Tag Archive: collaboration

The Resilient Supply Chain: Cross-Organizational Collaboration

January 4th, 2019

I’ve been coordinating a process involving several disparate players, ranging from multiple educational institutions who are not aligned with one another, government players (with many differing goals) and business partners (with a completely different set of needs).  Although there are others, these 3 core groups are more than enough!

Success will only come to those who find common ground with collaboration.  If collaboration was as easy as simple communication, everyone would do it. We would probably have a lot more happy customers and more profits to share with investors, employees and for reinvestment and giving back.

What should we think about if this is the outcome we wish to create?

  1.  Look for the win-win-win –  If someone wins and someone else loses, it isn’t a successful collaboration.  If you think hard enough, there is usually a way to turn a situation into more of a win-win-win with some shared give-and-take.
  2.  Think about positioning –  If your idea is presented in isolation, it has a much greater chance at failing than if it is presented in light of the bigger picture. Why is it important?  How can each person play a role? Does each person know how he/she fits in and provides value?
  3.  Value diversity – Each time I think “I don’t want to be on this person’s team because he/she is annoying or won’t add value”, I find that I am completely wrong (luckily these are just thoughts, not actions).  The best ideas come from the most unlikely places.  And, interesting suggestions that can lead to “big” ideas typically come from someone who is quite opposite and thinking about the situation from a different perspective.
  4.  Recognize progress of the team –  Who doesn’t want to be recognized with a pat on the back as progress is made?  The key to collaboration is not to say positive things about collaboration and then reward individual performance.  Instead, reward team progress, even if that progress is simply gaining an understanding of how much they do not agree with each other yet are willing to listen.  
  5.  Consensus isn’t needed – As much as collaboration can achieve dramatically better results than each superhero individual thinking on his/her own, consensus is overrated.  Set the expectations upfront of how collaboration works. Feedback and input is expected. Discussion and debate participation is mandatory. But consensus isn’t required for every decision.  Otherwise, you might get there eventually but your competition will be LONG gone. More importantly, determine how to collaborate and make decisions upfront.decisions

The importance of collaboration comes up more frequently than almost any other topic.  Since executives are collaborating with customers, suppliers, trusted advisors, other supply chain partners and even competitors, there is just no room for poor collaborators.  

If you’ll notice, many disruptors collaborate with strange partners. Perhaps this core skill is a key ingredient to success…. Or, think of it another way, how will anything get done without it?

 



The New NAFTA & What It Means

December 27th, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently, the USMCA (new NAFTA) agreement was signed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  It still needs to be ratified by lawmakers but several immediate protections went into effect.  Since I am surrounded by manufacturing and supply chain organizations and professionals in terms of clients, colleagues, trade associations and more, I can say that there is largely positive commentary about this partnership in N.A. and the improvements to the old agreement.  Of course, there was a lot of negative commentary and debate about the particulars and the impact on trade (you’d have to live under a rock not to hear them!), but it is a noteworthy step forward from our current position!

What does this mean for your business?  Are you “ready” to leverage the opportunities and minimize any risks?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Although most clients and colleagues expected something to work out in terms of NAFTA, many were still in a bit of a waiting pattern.  No matter the final details, it shows that collaboration will take place. I think it is noteworthy that collaboration is an integral part of the business success equation. Many years ago, collaboration was seen as a fluffy topic but it has become key to success. Perhaps we should all think further about how well we communicate and whether we can collaborate with those who don’t see eye-to-eye with us.

From a technical point-of-view, there are bound to be many implications on our businesses,  whether we source materials or products from Mexico or Canada or not. And if you are in another country, there will be an entirely different set of impacts. Think about your extended supply chain, from your suppliers’ suppliers to your customers’ customers and everyone in-between.  Are there opportunities? Risks? Be proactive, and I bet you’ll find at least one opportunity. This is another example of the need for a resilient supply chain.

Check out our new video and article series as well as our soon-to-be offered Rapid Resilient Supply Chain Assessment service:

 



Last Mile Has Become Last Minute & the GE Port Optimizer

December 10th, 2018

 

There is no doubt – last mile has become last minute, meaning every customer changes his/her mind.  Whether it is due to consumer preference or supporting an industry that seems rather known (For example, it is clear what will be purchased to build a 737 airplane.  You don’t change that end item at the last minute.), when looking down the supply chain, no matter how clear, it all gets jumbled and becomes “last minute”.  

Thus, the key is to understand where your product is within the extended supply chain, when it will be available and where you sit in terms of the priority customers. There are many strategies to support creating this resilient supply chain including the GE Port Optimizer which is one of the most innovative and expansive technology projects taken on by the ports.  Check out the video on this project:

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

The GE Port Optimizer project is an excellent example of the importance of collaboration, the strategic use of data and the impact of the customer experience on creating a resilient supply chain.  Have you thought about how to collaborate with your extended supply chain and related partners for a win-win-win? If you aren’t, your competitor will. Stranger and perhaps smarter yet, have you thought about collaborating with your competitor for a win-win?  

Creating collaborative partnerships of data, visibility and efficiency is a great example of creating a resilient supply chain to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance. Check out our new video and article series as well as our soon-to-be offered Rapid Resilient Supply Chain Assessment service:

 

 

 



U.S. Small Business Optimism Climbs to 2nd Highest on Record!

September 12th, 2018

A National Federation of Independent Business survey reported that U.S. small business optimism is close to a record high and is at the highest level in 35 years!  Fueled by tax cuts, deregulation and robust consumer demand, business owners are optimistic about the future.  As a result, unfilled job openings rose to a new record. Not only did 23% expect to create new openings in the next three months but 23% also cited finding qualified workers as the single most important business problem, nearing the highest in 45 years.  Are you appreciating your talent?

 

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Definitely, we should all look at our talent with a fresh set of eyes.  Before we think about hiring, the key question to answer is “are you appreciating the talent you already have?”.  Your competition will if you don’t. Perhaps go a step further – are you appreciating them as you want to be appreciated or as they want to be appreciated?  

For example, giving someone who wants opportunities to advance his career a small bonus might not be as nearly appreciated as putting thought into the ‘right’ project to further his career.  A single mother might prefer a bit of flexibility in her schedule vs. either of those perks. And there are a surprising number of people who would secretly prefer you to remove non-productive and poor attitude employees out of their way.  It can be the single best thing you can do to keep good people by weeding out the poor performers.

Next, consider whether you’d want to be hired by your company.  Are you working on progressive initiatives? Does it look like a dungeon or a place you are proud to arrive at each day?  Are collaboration and teamwork encouraged? Or is it a dog eat dog world? What does social media say about your company? And, most importantly, people work for people; not companies.  Are your leaders a good representation of your company? Would you work for them?

Would you work for you?

 



Conflict & Collaboration in the Supply Chain

August 5th, 2018

Have you thought about the role of conflict and collaboration in the supply chain?  When thinking of supply chain from creation to customer, there are many links and connections.  In the current supply chain model, there are connections between and among suppliers, transportation partners, manufacturers, outside processors, distributors, customers, end consumers, and much more.

Within any of these connection points, there are another set of links and connections between new product development/ R&D, sales, operations, finance, HR/ staffing, and any more.  Given the sheer number of variations of connections, it becomes a critical link in achieving success.

Therefore, the concepts of conflict and collaboration take on an elevated level of importance.  In the modern supply chain, even competitors collaborate. At a recent Harvey Mudd executive roundtable, we had a discussion on competition.  After stimulating the discussion, it turned out that almost everyone had an example of collaborating with the competition in order to thrive in today’s Amazonian, customer-focused marketplace.  

So, the question becomes: Should we encourage conflict or collaboration?  

We say “both”. To keep a healthy debate and focus on evaluating options including those we are likely to dismiss, we must encourage conflict and a difference of opinions.  Our most successful clients put various people from different functions, geographies and backgrounds together to stimulate healthy conflict and new ideas.

For example, in one client, a non-technical person from the office asked the key question that prompted the idea for a technical solution to improve the performance of the key operation that held up orders to customers.

On the other hand, learning the art of collaboration is bedrock to sustainable success.  

For example, in order to find a win-win with a competitor, it requires innovative and collaborative thinking.  Are you deliberately putting you and your team into the position to collaborate with those who might not have the same view?  

So long as you set up guidelines and an overarching high-level objective, they’ll find a way to collaborate to new heights.