smart team in supply chain network

The Power of Smart Teams in Supply Chain Networks

September 24, 2019

There’s merit in strategic collaboration, both internal and external to your Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) organization. Internal collaboration is often considered a given – your quality department works with IT, accounting and finance work with automation, operations works with HR and so on. External relationships, however, are still considered “outsiders” within many OEMs.

It may be the intention of some OEMs to form strategic partnerships with particular suppliers. These suppliers may be provided resources by the OEM to construct and transport parts, such as access to IP, executive sponsorship and supplier meetings. Regular communication, audits and visits may be scheduled between the OEM and the supplier. Yet when customer demand unexpectedly falls, the supplier is left with withdrawn orders and unanswered phone calls. The “partnership” aspect is thus removed.

A sudden decline in demand can be painful – if it’s not used as an opportunity within your supply chain network (SCN).

Smart Teams in the SCN

supply chain partner network
OEMs can encourage supply chain partners to act as “smart teams” within the network, by sharing successes in lean, materials management, recruiting and other areas.

Deloitte writes in “The Organization of the Future: Arriving Now,” that smart teams are the most effective way to achieve ambitious results. “Top companies are built around systems that encourage teams and individuals to meet each other, share information transparently, and move from team to team depending on the issue to be addressed. Different networks can have different specialties, such as innovation or getting to market quickly, but the principle is the same,” reports Deloitte.

This concept of smart teams isn’t just limited to internal departments, either. Smart teams can be extended to entire networks, making your supply chain a truly integrated part of your business. Supply chain partners can be encouraged to relay successes with other supplier-partners, such as lean impacts, material approaches and recruiting efforts.

Deloitte goes on to promote “agility” as a watchword, a central theme to success in an economy that can be dynamic, change rapidly, and unrelenting when things go sour.

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

The application of smart team dynamics to your SCN can shift a downturn into a chance to improve your OEM and position it for future success when your market(s) rebounds. Collaborative projects with your supplier-partners could include rebuilding inventory, refining IT systems and integrations or tackling a new product innovation.

smart teams in supply chain network
Examples of collaborations with your supplier-partners during a down market could include rebuilding inventory or tackling a new product innovation.

Collaboration must be viewed, however, with the project, effort and goal in mind, and an open-mindedness to understand each collaborator’s strengths and knowledge to benefit the overall outcomes of the project. McKinsey & Company uses the term Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) to refer to collaborative effort by two or more parties to achieve project goals and objectives. They highlight collaborative contracting and purchasing as a sample approach to achieve better outcomes for all stakeholders involved in a project. This includes advantages in pricing, terms, quality, availability, delivery, labor, and other inputs into any project, no matter what the intent.

Obviously, it takes two to tango. It’s important that each collaborator listen to one another. When they do, good things can happen.

“We” Versus “I”

Applying best practices, such as the smart teams concept, requires a “we” versus “I” approach. That’s the secret sauce to achieve greatness in today’s challenging and globally competitive business environment.

Peter Drucker, the icon of leadership and management success, said it best in his book, The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (HarperBusiness; Revised edition January 3, 2006), “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I.’ And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.’ They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”