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Supply Chain Leaders Need to be “Leaders of Change”

Over 1,000 supply chain professionals attended the IDN Summit in Orlando last month, sharing best practices and building relationships.  At that Summit we heard a great keynote speaker, Chris Maslin, from the Biltmore Center for Professional Development, discussing change and the importance of managing change in our lives.  It was very inspiring and applied to all of us in our work but also in our personal lives.

A few of my favorite quotes from Chris were:

  • “Change is difficult.  Not changing is fatal.”
  • “Where victims see adversity, achievers see opportunity.”

Working in healthcare we can all recognize that we are living in a world of change.  There is change happening in our careers.  And we experience change in our personal lives constantly.  Let’s review some of the major changes in each of these areas:

Healthcare Industry Changes

  1. Mergers and acquisitions both with suppliers and providers
  2. Leadership changes with natural attrition and more retirements
  3. Healthcare cost and quality pressures with significant supply chain impacts
  4. Technology changes to manage corporate and patient records


  1. Pressures of goals, quotas, delivering value
  2. New management
  3. Career decisions
  4. Moving locations
  5. Learning best practices – knowledge pressures

Personal Life

  1. Health
  2. Marriage and children
  3. Aging parents
  4. Retirement
  5. Finances

Change is not going away.  It’s all around us and coming at us faster than ever.  We are both leaders of change and receivers of change.  Surviving and even excelling will be a factor in our ability to embrace change.  It’s not easy.  Studies show that only about 1/3 of people look at change as being good.  The rest of us fear and resist it.

In my career I’ve both led change and been a recipient of change.  At Intermountain Healthcare our supply chain team led significant and positive supply chain strategies that came with intense change leadership demands.  Later as the leader of Amerinet/Intalere we tried to make changes to a traditional GPO.  Managing change is challenging.  I know! 

Almost two years ago I retired.  That was not easy.  Change is constant.  Returning to the industry after living in Mexico for 18 months on a service mission, I see the pace of change in the industry accelerating.  Many of my supply chain friends are no longer here or now work for someone else.  And the pressure to do more with less has intensified for most supply chain organizations. 

Tradition is an enjoyable thing and it helps us reflect back on the “way things used to be”, but when allowed to become a business philosophy, it’s disastrous.  Managing in the shadow of tradition will not allow room for growth and anything not growing is dying.

The healthcare supply chain is generally inefficient and more costly compared to other industries.  As healthcare cost and quality pressures increase, change will abound.  Change is coming and it is inevitable.  As supply chain leaders we need to (1) be prepared to be good leaders of change and (2) be willing to accept change. 

We are blessed to work in the healthcare supply chain.  In Chris Maslin’s message he shared the example of how some people look at their jobs as “just a paycheck”.  Others view their jobs as improving life for others.  In healthcare, every one of us have the opportunity to help patients have a better experience, get better outcomes and at a more affordable cost. 

Hope is not a good strategy for managing change.  Chris gave us some helpful tools to manage change, including: asking WHY change is needed, developing a vision, establishing urgency, creating good communication, empowering key employees and anchoring change.

To expect different results you may need an updated roadmap.  As supply chain leaders, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.