Supply Chain & The Boiling Frog Syndrome

Does your Supply Chain suffer from boiling frog syndrome?

Anecdote regarding Boiling Frog Syndrome is widely known. A frog placed in boiling water will certainly jump out. What if the frog is initially placed in cold water and the water is gradually heated up? The results are going to be different.

Gradually increasing ambient temperature is bound to offer a soothing effect on the frog. It tends to keep adjusting itself with the variations but there is a limit to it. There will be a point beyond which frog’s metabolism cannot cope up and must ultimately die

Supply Chain always adapt to the subtle changes arising out of market dynamics and tend to adjust. If the change outside is faster than that of the inside, for sure there will be a devastating impact. Although it will not be easy to pull out of the comfort zone, it is becoming increasingly important to prepare the Supply Chain for change.

Distinct signs below indicate that your Supply Chain is getting into the comfort zone

1. Lack of Customer Obsession

Apple’s Steve Jobs believed that customers don’t know what they want until you showed it to them. Indian consumers did not know that they can place last minute online orders for daily groceries to be delivered next day morning before 6 AM until Indian retail company Big Basket’sbb daily came up with brilliant service.

2. Let your process own you

It is worthwhile to keep asking “do you own the process, or the process owns you?” If the process owns you, you will stop looking at outcomes. Instead, the process becomes a priority. It is common to hear out from the baby boomers in the organization “we have always done it this way”. Those thoughts should be continuously challenged. Instead, allow intuition, guts & curiosity to take precedence.

3. Resist new trends

With the rapid market changes, it’s impossible to hold on to the older practices. It is better to disrupt self than to be disrupted. Resisting new trends is a perfect recipe for disaster. For instance, a European company offers a container lifting system that can limit the container turnaround time to less than 20 minutes. If the ROI works out, it is better to acquire this capability rather than falling back on conventional practices.

4. Low-velocity decision making

Whenever a team level consensus is not at sight, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos opts for “disagree and commit” to save time. If you wait for 90% information for decision making, you are too slow and that will prove very costly.

To overcome the comfort zones, you can undertake the following initiatives:

  1. People upskilling and exposure to external practices is of utmost importance. Habits are picked up from the nearby teams, large groups and influential people. Organizations should encourage employees’ active external participation in forums, knowledge groups and projects. Supply Chain certification programs offered by leading institutions in India and abroad promote these engagements through credit point systems post certification.
  2. Market insights are routed through the internal sales to Supply Chain teams and often gets diluted. Quarterly market visits of Supply Chain teams need to be mandatory with a specific focus on dissatisfied customers. This will help to re-design the Supply Chain as per the changing market dynamics
  3. Supply Chain should be identity-based and not outcome based. Efforts should be to develop a world-class Supply Chain rather than just focussing on the performance metrics.

If you want to get what you did not have, you must do what you have not done. Let your Supply Chain stay away from comfort zones and experiment discomfort zones. Organizations will be amazed by the great opportunities that come their way!!