As part of our Expert Insight series, Supply Chain Nation recently sat down with Gordon Wade, chief executive officer and director of best practices for the Category Management Association. In Part I of our conversation with Gordon, he discussed the key markets shifts that are increasing complexity in the supply chain – and that retailers and manufacturers must address in 2014. In Part II, Gordon discusses how supply chain personnel issues can be solved using cloud-based pods.
SCN: Gordon, in our Tuesday blog interview you discussed three key marketplace challenges that were increasing complexity in the supply chain. How do you see this affecting people in supply chain roles?
Wade: One of the problems we are seeing is high personnel turnover. It’s almost impossible for organizations to find an adequate number of qualified people in many of these areas, and as a result, you’re getting high turnover.
SCN: What happens to a company when they lose that kind of talent?
Wade: One of the problems occurring is what I call “Corporate Alzheimer’s.” As people cycle through their jobs, new people come in and they don’t know what happened two or three years before. And if a new problem or issue comes up, they don’t know what to do or what the history is. Even though the problem isn’t new to the company, in essence the company has forgotten what to do because they don’t have the people, the policies, the processes or the tools to manage that data. It’s a huge problem.
SCN: Can technology help solve the Corporate Alzheimer’s problem?
Wade: Even with great technology you need great people. As a result, people who are in the supply chain business – supply chain experts – are in huge demand. It’s an exploding area. If there’s one career path you ought to adopt right now, other than perhaps a fracking engineer, it’s being a supply chain expert. It’s hard to get the people and keep the people, for all the reasons we’ve been discussing.
SCN: What can companies do, what is the future for companies whose supply chains are critical to their success?
Wade: I think the answer is a pod in the cloud. What’s a pod? A pod is just a fancy name for something that’s been around for some time, which some people refer to as a self-directed work team. They’ve been around about 30 years. Microsoft has used them for some period of time. Studies on pods indicate they’re 30 to 50 percent more productive than other groups. It’s basically just a small group of experts who learn very rapidly and then deploy that learning throughout the company.
One of the big advantages you get from the pod is speed: faster learning, faster deployment and faster response to problems. Essentially it is an interface between a pod in the cloud and your employees or the people who are trying to solve some problems. When a problem arises, it is submitted to the pod. The pod, generally speaking, can solve the problem.
If pod participants can’t solve the problem, they’ll learn how to solve the problem very rapidly, at which point two things happen. First, they deploy the solution horizontally to the other pods – their peers – so that they and the company learns more rapidly how to solve a problem of this nature. They also deploy the problem downward into their client, whether it’s demand analysis or forecasting or some other specific problem that the pod deals with.
That solution is then pushed and deployed to the customer, resulting in a win-win for both the organization and its customer. Bringing expert attention to a problem quickly has a number of salutary effects, like lower training costs, but especially faster learning and faster deployment of solutions.
My message to you is this: if you want to survive in a very competitive environment, you need to think about getting third-party help in managing your data. If you don’t do that, you’re going to place more stress on your business and will probably not drive the kind of quick and valuable results your customers have come to expect. It’s clearly something that most organizations are going to have to confront, so just go get the help.
SCN: Thank you Gordon. This discussion about the people challenges in the supply chain and the use of pod teams in the cloud has been very interesting. In Part III of this blog series launching on Tuesday, January 28, Gordon will talk about three important areas companies can focus on to achieve further supply chain success.