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Junction of city road at night
Junction of city road at night in prosperous Shanghai, China

What will it take for businesses to perform at a high level in the supply chain and hold a competitive advantage over their rivals in the next decade?

High performance organizations (HPOs) align their values with their business and cultural objectives, and their leaders ensure that they keep that alignment by adhering to best practices within their industries.

Those best practices, however, are evolving with the times.

High Performance Organization (HPO) Best Practices: People are the Heart of the Supply Chain, a new white paper from the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, looks at the evolution of HPO best practices over the past four decades to distinguish emerging practices that will help businesses secure a competitive edge in the next decade.

“We performed 19 field interviews with 14 leading companies to derive a summary of best practices over the last 40 years,” said Ted Stank, Harry J. and Vivienne R. Bruce Chair of Excellence and an author of the study. “From analyzing those benchmark practices, we identify best practices for the coming years, which HPOs are already adopting.”

Examining best practices from 1980 through 2015, the investigators determined that current best practices are in flux because of four megatrends affecting businesses: the baby boomer generation’s retirement, the digital revolution, the customer market evolution, and consumer demand for more personalized experiences and products.

Moving forward, the emergence of these megatrends and the burgeoning speed of the marketplace are forcing benchmark leaders to continue to rethink and rework their organizations’ best practices. Although the researchers discovered more than 250 best practices in use over the period under investigation, they highlighted 10 best practices likely to carry HPOs through 2025.

“The research learning jolted our preconceptions,” said Mike Burnette, associate director of the Global Supply Chain Institute and another of the paper’s authors. “Not only have some of the earlier best practices been redefined, but also new best practices have evolved.”

Some established HPO best practices, like zero-loss mindset, 100 percent employee engagement, and business value creation still apply, said Mike Policastro, an author of the paper and best practice researcher with GSCI. “Our analysts identified refined or new-to-the-world HPO practices, such as thriving on speed, embracing generational differences, virtual networks, and supply chain lean innovation,” he said.

The 10 best practices are discussed in detail in the paper. Case studies and breakout examples illustrate the research team’s findings for each. Additionally, the paper includes an HPO best practices checklist for leaders to evaluate their organization’s preparedness for the business challenges of the coming decade.

Sponsored by Mondelez International Inc., High Performance Organization (HPO) Best Practices: People are the Heart of the Supply Chain is the second in the GSCI’s “People in the Supply Chain” series. Stank served as contributing editor.

Contacts: Amy Blakely (, 865-974-5034)

Michelle Painter (, 865-974-8925)​