No matter what line of business you’re in or what type of products or services your organization sells, customer needs and expectations have changed drastically in recent years. The supply chain of yesterday is no longer what it needs to be tomorrow. A main goal of supply chain management is to help make supply chain activities—such as delivering a product to a consumer—effective and efficient. But as markets globalize and business interactions grow increasingly complex – coupled with expectations of products to arrive faster, perform better, and cost less than they used to – organizations need to adapt in order to stay competitive.
Where leadership and management intersect with those actually delivering and returning the products, more adaptability and improved communication is essential. In order to bridge this gap while also continuing to meet customer expectations, the most successful organizations will need to combine traditional project management approaches with adaptive leadership to effectively navigate where the supply chain intersects the overall business strategy, the project work, and the people getting the work done.
Shifting Strategy & the Changing Nature of Work
With advances in technology and the arrival of the digital revolution, company strategies – and consequently, supply chains – are no longer linear. As strategy and priorities shift, those executing the work must be equipped with the right skills to pivot and change course mid-project. As companies expand across geographic and functional boundaries, there is also more opportunity for innovation and collaboration to make the supply chain more efficient. Employees must adapt to this new way of getting work done.
While automation has enabled efficiency in supply chain management, at the heart of every organization are its people. From a project leadership perspective, one of the best tools you have at your disposal to manage a complex supply chain is effective communication. So what does that look like?
Customers like to know that they can trust the people they are working with. One of the quickest paths to trust is honest communication. This can start with transparency about the timeline of products being delivered. It’s not a good idea to over-promise and under-deliver. Give your customers a realistic estimate of the timeline you are working with rather than an ideal but perhaps impossible trajectory. This also comes into play if something goes awry. Mistakes, accidents, and inconveniences happen. If a project deliverable gets set back because of unforeseen circumstances, working with your customer in an open and honest way will do more to solidify trust and relationship than attempting to avoid conversations about the issue.
Some of the same principles apply when you are working with your internal team. Keeping your team up to date on customer expectations will help them understand their role in the progress of a deliverable and give them context for what they are working on, rather than an abstract understanding of how their contribution may (or may not) fit into an end result. Further, keeping team members in the loop when strategy and priorities shift – and explaining how it will affect ongoing work – is critical to maintaining a positive culture. Transparency in communication also instills in your team the sense that you trust them with certain information and value how they will use it, which can be highly motivating. Even on a more basic and strategic level, communicating openly with both managers and people reporting to you helps keep everyone on the same page, which helps keep a project moving.
Supply chains are complex systems that involve people at all levels of an organization. Whether it is used for building trust or keeping a supply chain moving efficiently, incorporating adaptive leadership principles into your organization can lead to more effective workflows across the board.
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