Demand and Fulfillment Blocking & Tackling Part 7 – The Supply Chain Pillars

Every great achievement starts with a solid foundation. Every skyscraper is deeply rooted in the ground. Every championship and medal won began with extensive training and preparation. Do you know the foundation for a successful supply chain? I think I do and I’m happy to share my opinion with you: it’s the people. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that technology is important and so is the design of operational processes and KPIs. I also believe that supply chain is very similar to a social network. This network is driven by people with a purpose to deliver goods to other people. So what kind of people are we?

I always wonder how the coaching staffs of elite NFL teams motivate their players just before kickoff. What words do they use? What are the emotions they pass along? Sometimes we get a glimpse of the kind of speeches coaches give after a great win, but that must be the easy part. Because when you win a football games, it’s a fact and your accomplishment is certain. But how do you motivate your players when the victory is not certain? One would say that players don’t need much external motivation because they are professional athletes and are being paid a lot of money. But I beg to differ. I think we all need external motivation of some sort to complete our will to succeed.

During the years I have been working as a supply chain planning manager, I’ve recruited several talented planners for positions within my team and during the interviews I have told them that in order to do well in these positions they would need to be motivated and intelligent. In my opinion, these two qualities are of the utmost importance when it comes to being a great supply chain professional. Of course, you need to be very organized, detail oriented and have good social skills in order to establish the needed relations that will support the connections between the supply chain links. You need to understand the importance of measuring and controlling key performance indicators (KPIs) and have a good understanding of business processes. One more thing that I’ve found to be very important to success is the willingness to help other departments achieve their goals, and thus help the whole organization to excel.

The new NFL season is just around the corner and training camps are opening. A new journey is ahead for 32 NFL teams, with a single goal: Super bowl 50! Looking back on the Super bowl 49 champions, the New England Patriots, I recall their motto during this great championship run: “Do Your Job!” It sounds very simplistic and obvious, but don’t be mistaken, it is a very powerful motivator because it means that the whole organization that stands behind the players has a huge amount of faith in their personal ability to accomplish greatness.

Once I heard a short presentation by a very successful lady that heads the supply chain department at a major high tech company. She explained that the global challenges her company faced made it very difficult to run an efficient supply chain. So she decided to change the supply chain motto to: “Enabling success!” This was a critical decision since it made clear the position supply chain wanted to take at that point. What this change did was to eliminate much of resistance the supply chain faced and better integrated the processes where supply chain support was much needed.

At the end of the day, it is all about people. If you make them proud of their achievements and motivated to get the job done, they will gladly produce results above and beyond your expectations. Because they are the pillars that hold the supply chain in your organization in place. Take good care of them.

  4 Comments   Comment

  1. Mark Alger

    Motivation is very important to the supply chain environment. One caustic attitude or down person can create a massive amount of delay within the process.

    But then I ask myself, why are they not motivated?

    The biggest de-motivator is waste!

    I have been in logistics for a few years in a business that was very good at keeping morale high in the break room checking in with the associates, patting them on the back giving kudos in the hopes of raising performance but nothing improved on the floor. The constant reminder about productivity became ignored. After a few people go fired and the associates start to really get agitated we started to listen and walk the process with the them. What we found was the tasks we were asking them to do were fraught with extra tasks that ate at their productivity time, the technology we semi-used correctly took more time to use because of freezing screens, data having to be re-entered and a myriad of other issues. The associates just gave up. They would just get the job done because even when they were at their best it never was going to be good enough because the tools did not allow success.

    People get motivated when things work, when processes hum, when we can get in a groove and can be secure of success. Every time waste enters into the process, technology breaks, a frustration gets in the way, we get demotivated just a bit. If there are a million bits a day, its hard to keep motivated.

    So to agree with this article, take care of the people by making sure the car/tools that you give them to run the race is NASCAR ready and not a jalopy. The jalopy looks all nice brand new at first, but its inferiority will become evident quickly when the stress of the race to success start to wear it down.

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    • Shai Garber

      I couldn’t agree more with you Mark. You need to have the right people in place, design the proper business processes and have the right technology to support optimization. Even though people get frustrated with the tools they are given, I think we should transform the frustration into motivation to improve the systems we have and make a positive change. Because making a difference is much better than just showing up for work and counting the seconds until the day is over.

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