As we emphasize in our “Get There Faster” TMC tag line, a transportation management system (TMS) can provide a quick route to achieving your business goals (see A New Fast Lane for Freight Management). But a speed bump that many organizations encounter is behavioral change issues; attitudinal resistance to a new TMS solution. Removing this obstacle before you get into the implementation phase shortens the journey to success.
This type of opposition to an investment in TMS technology comes in a number of forms. One of the most familiar is the “we’ve been doing it this way for many years” attitude that can frustrate even the most accomplished execution plan. Just one persistent individual with a mission to derail the project can slow progress to a crawl.
Another impediment is interpersonal conflicts that were not addressed during the initial sales cycle. These tensions can suddenly surface when it comes to installing the system.
Misinformation, or a lack of information, can prove equally as disruptive. In our experience, this phenomenon happens more often than is generally assumed. An example is when senior management (the buyers) are so fixated on ROI that they fail to thoroughly brief all subordinates (the users) about the specifics of the application, and its impact on the broader organization. To make matters worse, a distinct and palpable tension subsequently sets in when the buyers perceive that the users and service provider team members are not progressing fast enough when implementing the technology.
These problems come under the “change management” umbrella, and the support of a manager with responsibility for this type of activity can be a huge plus. On the other hand, change management specialists who have not been educated about the TMS project goals, benefits, and technology applications can impede progress.
The key to harmonious implementations is developing a “collaborate not collide” mindset, where the participants work together to achieve a positive outcome. It sounds easy, but so does “effective communication,” another important ingredient of low-conflict TMS deployments. When was the last time you heard the phrase: “There was an opportunity to better communicate across the board” at a post mortem exercise?
Here are four practical steps you can take to engage individuals productively when implementing a TMS solution.
Set up the cross functional project team and implementation infrastructure early on to give yourself a chance to think about potential problems and mitigate the risks. This helps you to avoid the blame game if things go wrong and to reflect on what needs to be done differently to move ahead.
Measure twice, cut once
Take the time to double check every step in the implementation process. Racing ahead might save you time on the front end, but it is likely that you will lose ground on the back end of the process when you have to pause to fix errors, address overlooked issues, sell the additional changes, and travel to meetings to talk about the issues as a larger team.
Grade each other
A joint scorecard that enables both the service provider and the client shipper to measure performance is recommended. The scorecard should be based on mutually agreed metrics that the shipper values. Such a measure provides objective, fact-based outcomes as opposed to subjective, emotive information on how the relationship and the TMS are working.
Don’t lose sight of the process
A lot of firefighting can go on when you are in the thick of a TMS implementation. During these times, it is easy to get confused about the source of a problem, especially when there is a lot of e-mail traffic flowing back and forth. Try to stay focused on how you got to a particular point in terms of the overall process. Casting a problem as part of a vague pattern or as a one-off glitch rather than the culmination of steps in the process tends to create more heat than light.
In today’s competitive environment we all want to get there faster and TMS technology can provide short cuts to more efficient freight networks. Anticipating and dealing with behavioral issues ahead of time helps you to capture these benefits and allows you to get there faster, the right way.