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Episode 26: How Online Gaming Can Drive Change Management in Your Organization


Bob Trebilcock: Welcome to The Rebound, where we'll explore the issues facing supply chain managers as our industry gets back up and running in a post-COVID world. This podcast is hosted by Abe Ashkenazi, CEO of the Association for Supply Chain Management, and Bob Trebilcock, Editorial Director of Supply Chain Management Review. Remember that Abe and Bob welcome your comments. Now, to today's episode.

Bob: Welcome to today's episode of The Rebound, Once in a Fortnite, or how online gaming can drive change management in your organization. I'm Bob Trebilcock

Abe Ashkenazi: I'm Abe Ashkenazi.

Bob: Joining us today are Marko Kovacevic and Alexander L. Fernandez. Marko is Executive Director of the Digital Supply Chain Institute and Alexander is the CEO of Streamline Media Group. This is the first for The Rebound. We haven't talked about multi-player online games in any context, let alone the supply chain context, but we all know that between changing customer expectations and digital transformation, we're all having to rethink everything we do in supply chain, including how we communicate a new direction for the other leaders in our organizations, we're going to carry out these changes. After all, as we all know, change is difficult in the best of time.

Today, we're going to talk to Marko and Alexander about how and why a multi-player games such as Fortnite might be important to change management. Let's get started. Marko, I'm going to begin with you but first, two questions, in fact, will go to you. For those of us who aren't familiar with the game, which includes me, what is Fortnite and how can a multi-player game contribute to change management, for instance, are there principles associated with Fortnite, but also apply to supply chain leadership?

Marko Kovacevic: Thank you very much for the question. I think you are immediately going to the bullseye, let's put it that way. I like when we have a focus discussion. Fortnite is, let's say, an amazing successful game that launched three years ago and already has more than 350 million players globally. It's like a Battle Royale game which has 100 players where either teams of three to four people, with one clear goal to be the last man standing.

What is beautiful about it, it's a new interactive global platform where players from various different geographies, nationalities, cultures, come together and join, and basically through collaboration as a team, try to win. What is great about it is those people usually when they begin, they don't know each other, and they start from the goal to try to win the game.

Connecting that with your next question, which is very important, why we are thinking about the game and how it's connected with the change management in a way is because as we all know, especially after 2020, the acceleration of the digital world has been multiplied in a way that we didn't comprehend. We do feel, especially with having a supply chain as a backbone of every business now and visible in front line rather than a backline as before, is that the change management concept needs to change as well.

Why? Because the circumstances changed, on one side. On the other side, the way of how we are tackling the change in the problems of today has multiplied in speed and as well, the new generation of digital-native people are coming into the workforce. How we connected the two is basically, in change management, as we know so far from when it began up to today, you have to have a clear and understandable goal. That's what multi-player games have really spot on.

You need people to collaborate in every single change management exercise. If people do not collaborate, this is usually where the things are slowing down, where the things are changing, where, let's say, the speed of a transformation is not on the right level. The collaboration is the keyword in multi-player games. What is great in that, especially in the multi-player games, there's no boss.

Why is there no boss? Because winning requires discipline skills, strategy, and teamwork. Basically, the teams come together based on their skills rather than hierarchy. That's why these things are spot on in what they can do. That's why they can speak up and collaborate in various different skills. That's why they compliment each other going along the way.

We rounded up the whole idea with basically dynamic leadership, which is focused, on as well understanding the data. Because the element which we have today more than anytime before is the availability of data of our business and our network of suppliers and partners business, which we should be utilizing when we drive the change in the small teams who have the different skills. I'll stop there in a sense of just rounding up this introduction.

Abe: Marko, you brought up a number of really interesting points, both internally and externally for the organization in terms of how to approach change management. You talked a little bit before about the synchronization and the harmony necessary, and the collaboration necessary for supply chains. How are customer expectations changing what your philosophy is, or your approach to change management, for example, the e-commerce and the adaptation of a digital environment? Give me a sense of how this applies in to the framework.

Marko: Thank you, Abe, for the question. Again, it links the one thing which the Digital Supply Chain Institute started from, and that's the notion and the idea of frontside flip. What we meant by the idea of front side flip is basically that supply chains of the future need to do a frontside flip towards the customer. Why? Because as you rightly said, new customer today is basically driving the change in the overall expectations in a way of how to deliver exceptional service, and how to build a customer happiness and loyalty long-term.

What we mean by it, as before you would be designing your supply chain from your organization and production towards the market. Today if you would like to have new customer happy, you need to reverse engineer the process from the new customer towards, basically your supply chain, your production in that sense. That's what changed the things because now for the new customer, everything is visible.

For the new customer the expectations, especially in e-commerce are almost instant or in 24 hour terms, the expectations of visibility of the product or service is on a highest level. Then as well, the value of the product and the comments around the world about the value of the product is as well, very visible, and having in mind sustainability component and component of environmental friendliness, you're around the gap of a very, very tough task for the supply chains to function. That's again, why rapid change management is an essential skill going forward.

Bob: Alexander, first of a couple of questions you too, we're going to talk about Streamline Media, your company, in a little bit, but before we get there, why link multi-player online games to change management? This is a whole different way to think about change management.

Alexander L. Fernandez: That's a really good question. I think really what it comes down to is that the world today has completely changed. Not only because of the way technology has become so pervasive, but also just the reality of the pandemic and how we've had to effectively adapt to remote work, working from anywhere and realistically utilizing technology as a primary interface for our offices.

What multi-player games have taught, and continue to teach people, is how to not only understand situational context to understand what is happening as things are taking place in a fast-paced environment, but how to actually read data, how to work as a team, how to effectively change their plans in the middle of executing plan A going to a plan B, and then realizing you need to do plan X, to basically have success happen.

Ultimately what happens with a multi-player game is that people learn adaptability, communication, and management really in milliseconds, rather than it being judged in quarters. I think that this is absolutely imperative for businesses today to be able to respond to really just change in circumstances that seem to be happening every other day now. Ultimately, the actual staff themselves and the team members, those that play games, they understand very quickly what the lay of the land is as it changes second-by-second.

Abe: Let's let me pound on that a little bit, the concept. Even in supply chain, we're seeing some of the criteria for successful supply chain professionals change, specifically on collaboration and communication. Traditionally, not strong traits for supply chain professionals tend to be back-office individuals. Give me a sense of the benefits of multi-player methodology, because you're going to require interactions. How does this fit within the change management construct?

Alexander: Yes, I think one of the things that it comes down to is that you begin to realize that the supplier-vendor relationship becomes a harmonious one, that you're actually working on the same team. You actually have aligned goals and expectations, and really being able to understand this, the context that the person you're working with is operating in, the way you're operating in, is basically to understand effectively how do we win together, how best do we move forward to ensure that not only our businesses and our responsibilities are actually successful, but also our relationship is successful.

I think that ultimately when you look at effectively multi-player gaming, we have defined goals. We have these constructs that are out there that we want to achieve, whether it's taking a certain piece of land, taking a house, or effectively scoring a certain goal here. That ability for us to communicate and work well together, understanding each other is the tools that are at our disposal, understand and help us basically make better decisions together as we traverse, whether it's through a map, or in this case, traverse through a business environment, or really a difficult operational environment.

I think those things are what really appeal towards this concept and really why, when we look towards just the overall landscape with these relationships, today your supply chain manager really needs to understand not just the administrative tasks that they do, but also the circumstances that their partners are operating in. This is where their skills of understanding how the business is run, how the stuff is actually created becomes so important to them. Again, this is what you learn when you play games. You learn every ins and out of every aspect of the game itself. The data that's presented, the actual tools you're using to succeed in the game, but also how you best get out of situations that can be very sticky and very tricky at a moment in time.

Abe: Alex, do you need to understand gaming? Should you have a background in it? Is it a limitation? Is it an enhancement? Give me a sense. I'm new to gaming. If I haven't used it before, what's the learning curve for me to go into this process?

Alexander: Let me ask you something, do you do frequent flyer miles? Do you do reward points?

Abe: Yes.

Alexander: You've played a game, you're already in games. The reality is what it comes down to is that basically, if you've ever played a tabletop game or played a multiplayer game or basically have effectively been part of a frequent flyer program, you've already tasted gaming. I think what really it comes down to, it's more about a mindset of having a fluidity in terms of your own ability to make decisions and having the elasticity of mind that helps you understand context of others. I think more than anything else it's just a combination of empathy, logic, and analytical capability. That's really where you need to come from.

Bob: Alex, when you were talking about that real-time decision making and the replanning on the fly, that really struck a chord with me because I read a piece from Steve Melnyk, a Michigan State professor, who's a history buff and wrote about how they trained fighter pilots during the Korean War, which was, the first time they really had jet fighters and everybody had to react much quicker and in real-time just to stay alive.

All of the platforms that we're developing for supply chain management are about, A, getting real-time visibility, but then being able to replan, rethink and come up with the Plan B, C, or D on the fly. That is a new skill for supply chain managers who typically are trained to think in terms of a shift, or a week, or a month, or a quarter. When you use that analogy, it, like I say, really struck home to me and I can see the advantage of it. I know we're near the end here, but one of the things I thought would be great to know is, tell us a little bit about Streamline Media, your company, and then also how you got involved in the supply chain space?

Alexander: Yes, no problem. I actually wanted to just add on what you just said for a second about how they trained pilots during the Korean War. You can actually find this type of thinking, this type of fuzzy abstract thinking going all the way back to Napoleon. Napoleon used to do it with the concept of defeat in details, which basically sat down and understood not only the lay of the land, the capacity of his people, the capacity of his actual soldiers, and the people they were going up against. What they would end up doing is basically going into the battle, understand what they thought they were going to do and then empower the people to make decisions on the ground as things changed.

Because of effectively understanding the information and preplanning, but then being flexible enough to make decisions on the fly, he was able to conquer pretty much all of Europe. I'm not going to say that we're going to go out and conquer other countries or other people, but what I want to just demonstrate with that is that that is a flexibility and elasticity that effectively we all face today. Then when we go into the context of, say, something like Streamline and the way we've basically built a business, our company is completely integrated into the entire supply chain for video game development.

What we effectively do is that we help video game publishers, developers, film producers, as well as advertising agencies leverage video game technology in order to create new IP's, new gaming concepts, but also to help them apply this technology in non-gaming fields. In doing so, what we're allowing them to do is basically really unlocking the potential of interactive experiences in order to build a community and ultimately in order to basically provide a new type of experience that their consumer is not only wanting, but is now demanding because of things like work from anywhere, the pandemic and the fact that not all of us want to be inside of a space with 300 people.

Because of that, basically what we're seeing here now is a new renaissance where we begin to realize that how we effectively understood the world in a physical space is also being represented in the digital space. This is why this entire concept of the word metaverse comes into play, which is nothing more than your digital persona, your physical persona becoming a unified reality. Because of that, that is now influencing the supply chain, not just from a digital standpoint, but also a physical standpoint, because ultimately consumers want to have the same experience that they would have physically, that they would also have in the digital space and vice versa.

Effectively, we are affecting life in two levels. What I do physically and what I do when I get out into the digital world, and I want to be represented and I want to have that same benefit happening. This is where basically video games and understanding of interactive technology is really shaping the way business is getting done. It makes total sense in the supply chain because ultimately, in the end, the supply chain is a meta construct that we know all operates because we do talk to people, but it's all going through a digital area now and we have to have better ways of understanding and really finessing what's happening in real-time.

Abe: Really innovative stuff, Alex. Marko, as Alex is pointing out, this is a radically different approach to change management. Give me a sense of DSCI and your members, how they've embraced or what are the hurdles that you're getting organizations to understand and apply these concepts?

Marko: That's a great question, Abe. Always with the new ideas, and let's say, something which is a breakthrough in a way, you need people to understand or basically you need to win their hearts and minds. For this initial concept, we have been talking with the fortune companies, we have been talking with mid-sized companies, we have been talking with small companies. There is an underlining trend around it. There are basically two groups which are acting differently on how they see it and how likely they would like to try it.

For digital natives, this is something which is fun and exciting, as Alexander has shared. That's part of their everyday life in a way. If they can connect to new digital team to try to comprehend it in business, that's great. For non-digital natives, that's a bit of a struggle. What we are using there, usual answers are, "Listen, we don't have time, there are so many things going on there, we have so much bureaucracy if the organization is bigger." You cannot have teams which are multifunctional in a way where you don't have hierarchy, where you organize things around only the skills, and then you have rapid communication. Then we use that as basically the biggest advantage in a way that they're saying, because if we are doing the same things again, we cannot expect new results. We are saying, "If the results are not good so far in the supply chain transformation and you are doing it that way, that's an example of why you should try the other way around".

Then, there is a great example of as well, comparing certain games. Before, when I was a kid, Pacman was a super game. In Pacman, the only thing you can see is you eating these dots and then those ghosts which are chasing you. When you look into today's dashboard of a game. You not only see yourself and your enemies, but you see those with whom you can collaborate, you can read the data real-time, you can hear people and communicate with them, you can organize and change.

This is how business changes as well. If we play the business game as we did it when it was Pacman, we had only two components to play with. Today, we have at least five to eight, and if we don't play with them, we lose. That means from the six which we see and which we can operate with, we are using only two. It's driving a car and we use only first and the second gear and we have eight gears on it. Of course, the ones who use more gears than we do, will be there. This is the notion we use.

Also what we have created is a two-step approach towards the concept. The first step is basically the step of experiencing what is the change and connecting that change in change management approach with the actual things which are happening in supply chain. What I mean by it, for instance, if there's a roadblock in a multiplayer game, people were saying, "This is all locked in a game and you can move it here, you can move it there", but we told them, "Imagine, supply chain. What is the roadblock for us in global operations?"

Suez Canal when it was blocked, that was the block in the game. That's the block in the real life. Then we do a co-relation of how you can play and organize a dynamic team in that kind of situation. This is how we try to slowly open the doorstep by step for those who are stepping. Then we have the second piece of the whole exercise and method the immersive experience where we basically bring four teams of four people together in a selected multiplayer game environment, which is close for them, and we have a joint goal there. Then we play and we do change management in real-time. It's very fun.

Sometimes it's, let's say slower, sometimes it's quicker. We are now testing it more and more because some people are used to it, as both Bob and Abe, you said, some people are not, but that's why we keep it in a closed environment, so there is no frustration of how quick you are, but you can only learn with the other. Those are some practical aspects and the things of how we connect it.

Abe: Really innovative and exciting frontier for not only learning, but the application I think that's the holy grail for a lot of the supply chain is taking a lot of the concepts and applying them in real-time that you're providing it in a safe environment. I think that's really extraordinary. That's all the time that we have. Special thanks to our guests, Marko and Alexander. Thank you for joining us today and sharing your thoughts and ideas with us. We hope you'll be back for our next episode for The Rebound, I'm Abe Ashkenazi.

Bob: I'm Bob Trebilcock.

Abe: All the best everyone, thank you.

Bob: The Rebound is a joint production of the Association for Supply Chain Management and Supply Chain Management Review. For more information, be sure to visit and We hope you'll join us again.

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