The Short List

Productive practices of successful supply chain leaders

Kreg Kofford

Joe Walsh

The Journal of Healthcare Contracting and a group of experienced industry veterans put their heads together to create a short list of things that supply chain leaders can do to make this year their best (and most productive) yet! John Pritchard, Joe Walsh, and Kreg Kofford presented this advice in a webinar sponsored by Vantage Point Logistics (VPL).

No. 1: Align your team to the system objective(s) and understand the decision-making process to achieve the departmental contributions for those objectives
Everyone can improve, but sometimes that’s hard to see when it seems like everything is already going right. To truly thrive, you need to avoid getting complacent because of your success. If your primary goal is to run the most efficient and optimized supply chain around, then you aren’t thinking strategically and aren’t doing anything to progress or unlock the potential of the supply chain. On the other hand, its also not good to get so focused on finding and implementing new “best practices” and innovations that you’re no longer aligned with the goals of your organization.

Stay aligned with your organization’s objectives by meeting with the key leaders of the different business units to understand challenges and perspectives. Familiarize yourself with the organizational metrics that are used – including those outside your department. Once you can speak their language, you can better align all the departments to reach the collective objectives. For instance, if you’re talking with a chief medical officer, be sure to couch things in terms of clinical-value. If you’re talking to a CFO, you might want to try talking in terms of economical value.

No. 2: Know your numbers and have spend transparency

Lots of small inefficiencies can lead to large decencies. That is why data consolidation a critical step to making insights and spend transparency easier to get to. Analyze the data to understand the breakdown of not only the spend of supply chain, but of the overall organization. This will allow you to identify the greatest areas of opportunity.

If all you’re doing is trying to squeeze more value out of the same categories, you will only reap smaller and smaller benefits. Look for new areas where you can see and affect major change.

While it is important to focus on current spend, it is perhaps more important to look at future spend. And remember – previous spend is not a good predictor of future spend!

No. 3: Filter out best practices
As an industry, we are sometimes guilty of getting a pack-mentality when it comes to innovation – we all want to do the same thing at the same time. But every organization is unique and faces unique challenges.

Just because a big and influential IDN rolls out a brilliant new initiative, that doesn’t mean your organization can or even should attempt to emulate it. (Having a central distribution center is great for a system that has the space to implement it – but a IDN in the middle of Manhattan should probably look for another idea)

When you’re looking at a bunch of good ideas, you might be tempted to try them all. Instead, filter through the best practices out there to find the ones that apply to your organization and figure out how to develop and implement them in a way that works for you. Otherwise you get bogged down, sidetracked, and start wasting some very good tools on the wrong solution.

No. 4: Find some quick wins
Finding an area where you can get some quick success is great – it’s even better if you can use the story of that success to elevate your supply chain. And that’s all down to using good storytelling techniques. Storytelling is so powerful because it’s a way of organizing facts and data to give someone context. Story engages emotions, which engages the brain in a different and more memorable way than just going through rows of data. (Case in point: You can probably tell anyone about the basic story of a movie you saw once, a decade ago. But you probably couldn’t accurately list off more than one or two numbers from your most recent budget meeting.)

And just as important as it is to strategically use those quick wins to elevate your department, as a leader, you also need to make sure that you’re taking time to celebrate those wins and the people who helped bring them about.

No. 5: Remind your system that suppliers aren’t the enemy
Evaluate your suppliers and take time to foster good relationships with a few of the important and exceptional ones – you’ll be able to show both your own organization the value of having good partners, as well as providing a model for other vendors to try to strive for.

Work on moving away from having only transactional relationships with your vendors. Turn them into supplier partners. Take a leap in the direction of those key suppliers to leverage their expertise and let them bring additional value to your organization. Shift the conversation away from “Who gets what percentage of the pie,” to a conversation about how you can work together to collectively create value. This has nothing to do with what they can sell you, but they have resources they are more than willing to deploy against your problem statements, your opportunity statements, and your initiatives – if you let them in. You’ll find that they’re more than willing to do it, you just have to be willing to extend that trust.