S&OP leaders, we just don’t get it!

Here we go again. Almost one and a half years after I wrote a blog saying that the difference between S&OP and IBP is an illusion, a hefty discussion on this topic started again on LinkedIn. This time it is getting a bit more dirty and personal, which seems to be driven from a deep down frustration and a drive to be right on an abbreviation.

What I’m disappointed about, is that if we are the leaders that have to educate and align people on what these terms mean, we’re on the wrong path. If we start demonise and alienate people or whole groups, exclude them and their knowledge from the discussion, how can we find common ground to move forward?

Wasn’t S&OP all about creating consensus, an agreed volume and value plan, defined by sets of activities to either follow opportunities or mitigate risks? Wasn’t S&OP about creating bridges between functional silos, creating common business understanding and working together to common goals? Yes, the main roadblock to implement S&OP is senior leadership support. Or at least that’s what S&OP practitioners suggested the last three years in my S&OP pulse check. But if our common goal is to define and agree an ‘open source’ definition on S&OP or IBP, we are the senior leaders that have to drive that.

S&OP is about people and behaviour that drive the right culture where S&OP can thrive, then a long time there is nothing, then there are processes and systems. An S&OP leader has to lead by example to create a trusted S&OP culture where we can constructively challenge our plans to be able to improve them and come to consensus. A culture where we listen, provide cross functional feedback and where peer to peer coaching is accepted. A culture without these constructive behaviours will always be less effective in the long run.

S&OP leadership is about driving and leading the very difficult – indeed sometimes impossible – change management effort of creating an S&OP culture. Some S&OP leaders in the S&OP versus IBP discussion seem to forget some of the basic rules of change management:

  1. Respect the other opinion, only then are you willing to listen and learn from the other. Only then collaboration might happen (Ichak Adizes, ‘Mastering change’)
  2. Listen with the intention of being influenced: take your position, but be open to be influenced by the other opinion. (Rick Maurer, ‘Beyond the Wall of Resistance’)
  3. Find common ground for change: its very hard work looking for common ground with different minded people. It can be frustrating to the bone and will test your perseverance over and over again. But finding common ground, goals or interests is the only way you can lead change together.

In his article ‘Leading change: why transformation efforts fail’ change guru John Kotter suggests as reason number 5 for change to fail: ‘Not removing obstacles to the new vision’. Indeed this is an important part of change management, but it is not the start of a change effort and can only be applied after significant investment to find common ground, goals and interest.

If we are the S&OP leaders, we have to understand and lead these simple rules. If we are the S&OP leaders, we have to know better then exclude different minded people and groups. If we are the S&OP leaders, we better change our own behaviours, or we will be the main obstacles in the development of this great business process.

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