It happens all the time. You see it in every organization. You’ve heard the complaints. People don’t understand why problems occur. I’m talking about the poor level of collaboration between and within departments; and supply chain is not any different. Why is it so difficult to progress from doing your job well to a state of process integration that would eventually benefit the whole business? When you look at your own performance, you may see that your tasks are being executed in the best way possible. But when you look at how other parts of the business pick up from where you left off, you realize that something is not working right. Sure, it’s hard to expect everyone to think the same way or understand the big picture, but if you want to achieve real results, you have to work together to connect the dots.
There is so much that we don’t see or hear about the work of NFL coaching staffs. You can see the players getting drafted and signed, see training sessions and camps, but there is much more to it. I’m talking about the mental aspects of building a great football team. What does it take? Let’s say we gather the best available players, does this guarantee we will be winning championships? Often not. Therefore, the most important task of the coach is to create the chemistry that will enable the level of execution everyone expects from a winning team. The challenge is getting all the players on the same page.
So much of supply chain is about connections and relations. The core functions of demand and fulfillment management must be in sync on a continuous basis. People must learn to collaborate and they must share the same ultimate goals. Data needs to flow seamlessly between modules, and the processes must be designed clearly and be subject to mutually-supporting KPIs. This crucial connection is at the heart of every supply chain.
This is where I’ve invested much of my time and attention for the last three months. With the endorsement of our fulfillment manager, we scheduled weekly meetings between our demand and fulfillment teams. One by one we started to tackle the issues that had prevented proper execution of the designed ordering process and had left both teams feeling helpless and aggravated. Needless to say, most of the blame was pointed at the technology rather than at people, but this didn’t help to reduce the frustration. What did? I will come back to that later.
Many times I look at a successful 80 yard touchdown drive and ask myself, did the coach and the quarterback design the whole thing in advance? How do you plan to achieve those precious seven points with five runs, six passes and two screen passes over eight minutes of play clock? Can you count on all of your players (and that includes the second and third stringers) to remember the play charts and know their role to split-second accuracy? Sure you can, as you should, because when you invest in mental discipline and broader understanding of the goals – the results will come.
And that is exactly what we are trying to accomplish in demand and fulfillment collaboration sessions here at Mega Retail. First, we discussed the roles of each team and the bigger supply chain picture. We agreed on the need to work together and started with weekly meetings. The planners shared their issues and concerns and we have done our best, as managers, to understand and solve those issues.
The one thing that helped a lot was reminding everyone of the actual demand planning process. We allowed them to see the numbers within JDA Demand, and then see the same numbers in JDA Fulfillment right to the point of the DC order recommendation. Once planners got a clearer view of the solution and process, they felt more confident and embraced the output that is generated by the system. We still have a long way to go, but we are confident because we believe we can make this collaboration work.
What I’ve learned from this lesson is that if you find a way to connect with other departments and include them in your inner circle while sharing mutually beneficial goals, you will be one step closer to creating the synergy that powers successful organizations. Are you ready to connect the dots?