Leading Blog


Winning Teams Know to Trust Their Team Members

Demand Management

IN BUSINESS, as in sports, the aspect that distinguishes the best teams from the mediocre teams comes down to collaboration. Yet many times, companies struggle with sharing and aligning functional plans.

Too often, managers put their heads down and focus only on their own departments. But setting goals in functional silos and then hoping that everything works itself out across the organization is an unlikely path to success.

Instead, if they trust and coordinate with their cross-functional counterparts, they will be better able to synchronize plans. Doing so ensures that what they’re doing as an entire team will enable the achievement of the company’s overall business objectives — which often represents the difference between success and failure.

Let’s apply the team sport analogy further. In ice hockey, for example, players have a decision to make when the puck is passed to them. One choice is to take the puck down the ice on their own to attempt to score a goal. They may have significant incentive to do so — they may be close to breaking a personal record or they may believe that their chance to increase their scoring statistics will make them more marketable as a player. They also may not trust their teammates’ ability to score a goal.

An alternative choice is to pass the puck to another player who is in a better position and can make a coordinated play.

Faced with this decision over numerous games, team members detect the repercussions when individual members regularly attempt to go it alone. The loners come to be regarded dubiously by their teammates and lose a measure of respect. Consequently, others may not instinctively pass the puck to them. Such behaviors will have an impact on the team’s win-loss record — and not in the preferred category.

Consider this hockey analogy in a business context. Collaborating with other business functions is often an adjustment for sales and marketing leaders. Still, they can’t go it alone and expect to win the game. They often must consider broader implications when establishing commercial plans.

Once they focus on the betterment of the entire business, however, a shift in attitude occurs. Sales and marketing leaders become more mature in their thinking about the demand plan. They consider the demand plan a request for product that they’re accountable for selling.

The manufacturing organization is rarely an open bar, so to speak. Supply planners shouldn’t be forced to guess which of the demand mix, volume, or timing in the plan is going to come true, and which are hedges against possible poor performance from the manufacturing organization.

Similarly, with suitable coordination, the supply chain organization’s thinking shifts. They know the pitfalls of second-guessing the demand plan. The role of supply chain organization is to create a supply plan in response to the demand plan. This supply plan considers inventory, cost, and service level parameters that are deemed optimal.

Coordinating and synchronizing plans across functions enables coordinated responses to changes regarding both problems and opportunities. Doing so creates agility.

When upper management leaders play their positions and trust their teammates to do what they say they’re going to do in their plans, something else happens. Responding to change becomes much simpler and in some cases, effortless.

As in team sports, the regular synchronization of cross-functional demand plans in business is key to empowering teams to execute — and win.

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Leading Forum
Greg Spira is an expert in Demand Management and Integrated Business Planning (IBP/S&OP) and works with companies to implement lasting change at all levels and across functions by building organizational capability and developing high-performing teams. He has written and co-authored many white papers on Demand Management and is an instructor of the Oliver Wight Demand Management course. His new book, Trust the Plan: Demand Management for Business Leaders (J. Ross Publishing, April 18, 2023), shares how to ensure cross-functional collaboration, alignment of plans, and teamwork in any Demand Plan process. Learn more at www.gregspira.ca.

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