“Collaborating isn’t just sharing data. It’s actually getting a mutually agreed benefit at the end of all the work that you do.”

June 03, 20153 minute read

megatrends-panelA panel of leading women in supply chain took part in the AWESOME Symposium on May 6-7, 2015, and discussed megatrends impacting their supply chains, including the increased focus on collaboration.

Members of the panel included (left to right in photo above) Natalie Lotier, Vice President Global Product Strategy, Bristol-Myers Squibb; Moderator Michelle Livingstone, VP – Transportation, for The Home Depot, and an AWESOME Advisor; Meri Stevens, Vice President, Strategy and Deployment, Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain (JJSC); Wendy Herrick, Vice President Supply Chain US, Unilever; and Natalie Putnam, Vice President Integrated Marketing Strategy & Planning, Ryder System, Inc.

Panelists agreed that while collaboration is not a new concept, it’s taking on new dimensions. Primarily, the focus now is on what impact and what results come about through collaboration – not just discussing a problem or “working together,” but actually building alignment on what needs to be achieved and then achieving that.

What makes collaboration difficult? One factor is the need people in various functions have to work toward different key performance indicators (KPIs). Overcoming that challenge, one panelist said, is a matter of “human intervention, human involvement.”

The complexity of work today is another factor affecting collaboration. People don’t necessarily understand what others on their team actually do, and that makes working together effectively that much more difficult. One panel member recommended a thought-provoking Ted Talk that addresses how to enable cooperation by simplifying work with six rules, the first of which is “understand what others do.”

One of the incentives for achieving collaboration, within a company and with external supplies and providers, is the increasing competitiveness of business today and the need for speed. According to one panelist, “When you’re focusing on the product from an end-to-end perspective, you need to break down all the walls with the functions in between and get full alignment on what it is you need to drive for that product in support of your global commercial plan and make sure that that is a well-oiled machine before you start to connect the left and the right and the outsides.”

Panelists also pointed out that technology is enabling a whole new type of collaboration. “It’s not just giving you the information that I think you need to have. It’s actually working together and providing you information that you actually need and want.”

One member of the panel gave this perspective on technology and how it affects collaboration: “We have the ability to generate massive amounts of information, and the question’s going to be, okay, now what? What’s going to happen now — which is dramatically different from what it was before — is all along the supply chain people are going to share that data and make it available. So more than any other time, we’re going to have access to the data from the time a consumer uses a Band-Aid all the way back through when our supplier formulated the material. The question is ‘how do we get that knowledge and intelligence all the way across the supply chain in order to be able to drive the speed and change?’”

Following the panel discussion, which also focused on major challenges, strategic initiatives, and the changing nature of supply chain leadership skills, Symposium participants met in small groups to have collaborative conversations on these additional mega-trend topics: talent, technology, globalization, and the regulatory environment.

Continue to visit the web site for more insights in coming weeks.

Click here for more Words of Wisdom on collaboration.