The Consumer-Centric Supply Chain

An update on THR’s Business Transformation Project

Shaun Clinton

In the summer of 2017, Shaun Clinton, senior vice president of supply chain management for Texas Health Resources, embarked on a business transformation project that was to coincide with the organization’s migration to a more consumer-centric way of operating. “The team and I are extremely excited to begin to build what a future-state, cutting-edge supply chain organization will look like over the next few years,” he said at the time. “For me, it comes down to, ‘How are we going to address the needs of our customers, and what products will we produce for them so they can do their jobs well and see value?’” Clinton recently brought the Journal of Healthcare Contracting up to date on the project.

JHC: Why did you undertake the business transformation project?

Shaun Clinton: I saw a need to use the new tools to align Supply Chain in such a way that the enterprise would view us as a strategic business partner. We had to become “user-friendly,” that is, transparent and nimble enough to meet the needs of the organization. We decided that, if we were going to reorganize to optimize the system, we should take the opportunity to meet the strategic needs of the enterprise.

JHC: What were your initial expectations or vision for the project?

Clinton: First and foremost, I wanted to build clearly defined career paths for those employees who chose to make supply chain their lifelong vocation. I wanted a way for people to understand the skills, education, and experience needed to advance, and how best to get those things. Career path should be something that people talk to their managers about regularly.

Along with that, we wanted to create a source-to-settle organization aligned around categories, so we would be modular enough to respond to whatever the organization was going to take to the market in the future. Today, a category might be “hip implants.” But we need to be ready to respond to different or broader categories across the continuum, like “sports medicine.”

The idea is to build subject matter expertise across the care continuum, so we can come to know the true cost of care. Today, that knowledge is stored in different systems, under the direction of different people (e.g., sourcing, contracting, procurement, etc.). Our organization’s long-range strategic plan is to become more focused on the consumer. How do we build value for the consumer? What role can Supply Chain play? How do we build brand loyalty? What skill sets in Supply Chain can help advance that long-range strategic plan?

JHC: Over the past year and a half, what have been the two or three biggest challenges you have encountered in implementing the business transformation project?

Clinton: The biggest challenge – and this shouldn’t be a surprise – is making sure everyone knows we aren’t changing just to change. Every new leader brings in their own vision, but this time, not only did I have my vision, but we as an organization were embarking on a long-range strategic plan – and we were installing new ERP and clinical systems too. The platform was going to change with or without me in the role.

That highlights the second biggest challenge: change fatigue. A lot of things are changing in healthcare. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that not everyone has the stamina to keep up.

And third, we have found it challenging to balance everyday operations with our transformational efforts. I still have to make sure product shows up at the right place at the right time.

JHC: What have you learned thus far as you have progressed through the project?

Clinton: I have learned that I have the greatest team anyone could ask for. It takes a great deal of patience to go through something like this, to wait for everything to come together – and not get frustrated. This project has been underway for a year, and only now are we getting ready to roll out our vision for the different groups.

JHC: Has your vision or initial expectations changed since you began the project?

Clinton: The overall vision hasn’t changed, but you find little things that need to be tweaked in order to enable the vision. I’m a firm believer that if you believe in the vision, you move forward, knowing that you may have to rethink some of the tactics to achieve it. For example, I slightly modified my initial thoughts on how to organize the department due to system limitations. It didn’t change the spirit of what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t fit a square peg in a round hole, as it were. I’ve also had to rethink how much I can ask technology to do in certain areas. I don’t have unlimited funds!

JHC: What remains to be done?

Clinton: Over the next few months, I’ll be tying the pieces together for the Supply Chain team and presenting the unified vision. Everyone has seen much of it, but a few things still need to be put in place. Then we’ll begin the heavy training and roll into the new organizational structure and ERP in January 2019. The rollout will continue for a couple of years, but the foundation will soon be in place. Finally, I’ll be “unveiling” the new Supply Chain to the organization. Again – many folks have seen parts of this, but it will be nice to connect the dots.

JHC: And when the dots have been connected, what will the rest of the Texas Health Resources team see?

Clinton: They will see what Supply Chain has done to help meet the strategic needs of the enterprise, and they will recognize that Supply Chain is easier to deal with, much more user-friendly.

JHC: If you were to start the process over again, what would you do differently?

Clinton: Start with a long vacation! In all seriousness, I would make sure to share the full vision with my leadership team a bit earlier than I did. I certainly wasn’t trying to be opaque, but it did take an outside party to remind me that uncertainty can cause angst, and to help me realize I wasn’t sharing enough information quickly enough. To their credit, my team has bought in to the course I charted. It has been a great source of accomplishment to see the light bulbs go off with everyone.