Know thy Supply Chain!

Around 2500 years ago a strange, awkward guy was strolling the streets of Athens. He would walk up to people and start conversation and ask questions about life, religion, and politics. He would challenge their answers and usually got them stuck in their own reasoning and arguments. By asking questions, Socrates made his targets starting question their own beliefs and purpose.

If we want to know the beliefs and purpose of a supply chain, a quick look on the internet will give you answers like:

– ‘The purpose of supply chain management is to optimize the overall performance of a company.’

– ‘The purpose of supply chain is to drive out efficiencies, especially excess inventory.’

– ‘The purpose of supply chain management is to maximize supply chain profitability, which is total profit to be shared across all supply chain stages.’

As a supply chain professional, would you agree with these statements as your purpose? Your reason for being? Is this why you come out of bed every morning? Or are these more goals we’re trying to achieve in the supply chain?

In supply chain we usually talk about our goals and the ‘how’ to achieve them. Just listen around you and all you hear on supply chain is how we’re going to get more sustainable, agile, lean or cost effective. Hardly ever I hear anybody ask; ‘Why’? Why are we doing that? After a couple of why’s many smart supply chain directors get stuck on why they actually want to achieve these goals. They have no greater purpose in the supply chain other then to be efficient, lean or agile and cut costs.

We suppy chain left brainers know so well to formulate and explain our goals and how we are going to achieve them. And that’s what we put in our performance plans and start managing our people on. It will help to know the ‘why’ and give some purpose to our supply chain and the people involved in it to make a real difference.

As P&G CEO Bob McDonald says on innovation at P&G; ‘People will innovate for financial gain or for competitive advantage, but this can be self limiting, there is a need for a emotional component as well – a source of inspiration that motivates people’

How to find the emotional component and a source of inspiration in the supply chain?

A simple but powerful two word statement and guiding rule came from the same Socrates; ‘know thyself’. Ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this?’ five times and you’re getting pretty close to your beliefs and a purpose. Have a go at it and start to know thyself, know thy supply chain, know thy people and know thy reasons to cut costs and optimize!

One thought on “Know thy Supply Chain!

  1. Know thy Supply Chain is tremendous advice. To know ones supply chain means to look at all of its pieces. Not to state the goals as you’ve correctly identified. To our estimation there are up to 64 pieces of a Supply Chain: http://www.babblewareinc.com/index.php/2011/08/64-transactions-drive-your-supply-chain/

    These transactions occur with your Employees, Vendors and Customers. Each transaction contributes to the overall value derived from the Supply Chain. Once you understand the pieces that comprise your Supply Chain you can then measure the value. Now you can identify the goal(s) you would like to achieve and how each transaction can be transformed to meet those goals.

    I realize it is entirely unrelated, but I got a kick out of the video for the Original Pizza found at the bottom of the blog. Who would have thought you could get a Pizza with Free Garlic Breadsticks in ancient Asia…brilliant.

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