There's an old saying that “timing is everything”. And while it may not always be true, more often than not, it is. Especially when it comes to implementing new planning approaches, like flowcasting.
Even though implementing Flowcasting usually means implementing new technology, it's got very little to do with software. It's about changing the mental model and how organizations work, plan, and collaborate. As a result, these implementations are about change – helping people unlearn old ways, learn, and ingrain new ones.
And that requires time for change.
Here's a beautiful view of change management, highlighting the critical importance of timing:
About 25 years ago we were blessed with a dose of shit luck. We were working as employees at one of Canada's most iconic and successful retailers, designing and implementing what we now call Flowcasting. As luck would have it, two former Oliver Wight planning pioneers would somehow emerge from the wilderness and join the party. They would ingrain the project team with an implementation approach, called the Proven Path – aptly named given thousands of successful implementations of integrated planning over several decades.
At the heart of the approach is early and repetitive education for executives, management, planners, and suppliers. The diagram above nicely outlines the importance of engaging people early – teaching them how the new process will work, what's different and why it will be better.
We're often asked why start educating and engaging people so early. It's simple, yet instructive. People really don't like to be surprised and they need time to think. The term we use is “soak time”. The sooner people begin to understand the change, the longer time they can think about it, question it, challenge it, even improve on it. Of course, education is not a one-time event and constant and refresher education happens throughout the change.
It's why we typically follow up educational sessions with process prototypes – where people, who are now more knowledgeable, can “test” the new approach in a guided, lab-like environment.
And what does that do? It gives people time to experience the new process and more time to “soak” in the new approach and thinking. Helping the change effort considerably.
The reason the diagram above is so instructive is that it reflects the difference between super successful implementations and successful ones. Many teams view these implementations from a technology lens. You're installing new software to improve things. With a view like that, typically teams scrunch the change effort much closer to when the software go-live will be. And, almost always, it's too much, too fast for people and the implementations suffer.
In contrast, if you understand that the implementation is about changing people's behaviors and corresponding mental models (throughout the extended organization, including suppliers) then the importance of starting early should be apparent.
To drive the point home, years ago the Oliver Wight team surveyed over 1000 companies regarding how successful their implementations of integrated planning were. The results were enlightening. The companies that started the change program early, with early and ongoing education, realized an average Return on Investment (ROI) of 200%, compared with 30% for the companies who thought they were installing software.
I suppose if you're looking for a super successful implementation and a big, fat, juicy ROI then timing is, indeed, everything.