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What leaders can learn from Guus Hiddink’s failures

The chain is weaker than the weakest link

June 3, 2015 – by Otie Hauser &samhoud

How do you obtain a successful chain? 

Working in chains is currently a hot topic in many organisations. Doing so ensures that customers are served optimally and receive what they request on time. This approach also reduces the completion time between links in the chain, increases the quality of services or products, and aligns all the links in the process. Everything can therefore proceed smoothly in one go, ultimately resulting in a cost reduction.

With this ideal picture in the back of one’s mind, it is only logical that working in chains is so ‘hot’ at the moment. Nevertheless, the depicted scenario often appears nicer than it actually is.

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”

Organisations are switching their management from traditional silos to chains. They are appointing chain managers en masse to the steer these chains. And employees from different departments within the same chain are spending an afternoon playing with Lego or jointly building paper aeroplanes capable of flying at least one metre. The point of all of this is to encourage them to work in chains. In many cases, however, these interventions do not appear to be adequate. Working in chains in a truly effective manner not only requires mutual trust, but also a mutual effort to ensure that chains are fully transparent.

How do you obtain a successful chain?

To answer this question, I would like to share two insights with you that can help accelerate and facilitate working in chains.

  1.     Work on mutual trust

Given that only 59% of managers consider, with some doubt, the deliverables from a different department to be reliable and that only 9% of managers indicate that they trust these completely, major improvements still have to be made. By focussing on trust and mutual connection between the links in a chain, and these are still departments in most cases, you can jointly build a solid foundation upon which the chain can rest. 

  1.     Make the chain transparent and focus on this in short cycles

How effective is a chain and where are the weakest links? By visualising the overall chain with each other and quantifying it using indicators decisive for the success of the entire chain, such as quality and completion time, it quickly becomes evident what every link in the chain should work on to ensure joint success.

Drawing on the wealth of Lean knowledge we have acquired over the years, we use a spin-off from Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OCE) to make the chain transparent and measurable. The most important tip: do not get fixated on costs as these usually arise from quality, completion time and productivity.

Imagine there are five links in the chain, with customer demand flowing from A through to E. Even though every link focuses on delivering quality via the ‘good-in-one-go percentage’, the sum of all chains, or, better said, the “Overall Chain Effectiveness”, is only 49%. The chain is weaker than the weakest link!

Where should you begin your journey towards a successful chain partnership?

Going through the chain together, visualising it and calculating the OCE gives you an insight into how the chain really functions. The insight usually creates a Sense of Urgency and a burning platform to work on that. This provides a solid foundation for aspiring to this together: 100% and properly at the first attempt!

But continue keeping up the pressure. Make concrete agreements with eachother regarding what each link will work on and do not set goals that are too far off in time. Setting specific goals in the short term, i.e.; realistic goals that can be attained within one month, creates a Sense of Excitement. It is precisely the application of this short-term focus that allows the links in the chain to work in small steps, which reinforces the chain even further. In addition to focussing on the performance of the personal link, those involved will also have to focus in short cycles on indicators decisive for success. Doing so will ensure the transparency of all results. OCE will increase step by step, inspiring mutual trust and promoting mutual cooperation via a joint discussion centred around improvement.

Learn more about the integrated approach and be inspired by our cases: http://consultancy.samhoud.com/en/expertise/strategy-business-models-and-execution

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