Want Different Results? Change the Right Behaviors

By: Luc Baetens at Möbius

A supply chain director recently expressed to me his frustration that his new integrated business planning was ineffective. “We have spent so much time and money defining the new process, the reports we were going to use, and the monthly meetings we would hold. Even after all that, the only people who use the new system seriously are the supply chain team. Everyone else keeps doing things the old way.”

The Shingo Model™ describes in a holistic and coherent way what the most successful companies do to reach exceptional levels of operational excellence. After more than 15 years working with companies to improve their supply chains, I became a certified Shingo facilitator. I wondered how the Shingo Guiding Principles could help make the efforts of supply chain improvement more effective.

I found my answer in the first of the Three Insights of Enterprise Excellence™:

Ideal results require ideal behavior.

Behavior is at the very center of the Shingo Model. When we learn it we ask ourselves, “What behavior do I want to see?”

As I’ve worked in supply chain improvement, I have seen professionals spend considerable time and effort go into design and implementation of ever more sophisticated tools and processes, often with uncertain results and far less than the desired impact. Yet I’ve rarely heard supply chain leaders ask:

• What behavior do I want to see in an improved supply chain?

• How do the processes, systems and tools we use help promote that behavior?

As we learn in the Discover Excellence workshop, a behavior can be observed, described and recorded. So when we hear people complain about their improvement efforts, behavior is always at the core. We hear statements like these:

• “They spent a fortune on tool X but the people who ought to be using it keep doing everything in Excel instead.”

• “We defined a detailed playbook for sales and operations planning but still we see our associates coming to meetings completely unprepared.”

Using Excel instead of a more customized tool is a behavior. Coming to a meeting unprepared is a behavior. Putting new tools and systems in place is ineffective unless behavior is modified accordingly.

The first step is to describe the behavior you want to see:

• “I want to see production supervisors propose changes to the production schedule in advance to avoid issues with vacations.”

• “I want to see our production supervisors ask our planners what to do if they cannot respect the production schedule.”

• “I want to see our planners on the shop floor talk with maintenance people about progress and timing of machine repair.”

• “I want to see production managers ask questions of their supervisors if the schedule is not met.”

The next step is to decide what changes in systems and tools will help to promote the desired behavior. Put another way, “How can I make it easier for people to adopt the ideal behavior than the unwanted behavior?”

So, to get the desired behaviors listed above, we have to ask questions like these:

• How can I make it easier for a supervisor to talk with schedulers than to deviate from the schedule on his own?

• How do I change the process to make schedulers aware of the upcoming vacation schedule?

Design your tools and processes specifically to support ideal behaviors. By starting with the ideal behavior in mind, you can improve performance at all levels of the organization.

When I first learned about the Shingo Model I found it difficult to think in terms of behaviors. I was more accustomed to thinking in terms of end results, capabilities and skills. The more I learned, however, the more enthusiastic I became about this new way of looking at things. If you haven’t tried it for yourself yet, you should.

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