supply chain manager

Supply Chain Manager Survival Guide (part 2)

New manager! Have you enjoyed the first part of Supply Chain Manager Survival Guide? Here comes the second and final part of our guide. Together with Adam Szwedek we will share our remaining thoughts on how to manage yourself in the new role.

This time we cover cooperation and communication as well as goals setting. The things that can be perceived as trivial, but in the end matter a lot. We hope you will enjoy (and learn) with us.

Cooperation and communication

– Adam Szwedek

The role of cooperation and communication in building a harmonious team cannot be overestimated. It’s a subject like the ocean. Therefore, below you will find only a dozen small elements that affect the efficiency and quality of cooperation, and which can be relatively easily organized.

First, introduce your team to your work style. For example, do you prefer emails, phone calls or personal contact, do you want summaries after meetings, and do you organize regular team meetings. Be authentic, build transparency.

The form of communication that has dominated many companies is email. Its advantages cannot be overestimated, but its abuse or misuse leads to ineffective communication and disturbs cooperation.

Incorrect list of addressees, thoughtless use of “Reply To All”, email topics inadequate to the content, and emotional or harsh or even obscene or imprecise expressions (in example “we have had a lot of complaints for some time”) are common problems of this form of communication worth settling at the beginning.

In verbal communication, in turn, I would pay attention to two aspects:

  • People do not read minds – how do you pass on tasks, how do you ask questions, how do you give or want to receive feedback, sometimes it is also worth making sure that we have been well understood;
  • Focusing attention on the interlocutor – a seemingly obvious rule, but regularly broken; looking at the laptop screen and typing an email while talking to you, your co-worker is only demonstrating disregard

Regarding verbal communication: I once got the following feedback, “Adam, why are you asking us for opinion all the time if you’ve already made up your mind upfront? That was the perception in my team, and sometimes it was right.

So I suggested that before I ask, I would say clearly: “I am asking because I want to make sure”, “I am asking because I do not know which option to choose”, “I am asking because I have no idea for a solution”. Since then, our communication has been great. Most people appreciate having their opinions taken into account in decision making processes.

Some people experience an allergic reaction to meetings. As with emails – many advantages, but also many ways to abuse. It is worth considering the approach to accepting invitations and changing dates, attendance and punctuality, the culture of discussions, the order of meetings, and also keeping notes – how should the meetings organized by YOU look like?

Remember that your team is not only your direct reports. Information from line workers is equally important. Their method of obtaining also – individual or group meetings, comment boards, suggestion boxes, or Gemba Walk. Determine how you will give feedback – the lack of a standards significantly reduces the effectiveness of communication.

Finally, your team is obviously not an isolated organism – it works regularly with other parts of the organization. There are various misunderstandings in this area. Especially if the company works in silos, where each area has its own goals that conflict with others.

organizational silos

An example of this may be the criticism of the work of other departments (in example “we are working our fingers to the bone and in XYZ department it’s like a walk on the beach”). Criticism that is often based solely on superficial, occasional, random observations. Another example is criticizing an employee who is absent from a given meeting by name.

In companies with silos or their remains, sometimes there are also situations in which a member of one team keeps some information for himself, and then at the meeting “shoot” it at someone else who is not prepared.

Such down-to-earth but disruptive atmosphere of cooperation is real – so it’s worth defining your attitude towards them at the very beginning and enforcing it in the team. In my opinion, there is no place for “But in that department it …” – that’s not important, we keep a specified standard and we do not go below that level.

Your personal interactions with other managers and with your boss are also important – this may be the most important factor for success and job satisfaction in the company. During the first meetings with them, talk about the expectations of your communication.

Try to establish a common formula – regular face-to-face meetings, a list of tasks, your participation in regular meetings of their department and vice-versa, resolving conflicts between your areas, promoting behaviors that improve cooperation.

Adam Sobolewski comments: Communication in business is like football and politics. You can ask any question and many people – especially on Linked In or other social media – will explain to you everything what and how to do it based on their own general theory. Interestingly, in both areas, valuable players are rare. However, the new managers don’t need a general theory of communication. They should focus on these basics: cooperation with the team and managers of other departments.

I set and deliver goals

– Adam Sobolewski

You have goals to achieve in every managerial position. In various companies, they may be more or less formalized. Formulated qualitatively or quantitatively, and more or less timed.

But you always have goals. So make sure that there is no understatement about the goals. Don’t make assumptions about what is expected of you in your new role. Even if you already know the organization, what you think you know will not necessarily be true.

And nobody has to deliberately mislead you. On the one hand, the recruitment process itself never fully allows you to get to know you as a person. Some things will only come out in the daily operational work.

On the other hand, recruiting, in particular for managerial positions responsible for large independent teams, is a process in which the employer may not have full information about the everyday problems a new manager will face.

It is therefore in your own interest and that of your new supervisor to be clear about your expectations. Save them as a document that you can refer to at any time, rather than relying on memory-constrained memory.

Otherwise, the difference between your understanding and your boss’s understanding of your goals leads you to failure. And even if it is both your and your superior’s failure, it will certainly cost you more.

So don’t assume anything. Just write down your goals and ask for confirmation. Unless you want to experience what the saying from the classic series The Odd Couple is about.

When you assume you make an ass out of you and me.

— Felix Unger

I found out about it the hard way when I first recruited a new manager to take over responsibility for a team of over 100 people in the Distribution Center.

The candidate has already run similarly sized teams in previous companies, so I assumed that he knows the health and safety requirements and pays the required attention to safety in his area. He understands the importance of controlling not only accident situations but also leading indicators.

I have not stated clearly enough, and certainly not in a quantified way, how he should understand “the implementation of the safety goals” in the team. Therefore, in the first internal audit, I had to find out “what went wrong” and how to present the results to the CEO.

Therefore, although in this case no real accident happened, I learned that the goals should not only be written but also in line with the SMART principle. In other words, they should be:

  • Specific (concrete, not allowing for loose interpretations)
  • Mesurable (preferably quantitative, numerical, or qualitative but evaluable)
  • Achievable (attainable, feasible, otherwise you won’t be motivated)
  • Relevant (important, providing value for you and the company)
  • Time-bound (without a deadline you cannot be evaluated)

Of course, the extent to which you can define your goals and how much they will be in terms of SMART depends on the culture of the organization in which you work. Nevertheless, it is always worth making your goals as specific as possible.

Finally, the last piece of advice on goals from my experience – a conversation about expectations should be conducted in two stages. First introductory when you take over the team. The second specific after 2-3 months, when you get to know the organization, other managers and you can determine what goals are actually realistic and important.

Adam Szwedek comments: Each task can be treated as a small project. Therefore, it is also worth agreeing on the method of controlling the tasks entrusted to you – sometimes the tasks are for now, sometimes for tomorrow, sometimes for a month. You need to establish what information, how, how often your supervisor expects. Even a simple excel sheet can be enough for this. It’s important to consistently record the milestones of each task.

What I would like to know before I began

– Adam Sobolewski

In this 2 articles mini series, we presented selected issues that affect the success or failure of taking over a new team. As a summary, below are some final tips that you should consider before starting work as a new manager in your organization.

In both our cases, the knowledge presented results from experience. We hope that by sharing it we will help you to start with your new responsibilities faster. Apparently wise people learn from their mistakes. But those really smart learn from other people.

  • the old solutions rarely work in a new position
  • getting to know your team must be the first priority
  • nothing can replace the direct experience on the floor
  • presenting your principles and expectations cannot wait
  • the lack of precisely described goals is a straight path to failure
  • neglecting relationships with managers in other departments can cost a lot

Also remember that it is important to listen to expectations and suggestions from your team. Often times, a new manager does not pay enough attention to feedback from regular employees… and loses a lot from it.

The most effective managers draw conclusions from every piece of information that reaches them. Also, negative information about themselves or their team. They don’t take everything indiscriminately, but they operate according to the principle that every feedback is a gift.

What’s next?

If, after reading this article, you feel the need to talk about any of the issues presented or share your opinion – do not hesitate to contact us – we are always happy to talk about your situation.

Both Adam Szwedek and I are available on Linkedin. I am also available also via the contact form visible in the menu of the blog you are reading right now, or by subscribing to the newsletter.

I can assure you that it is worth signing up. You will always be up to date on how to effectively manage your supply chain.

In the meantime, we wish you good luck in your new role! As a new manager, remember that we are keeping our fingers crossed for you!

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