Re-posted from Sourcing Innovation
Most of us missed it. They were trying to tell us about it when we were very young. We were not even in nursery school yet! It’s all about the vowels. It’s not about Old MacDonald’s farm, his pigs or hens or any of that … it’s about E-I-E-I-O! Now what do vowels have to do with Sourcing and Supply Chain Management you might be wondering? Well, as it turns out … everything! The vowels are the most critical link between our alphabet and our language. Without vowels we don’t have words … we just have letters! Without words, we have no sentences, no language, no meaning, no intelligence — in short, we have nothing! And so it is in our organizations. We focus on the tools, templates, processes, systems (the farm, the pigs, the hens) and we forget about the most critical elements in achieving superior business results — the vowels. And without the vowels, all we have are letters. There is no meaning … and we add no value!
The vowels I am referring to are Adoption, Execution, Implementation, Optimization and Utilization. Without these, all we have is an organization that has the best practices, the best processes, the best tools, the best templates, etc. In other words, what we have is a Toyota. We might have an organization that may be succeeding at a large-scale, but we don’t have a sustainable model in the long run. For that, we need the vowels … the ever powerful vowels! If you were strategically sourcing a surgeon for yourself, I am sure you would look at more than just the tools that the surgeon has at her disposal and the training that she has been through. You would want to know what she could do with the tools and the training … n’est-ce pas?
And yet, sadly, it is still very hard to convince most organizations where they need to invest their focus and their energy. They all think that all they need is to develop the right infrastructure in terms of the processes, tools and templates and then train their people on the infrastructure and — voila — just wait for the results. We keep trying to tell them that they should budget at least an equal amount of effort in the vowels, including the help of an expert talent management consultancy, and they continue to insist that all they need is what Old MacDonald talked about … and that the vowels will take care of themselves. Alas, they don’t. The superior business results never materialize. The organization gets frustrated and decides that it needs to adopt new processes, tools and templates because the current processes, tools, and templates must be broken. The cycle starts all over again. And the lessons of childhood are forgotten … that’s it’s not in the verse … it’s in the chorus … it’s all about E-I-E-I-O!
And the focus on the vowels needs to start very early. After all, the alphabet does begin with an A! Furthermore, the focus cannot end with just the creation and training around the process, tools and templates. It has to extend all the way to the point where superior business results are achieved. And while we will need the best tools, templates and processes (for the infrastructure), the mere presence of, and training on, the infrastructure is clearly not enough. In order to truly achieve superior business results, we have to make sure that we pay attention to the vowels.
The focus has to be on what happens beyond the training, how people will actually achieve superior business results, and how they will successfully adopt, implement, and execute the processes. It is the same with supplier relationship management processes. It’s not how you design them, it’s how you implement them. You need to focus on how these relationships will be established and managed to extract maximum value. It’s not just about getting to the contract. At my company we believe in this so much that we even approached a couple of the major law firms to encourage them to include the vowels in their deliverables to clients when they work on executing large transactions between providers and suppliers to help set up these relationships. We did not avail, but we know we’re right. (By the way, it is the same with organizational structures. To optimize them, we have to focus on the lines [vowels] between the boxes, not only the boxes.)
Here is how the doctor described the goal of a transformational journey:
We mostly agree with this except we think the potential is even greater than that. A truly transformational Sourcing / Supply Chain department actually should be transforming other departments. They should be totally focused on value across the entire supply chain. The department should function as if it was a consulting group. The best strategy for such a department is actually a “Sunset” strategy. This concept, and others, will be discussed in later posts.
We will examine this issue in detail in a series of posts. We will begin the transformation journey together. We will discuss the use of maturity models, both current and emerging ones (which look almost identical to the current models) and talk about the gaps and the roadmaps. You can rest assured that we will not ignore the consonants (the maturity models, roadmaps, infrastructure and talent management) … but, we will also focus on the vowels (Adoption, Implementation, Execution, Optimization and Utilization). Because there’s gold in them thar vowels. We will take you back to your childhood, to the days of Old MacDonald, to E-I-E-I-O and then we will build a solution framework and challenge your thinking. We encourage you to join the conversation. Add a cluck, cluck here and a cluck, cluck there … and pretty soon we’ll have everywhere a cluck, cluck!