Last month, Forbes ran an article that needs to be in every Supply Manager’s toolkit. Given that the number one priority of most Supply Management organizations is to gain trust across the organization and get more spend under management (SUM), an average Supply Manager, as she gains trust, is going to get a lot of advice from the individuals on the cross-functional teams she is going to build. Some will be good, but some will be bad (and downright ugly). A good Supply Manager knows how to latch onto, implement, and encourage the good advice while carefully avoiding the bad advice.
Ignoring bad advice, especially if is from an individual who’s buy-in you need and who thinks it’s really, really good, can be tough, so I’m glad Forbes ran this article. Even though the article was written more for entrepreneurs about to embark on a startup, it is just as applicable to Supply Managers about to take on a new category. So what was the advice?
- Look Forward – not back.
Study trend lines that correspond to what you need to buy, not historical demand levels. Demand could be falling. The last thing you want to do is be stuck with a warehouse of obsolete inventory. So make sure you don’t just get last quarter’s numbers, ask for the last three years.
- Ignore Your Friends – talk to customers.
It’s not what engineering or marketing wants — it’s what the end consumer wants. If you don’t procure the products and services that the end consumer will buy, it doesn’t matter how good you do your job as the organization won’t last long without sales. So no matter how good they claim the advice is, be sure to say that sounds like an awesome idea, let’s run it by our customers to see if they are ready for it.
- Consider the source.
Everyone has their own bias and point of view. It’s important that you balance all the views in your sourcing decision to arrive at what’s best for the organization as a whole, not just what’s best for engineering, marketing, or even your own Supply Management organization. The best Supply Management organizations increase overall value. So when engineering gives you a great idea, be sure to say that’s great, now how do we sell it to marketing and vice versa. When everyone gets on the same page, the advice is likely to be better, or at least consistent.
- Learn to Love the Word No.
Some requests will be so bad that there will be no way to address them besides just saying no. For example, marketing will insist on a certain print shop which costs 50% more than the next highest bidder because of a great relationship. There’s just no way to deal with this situation delicately. Print is print. It’s not creative, and there is absolutely no rationale argument for such a premium. In this situation, you will just have to say no and move on.
- Bet on yourself – always.
At the end of the day, you have to make the decision, and, most importantly, as you are being held accountable, you have to make the right one. If you’ve done your homework, that’s something you will be able to do. You just have to have the confidence that you can do it, even if everyone else is pulling you in a different direction. Don’t expect other organizations to echo your views, they won’t. They have their own goals. Your job is to get everyone on the same page when you can, and make the tough call that is best for the organization when you can’t. C’est la vie de gestion des approvisionnements.
As the article says, simply put – advice is an input. Treat it as one of many.