Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Logistics of The New Broom.....and change management.


I have borrowed this from the official TLP blog (titled "Beware The New Broom") because I think it sums up a lot of the problems faced by organisations trying to manage change. I have end some emphasis here and there but it remains largely intact.
“Beware the new broom” – This was a phrase that would get whispered on RAF stations all over the world each time a new officer got posted into a supply section.  The new broom referred to the enthusiastic zeal with which the aforementioned officer would arrive to sweep away the methods and projects of the previous 18 months for “improvements”.  Weary Senior Non Commisioned Officers would direct the troops to “realign the daffodils” in the direction they were in just 18 months ago.
At The Logistics Project we see a similar, although not identical pattern, in humanitarian logistics.  NGOs, FBOs and other humanitarian agencies frequently find they have neglected their support elements in favour of the primary task, the logistic component of their organisation is either creaking under the strain of expanding programs or has completely broken down leaving field offices and beneficiaries unsupported.  At some point the pain becomes too much and up goes the cry “something must be done.”
The usual process is to look at the staffing of the logistics department and decide that there needs to be a new senior position created or a more capable individual put into this role, someone who has a lot of expertise and can change manage.  To an extent this is true but all too often it begins a cycle that leads to perpetual change and even destruction.  The new hire arrives and with gusto sets about making the necessary changes to logistics policy, structure and systems in line with their (far too) closely defined terms of reference; this is the up stroke of the cycle.  
Problems start to arise when they have completed those tasks as defined in the terms of reference.  Their remit is improvement and change management but they have hit a place where stability and continuity are required.  This is the beginning of the down stroke of the cycle.  Having been hired as an expert logistics change manager their (personal and professional) validation comes from rolling out new shinier solutions to the challenges facing the agency, after all they are taking a significant salary. The temptation to tinker with what is working well is too great.  Phrases like “future proof” ,”long term view” and “legacy planning”  start to litter the vocabulary of logistics HQ to veil a need to innovate, change and self-validate; meanwhile the field operations are running to stay abreast of the current developments and the stability they need is not forthcoming.
It is for this reason The Logistics Project offer system audit and design services.  Over many years of working the “innovation and decimation” cycle in both the commercial and charitable sectors our team have come to believe having external innovators and change managers leads to a more stable and functioning operation.
External change managers come with a different mind set and agenda.  They are not caught in the day to day of operations.  Their remit is to bring exceptional expertise to quickly and effectively identify solutions and make necessary changes and then to move on.
The advantages of this are a clear costed project plan that once agreed becomes the arbitrator of what change is necessary.  The project plan also becomes a useful fundraising tool with clear costs to tangible objectives.
The core benefit to this is removing the temptation to tinker but it also realises a cost benefit as the expertise you hire does not remain on the pay roll beyond the change project’s life cycle.  Agencies like The Logistics Project also bring the advantage of having a raft of specialists who can be drawn into the project rather than one individual with a general knowledge of many of the components that make up the supply chain.
If you want to know more about our change methodology drop us a line - info@thelogisticsproject.org or visit the website www.thelogisticsproject.org.

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