Author: Ramatu Abdulkadir
Imagine you’re the new CEO of a public health supply chain in a developing country. Your job is to ensure the availability of medicines in Government-owned health facilities for the wellbeing of the citizens.
These supply chains are usually fragmented and broken, and patients can hardly get medicines for basic healthcare needs. You inherit a demotivated health personnel that are waiting to collect their retirement benefits. Donors and development partners have invested over time in these supply chains. Still, they have only created an unsustainable system in dire need of transformation. Your new role is to transform these supply chains and make them function to save the lives of patients and improve their wellbeing. The following rules will help you succeed in my experience:
Rule #1: Believe in yourself because no one else will
This is very important as you will be making difficult decisions that have never been made to turn the system around. Stakeholders will not want to change from the usual ways of doing things. Say, for example, you all come together and decide to work together to reduce wastage in the system and provide visibility for all partners. It sounds reasonable until you come to implementation. You’ll find that people are not open to sharing information and will do anything to keep from sharing with perceived external stakeholders.
The best way to work around this is to create trust gradually by sharing your own information. It will be awkward at the beginning, but it allows people to see that you trust them with your data, and over time, they will begin to relax and share theirs.
Rule #2: Create a vision that keeps you up at night
If you’re not dreaming about it, then you cannot achieve it! I usually imagine that we have conquered the work and had visibility of the entire system only to wake up and find it was all a dream. I always wonder how Amazon is doing it, and I tell people I want our organization to be like Amazon. Usually, they will smile and humor me like a five-year-old. By the end of 3 years on the job, we were a leading supply chain organization to be reckoned with within the country. Good start!
Rule #3: Find a rebel team that are not experts and a kickass cheerleader
Often times the use of so-called experts in a massive transformation is a downer as they have an idea on how events should turn out. They will continue to administer their prescription even when it’s obvious there’s no improvement in the situation. You need fresh minds that are willing to learn and adapt quickly because during transformation, conditions will continue to change rapidly, and your team has to keep up. Flexibility was critical when we wanted to start collecting demand data from health facilities, we opted for manual collection because of the situation on the ground. Still, we quickly learned that it was impossible to sustain as the field team was always behind on data reporting. We immediately had to move on to using short message service with codes for sending data. People thought we were crazy, but we went ahead to set up the first SMS real-time platform for collecting demand data from over 200 health facilities.
Usually, these projects have lots of reviews. Like my conducting teacher will say, by the time you’re done with the analysis of each stage, people are already tired. Energy has waned, and transformation is dead on arrival. Stay connected with your team and continue to build your music until you take down the roof.
Your cheerleader has to make sure you’re up as soon as you get down, no slacking off! It helps if you’re in different time zones.
Rule #4: Don’t be shy about getting your hands dirty and learning new tricks
Even though you’re the CEO, you’re also the warehouse cleaner, dispatcher, picker, lumberjack. ‘I learned that one very quickly.’ The bottom line is you’re going to work your fingers to the bones. Forget everything you’ve being and learned in the past, live in the moment. You might even discover a treasure island. When we decided to clean up our warehouses that nobody could remember when it was cleaned up last. After over a month of daily scrubbing, we got rewarded when we discovered equipment that none of the staff on the ground knew about them! Treasure at last!
Most people will notice the improvements achieved by your team. Still, supply chain practitioners are not recognized in a system that works, get used to that, and never look back.
Rule #5: Get insured
Boxing is not my thing, but ignore this at your own peril. You will be taking on featherweight, lightweight, and heavyweight on this match. They’re not going to be happy you’re bringing positive change, and you will not get too many chances to explain. Get ready, cause they’re coming for you and you better be insured. It doesn’t hurt to make friends as you start out on this journey because you’ll need all the friends you can get to starve off these opponents, you might even lose a tooth or two. If you come out alive, you’ll earn some respect and new friends. Not so bad after all, some might even champion your cause in the future. Invest in your team and the people you meet on this journey that could be your joker.
By now, you should be starting your transformation, don’t be disappointed if your team doesn’t catch up quickly. Continue to encourage your team to learn and fail more often, at least you’re confident that one day, they’ll get it right.
You have 15 tree stumps around your warehouse, you have loads of trash to dispose of and some probably friendly snakes roaming around. You’re also short on cash, as a Supply Chain rebel, how will you solve this problem.
To be continued………..