‘How Can I Help?’ Drive a Cultural Change in Your S&OP

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One fine, laid-back Saturday night, I sat on my couch watching the latest episode of “New Amsterdam,” an NBC TV series starring Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), a new medical director in one of the oldest public hospitals in the United States. At first glance, Dr. Goodwin leaves you with a smile and an impression of how unique and positive a character he is, somebody who is determined to break the norms and reform how the entire hospital operations work.

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One fine, laid-back Saturday night, I sat on my couch watching the latest episode of “New Amsterdam,” an NBC TV series starring Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), a new medical director in one of the oldest public hospitals in the United States. At first glance, Dr. Goodwin leaves you with a smile and an impression of how unique and positive a character he is, somebody who is determined to break the norms and reform how the entire hospital operations work.

While I admire the way Dr. Goodwin reacts to different daily challenges, it strikes me how he manages to create a huge cultural change that influences how his people manage crisis and act collaboratively to resolve daily issues. “How can I help?” are the first words Dr. Goodwin always welcomes people with, which become the common theme across his cross-functional leadership team.

For a second, I paused to reflect.

Is it ever possible to drive such cultural change within a real business organization?
Can this “How can I help?” culture be the guiding principle throughout the sales and operations planning (S&OP) process involving different cross-functional stakeholders?
How can you drive S&OP meetings where attendees become part of the solutions and not the problems?
How can you pull the magnet of the different cross-functional stakeholders and make them fully engaged in driving the right timely decisions within the S&OP cycle?

Here are some ideas that I believe can be catalysts to drive such change.
Align on common goals and clear business objectives
This is a fundamental starting point. According to 2021 Gartner’s People and Purpose Centric Supply Chain Survey, the top cultural barrier to reaching the next level of performance is having conflicting goals and objectives across the different functional teams. Having clarity and alignment on what the bigger objectives are and cascading this down to functional contributions helps to avoid conflicts and drive faster decision making when trade-offs need to be made. Driving operational efficiencies needs to be coupled with securing profitability. Having the bigger picture in mind acts as an anchor of reality.

Answer, “What’s in it for them?”
Driving successful change needs to involve the motivations of the people impacted by it. Ask yourself, if I were in their shoes, what motivates me to be an active part of this process? What are the benefits this process drives on my functional scope and what motivates me to help? The answers to these questions will create the pulling power to attract the cross-functional team to actively engage in the S&OP meetings.
Talk to each function with its own language
Translating basic supply chain metrics into implications on business metrics has proven to be one of the most powerful ways to engage the cross-functional team. Sharing forecast accuracy results might not mean much to your finance or marketing teams, but sharing the impact of missing the forecast in terms of revenue miss, inventory increase, working capital impact and margin loss would make the picture clearer. Always quantify the value you drive within your S&OP process.
Involve their ideas
People are motivated and engaged when they feel their ideas are being considered and acknowledged. Scenario planning is one common exercise within the S&OP process. Use this opportunity to involve the ideas of the different cross-functional team members to build various scenarios and drive the mitigation plans associated with these scenarios. Wherever applicable, allow the cross-functional team to present their own scenarios and actions. This drives ownership and accountability to find alternatives and solutions. Engage other commercial and finance participants by asking them to present their S&OP-related issues and/or decisions for their areas of expertise.
Listen to understand
Be a good listener. Understand the root causes of the various issues and challenges. Allow people to share the situation from their perspective. There are always different aspects to be evaluated. This can only work well with a strong understanding of the different factors.
Recognize accomplishments
Include a section in the S&OP reviews that recognize the accomplishments of the cross-functional alignment and showcase success stories driven by the S&OP process discipline.
How can YOU help?
Lead the S&OP cycle with a helping mindset and the goal of achieving the bigger organization objectives. Think of how you can help resolve issues and generate actions that support overall company performance.

As one of my New Year’s resolutions, I have made a personal commitment to start with myself and apply the “How can I help?” culture in my professional and personal life. Will you join me?

How can I help? Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.

Noha Samara
Director Analyst
Gartner Supply Chain
[email protected]om

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