Prof.  Jack van der Veen is professor of Supply Chain Management at Nyenrode Business University, with a particular focus on collaboration in the chain. He set aside 1.5 hours of his time to tell Yellowstar his thoughts on the subject. In this final part 3: "I consider it a market failure that chain cooperation is still not happening enough and old concepts just fester endlessly."

Why is it that chain cooperation is still only taking place in dribs and drabs?

"It is such a reflex for companies to keep their cards close to their chest. Collaboration requires that companies have a clear strategic vision. Others will then also start to see that they can’t keep making it up as they go along. In particular, I expect the increased focus on sustainability to make a difference. As a society, we will soon no longer accept pollution without consequences. The government or ultimately consumers will see to that. That is not necessarily economically driven. Personally, I have always thought that the traditional benefits of chain collaboration – faster, better, cheaper – speak for themselves. But practice suggests otherwise. Today, therefore, the most persuasive benefits are that it is more innovative, sustainable and fun. Whereas in theory as a company you can organise ‘faster’ and ‘better’ by yourself, without chain cooperation, doing things in a more innovative, sustainable and fun way absolutely requires the chain. Going it alone is not going to work."

What does more fun mean?

“More fun in relation to chain collaboration is particularly important because of the massive staff shortages. Looking to the future, being an attractive employer will be incredibly important for employee retention. That calls for a culture in which people feel comfortable. In motivation theory, the three main motivators are purpose (doing something you enjoy doing), autonomy (working independently) and mastery (continuing to learn). Young people in particular want to make a contribution to the world. To be given responsibility so that they can help an organisation make a difference. Constant miscommunication, having to retype data, stop-and-go, all of that gets in the way. As a company, you shouldn’t digitise in order to save money but rather in order to be able to engage employees in improvement processes, etc. and so make work more enjoyable. It also means letting your people have a say in choosing software, rather than just imposing a new IT system on them."

The majority of people don't want to change at all, do they?

"People are quite willing to change, but not to be changed. I have children of my own and there is no greater change you can undergo, yet you accept all the consequences. However, it’s a different thing to be told “thou shalt have children”. People are quite willing to do something differently if it also benefits them or if they are enthused by it."


What else can you do as a company to make a change process successful?

"It's about the innovation mindset within companies. For example, a CEO who announces ‘we are moving to blockchain’ can expect initial resistance, followed by resentful acceptance and ultimately the whole project dying a death. It’s different when employees themselves come and knock on the CEO's door to suggest blockchain as a solution. The same goes for digitisation: if employees think “Yet another new IT system? Surely Excel is fine?”, then implementation will be a long, hard road. It’s a very different story if the idea comes from within the organisation, from the bottom up, from people who are keen to take it on. As management, the key is to facilitate the right environment for that. Create multifunctional teams and have people work together to keep evolving your company's business model."

This interview with professor Jack van der Veen is part of a series of three. Read part 1 "Everything starts with vision" and part 2 "Thinking and acting differently is a huge change" here.