faster deliveries
  • Deliveries made on time
  • Customer commitments fulfilled
  • Better service quality

Continuous route optimization solution

List your constraints, your goals and the prior actions that led you to choose this software (market study, tender…). For more project consistency and support, it is essential to make the change a long-term process. When defining the goals, remember to set key performance indicators (KPIs) that will allow you to track the project’s success in the long term.

2. Assign a person or a team to lead the change

The scope of change management depends on the context, the size of the project and the teams involved. Assign one or more people who are motivated and convinced of the project to lead the change management in the company. This person can be an approach/software advisor or a project manager, in charge of bringing the users’ needs to the heart of the process. In some cases, these advisors can also be external consultants. From within the organization, identify the employees who will support the project, ideally those who will be the main users of the software. Involve them in some of the decision making, so they can contribute to the proper setup of the tool.

équipe conduite du changement

3. Assess the current situation

Before implementing any project, it is essential to assess the current situation: organization chart, tools used, company culture (values, advantages, weaknesses), market and competitors, etc. It is important to clearly identify the employees affected by the change and the impact that it may have on them so that potential obstacles can be avoided. Indeed, the implementation of a digital tool can imply a significant change in the work habits of some teams. The aim of the assessment is to determine the best actions to take to efficiently support the change and achieve the set targets.

For the roll-out of a route optimization software, some teams and activities may be directly affected:

  • Operations managers who previously planned routes by hand: with the tool, the calculations will be performed by the software, thereby giving their job a more analytical focus (route adjustments, checking that everything runs smoothly, focusing on the relationship with transport service providers, etc.).
  • Delivery drivers who will witness a change in their routes (they will no longer go to certain locations, will have to stop at more or fewer stops, etc.).

Facilitating change management

1. Involve the teams from the beginning of the project

At first, it is essential to involve the managers who make the link between management and operational teams. Their role in change management is to take hold of the company’s strategy and pass it on to their teams and ensure that it is applied, while at the same time managing the ensuing human reactions (questioning, misunderstandings, frustrations). They will inform, listen, reassure and support the teams to preserve social harmony. Their support is therefore essential to get the backing of all employees.

As it may take some time to accept the change, get your teams involved from the beginning of the project so that they are active contributors. Prefer a hands-on approach based on their needs by drawing on their knowledge and field experience. By including those affected in the design of the project, you promote ownership and acceptance, which are key conditions for the success of the project. Setting up business-digital teams of two (IT department, innovation) is a good solution for getting the different departments to work together.

2. Communicate on the benefits in a targeted way

Communication is at the heart of any change management process: it is essential to explain the reasons for the change but also to show the benefits it will bring. This communication is first carried out collectively through information emails, team meetings, work sessions, etc. However, individual support may sometimes be necessary to get reluctant employees on board.

Indeed, employees will ask themselves how the change will impact their daily life, especially in terms of workload, schedules and the nature of their work. Therefore, it is essential to prove that their efforts will have real and quantifiable benefits.

It is worthwhile dividing your audience into segments based on job, location or hierarchy. Address each target with adapted communications, for example:

  • To members of the management team, highlight the performance gains
  • To supervisors, communicate on the time saved and the relevance of the designed routes
  • To drivers, tell them about the optimization of their routes in terms of delivery distances and work time, etc.
livreur avec un colis dans sa camionnette

Make sure you use all internally available media: internal newsletter, notice boards, emails, internal platform, SharePoint, etc. It’s a good practice to define a communication schedule adapted to the major milestones of the project.

3. Start gradually and with real-life cases

Rather than completely overthrowing the existing organization, it is better to roll-out change gradually. This will help employees get used to and adopt the tools. By contrast, a “Big Bang” approach requires a long preparatory phase before the brutal transformation of processes. This causes fatigue and disinterest from employees who will not quickly see the benefits of such a project.

Therefore, we recommend to start the project step by step with a short term vision so that it will quickly generate performance. The teams will then be able to better see the results of their efforts. Their involvement will be all the more important if the project starts with real-life and simple use cases that directly impact their daily lives. Once the first tests are conclusive, the project can be deployed on a larger scale. When implemented slowly, the change becomes a routine that no longer frightens.

Adjusting change management

1. Collect employee feedback

Once the first use cases have been implemented, it is very important to ask for feedback from employees to ensure that the project meets their expectations. However, according to a study by IFOP in 2016, 67% of the employees surveyed believe that management does not take their fears and suggestions into account and 63% believe that they do not have the opportunity to express themselves on the change.

There are several ways to regularly collect feedback from teams, such as group workshops to encourage discussions or satisfaction questionnaires. This allows employees to express their feelings and share the difficulties they have encountered or, on the contrary, the first benefits they have noticed. Based on this feedback, solutions can be found to address the following issues:

  • possible solutions to solve the problems,
  • new optimization approaches that would improve the current change project.

2. Improve employee skills

Supporting employees also involves setting up a training program. When a new tool is implemented, it is paramount to train users so they can make it their own. Ideally over several days, the training can be given in person or through e-learning with group workshops, MOOC or individual coaching.

The best approach is to start by training the teams on the key features of the solution. Support must continue over the long term with technical assistance and frequent meetings (weekly or monthly depending on the need), especially if the tool undergoes changes or improvements.

One of the best practices to facilitate training is to provide documentation. To do this, create a user guide for the new tool, which should be updated regularly, and make it accessible to all users (through the tool’s interface, drive, internal website, etc.).

3. Make the change last

Throughout the project, it is important to follow up on the KPIs set out before the change, when the objectives were defined. These performance indicators make it possible to assess the success of the project, especially the adaptation rate of the new tools and processes thanks to dashboards and reporting. They can also highlight any obstacles encountered by employees.

Once the first results are positive, the challenge is to root the change in time so that the new practices last. Although difficult, this step is necessary for the company to fully make the switch. For this, it is recommended to acknowledge the efforts made by the teams. The documentation system is also very important in this long-term change objective.

Rolling out a digital or organizational project in a company is a real challenge. To ensure its success, it is essential to prepare a change management system in advance to support employees in the upcoming transition. The role of the change management team is not only to adopt the transformations at a given moment, but also to integrate them into the habits of the teams, in order to prepare for future developments.

At Kardinal, we are committed to supporting our clients in their change management efforts. Our processes have been designed to take this into account during the roll-out of our solution: needs assessments, technical and operational workshops, weekly follow-ups with operational teams, etc. Our teams are at your service if you to talk about it!