Conflict & Collaboration in the Supply Chain

August 17, 2018
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Have you thought about the role of conflict and collaboration in the supply chain?  When thinking of supply chain from creation to customer, there are many links and connections.  In the current supply chain model, there are connections between and among suppliers, transportation partners, manufacturers, outside processors, distributors, customers, end consumers, and much more.

Within any of these connection points, there are another set of links and connections between new product development/ R&D, sales, operations, finance, HR/ staffing, and any more.  Given the sheer number of variations of connections, it becomes a critical link in achieving success.

Therefore, the concepts of conflict and collaboration take on an elevated level of importance.  In the modern supply chain, even competitors collaborate. At a recent Harvey Mudd executive roundtable, we had a discussion on competition.  After stimulating the discussion, it turned out that almost everyone had an example of collaborating with the competition in order to thrive in today’s Amazonian, customer-focused marketplace.  

 

So, the question becomes: Should we encourage conflict or collaboration?  

We say “both”. To keep a healthy debate and focus on evaluating options including those we are likely to dismiss, we must encourage conflict and a difference of opinions.  Our most successful clients put various people from different functions, geographies and backgrounds together to stimulate healthy conflict and new ideas.

For example, in one client, a non-technical person from the office asked the key question that prompted the idea for a technical solution to improve the performance of the key operation that held up orders to customers.

On the other hand, learning the art of collaboration is bedrock to sustainable success.  

For example, in order to find a win-win with a competitor, it requires innovative and collaborative thinking.  Are you deliberately putting you and your team into the position to collaborate with those who might not have the same view?  

So long as you set up guidelines and an overarching high-level objective, they’ll find a way to collaborate to new heights.

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