Today, we wrap up our discussion on supply chain agility with guest blogger, Tom Turner, previous vice president of global logistics at Masco Corporation, supply chain instructor at UNC-Greensboro and current Clarkston Executive Alliance member. Throughout this series on supply chain agility, I’ve discussed definitions, strategy and opportunities for building agility. In this final piece, I would like to talk a little about execution, drilling down on one key area: leadership. When we discussed creating a supply chain strategy, I emphasized the need to be consumer focused. Thus, agile companies need knowledgeable management teams that understand the complexity of dynamic market conditions, customer needs and consumer preferences. This includes supply chain leadership, which requires even more collaboration with sales and marketing. Unfortunately, recent research on organizational collaboration points to a number of barriers for supply chain leaders to conquer, such as:
- Functional conflict (e.g., internal turf battles, functional silos, departmental role uncertainty);
- Poor strategic alignment;
- Lack of supply chain “know-how”;
- Resistance to change;
- Over-commitment beyond capabilities;
- Lack of connectivity and information sharing (i.e., data availability, but not usability);
- Inadequate alliances (e.g., dealing with only one vendor, supplier partnering conflicts).
To overcome these barriers, leaders must first respond to organizational dynamics by establishing a trust-based collaborative culture, providing accurate and timely information sharing and creating intra- and inter-organizational team structures. Supply chain leaders must also recognize talent deficits and build functional competencies for today and the future. Increasing market share, improving customer service levels, and securing preferred supplier status are directly related to leadership’s focus on removing resistance and driving collaboration capabilities. While some of these can be difficult to quantify, external results can speak to their effectiveness. There is no magic bullet or cookie cutter approach to establish an agile solution, as every company has its own set of constraints. However, to succeed in the retail revolution, consumer products companies must strongly consider responsiveness first and foremost, before cost-cutting and lean principles. Without product on the shelves to satisfy unpredictable customer demands, there is little hope of surviving long term in this global retail landscape.