Your Supply Chain Gets What You Believe
Keith LaBotz - September 30, 2021
The Principle Behind Super Star Supply Chains
You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you believe.
Top performers often cite this principle, or one of its derivatives, as the primary factor in their success. Can we use this to increase supply chain performance?
Yes. With the right model and a few tweaks, we can make it work. We’ll explore that after we understand the power behind this principle - belief.
How Belief Works
Belief is powerful. Regardless of how belief is defined, the consensus is it controls our perception, expectations, decisions, and ultimately the future. No wonder volumes of research in psychology and neuroscience study belief; it’s the focus of philosophy, the pillar of religion, and the superpower of super-achievers. Clearly, we stand to gain much from understanding belief.
Here’s how we will define belief in the post:
- A belief is something we regard as true, even though a belief can be false.
- Belief functions as a lens for interpreting the world around us.
- We do not choose what we believe; beliefs are conclusions derived from experience and reasoning or; claims we accept as true from trusted sources.
- A belief is either objectively true (falsifiable), false (contradictory), or speculative (neither true nor false; lacking concrete evidence).
- We all believe false claims; we’re just unaware of them until they are exposed.
- Our subconscious naturally protects beliefs through confirmation bias, focusing on evidence supporting existing beliefs and blinding us to contrary evidence. Confirmation bias is easier to recognize in others than in ourselves.
Now you understand what is meant by belief. Let’s see how the power of belief can increase supply chain performance.
Models Are Beliefs
A model represents our beliefs about the nature of something, so models and beliefs are synonymous. You can replace “model” with “belief” as you like while reading this post.
An effective supply chain model accurately represents reality, presenting the true nature of a supply chain: it’s risks, opportunities, relationships, constraints, requirements, and structure. If I missed anything add it to the list.
I believe (model) transportation is the core of a supply chain and reached that conclusion (belief) after decades of tinkering with supply chains. My last post proposed a simple, transportation-centric supply chain model that’s my lens for understanding the supply chain. If I learn something in the future that ends up changing my belief about how a supply chain should function, my model will change. My model remains open to change.
Step 1: Open Your Mind
Here’s the thing about models and beliefs: we can’t change them, they change us. Once our mind sees something, we cannot unsee it. We can only close our minds to avoid this. Evidence of an open mind is changing beliefs and the same is true for supply chain models and processes.
Step 2: Follow Truth, No Matter Where it Leads
Harnessing the power of belief requires an open mind so you can follow the truth, no matter where it leads. You will find it leads you to innovation and continuous improvement.
What is truth? That is the ultimate question all beliefs seek to answer. We could take an infinite dive here, but for this discussion, we’ll define truth as any idea that can be proven to be predictable, accurate, and does not contradict itself and other beliefs you hold true.
That’s how the scientific method is supposed to work when it’s free of agendas.
Following the truth requires a little due diligence. Counterfeit claims look like the real thing: they invoke science and present skewed data as “evidence”. The most deceptive of all are assumptions; we speculate or follow the majority rather than confirming the reality. If we verify a claim meets the definition of truth before accepting it, our beliefs about the supply chain will align with reality.
Step 3: Create Your Own Model
If you can articulate your understanding of the supply chain, you can create your own model and that is the first step in tapping the power of belief. If you’ve followed the first two steps, you’ll know for certain your beliefs about the supply chain are true and collectively, they become your lens. You’ll see problems, solutions, risks, and opportunities more easily. That is where the power of belief is first realized.
Step 4: Trust Your Model
The power of belief will come from the trust you have in your model. The previous steps ensure your model is a lens of truth and it wilthat shapes perception, expectations, decisions, and ultimately your success. It will guide you and give you the confidence to innovate and take risks. Your model will test the veracity of vendor claims and choose the best solutions for you.
Beliefs Produce More Powerful Processes
The power of belief also produces more efficient supply chain processes:
- Beliefs that comport with reality encounter less resistance - there are no energy losses to friction, so the full effort goes towards the goal.
- Beliefs that go against the true nature of reality are ultimately unsustainable: limiting generating friction, failing, and limiting potential.
- A supply chain process supporting a model aligned with reality is frictionless, increasing efficiency, accuracy, and predictability.
Next, we will add a secret ingredient bearing the name of a guy who fell in love with a statue he carved. I can’t even read that without smiling every time, can you?
Experts Believe You Get What You Believe
The Pygmalion Effect, described by J. Sterling Livingston in the September/October 1988 Harvard Business Review, proposed that expectations determine decisions and outcomes, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy. “The way managers treat their subordinates is subtly influenced by what they expect of them,” Livingston said in his article, Pygmalion in Management.
Think of a self-fulfilling prophecy as a feedback loop, a cycle where the expectations drive the actions that result in a new set of expectations. In abstract terms, event A leads to event B, which leads to event C, which leads to event A.
Step 3: Continuously Improve Your Beliefs
Top performers use the Pygmalion Effect to encourage continuous improvement and we can make it work in our transportation-centric model by setting up a feedback loop. For the sake of illustration, we’ll use the power of belief in a shipping process.
My supply chain model believes the supply chain is driven by stakeholder expectations, so this shipping process exists to fulfill stakeholder expectations; it must meet relevant stakeholder requirements associated with each shipment.
Here’s a high-level summary of how a feedback loop can encourage continuous improvements in a shipping process that is focused on compliance with stakeholder requirements:
- Stakeholders (e.g., customers, transportation carriers, vendors) become aware of a new process improvement and issue new requirements to a shipper.
- The shipper’s enterprise shipping process is improved to meet stakeholder’s requirements.
- Stakeholders realize gains from the shipper’s compliance which enables the potential for additional improvements. The cycle repeats.
The functional details go well beyond the scope of this post, so I don’t expect you to be convinced this is possible from such a brief outline. However, assuming you were provided details and trusted the proposed process, you could take your new understanding and create a model. Your model would enable you to manifest your beliefs into reality - a shipping process that automates continuous improvement while complying with customer requirements.
It gets more interesting - our little shipping process using the power of belief also increases supply chain visibility. When beliefs align at each level around common objectives, we end up with a process that encourages higher performance and trust. Wow. Very Kung Fu.
Truth Leads to Transparency
If you’re transparent you are truthful and that builds trust. This applies to business processes too. Fully trusting the process requires verifying results and that’s what our example does with its feedback loop. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that raises expectations and reinforces trust with each success. That Pygmalion magic is working and something else is happening too.
The level of observance, decisiveness, and proactive behavior rises with increasing performance. Situational awareness is increasing - supply chain visibility is situational awareness.
Supply chain visibility is an integral part of the process. We can expand it by introducing an app like a dynamic routing engine to reduce delivery costs and increase visibility to last-mile delivery activity. A supply chain visibility platform that’s strong in transportation can expand visibility to 3PLs, common carriers, and long-haul trucking. Both solutions are great starting points for extending the feedback loop beyond the four walls of an enterprise.
We’ve seen the power of belief can work for a supply chain or a superstar. This shows us we can borrow effective principles from other areas of life and with a good model, translate them into process improvements for a supply chain.
I hope this got you thinking about tackling issues in your supply chain with a holistic approach that aligns beliefs, models, and processes. Finding the truth - making sure beliefs comport with reality requires diligence. If we don’t do this, then we do end up getting what we deserve. Maybe we should revise that principle:
You get what you deserve if you don’t get what you believe. What do you think?