In keeping with its mandate to “bring together partners,” the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council together with the Association for Canadian Community Colleges, spearheaded a gathering of self-identified stakeholders in training and certification related to supply chain. Like most “stakeholder” gatherings, the room included representatives from competing organizations. In this case, that meant representatives from “rival” colleges and institutions, as well as from bodies offering “competing” certifications. The potential value of such gatherings comes in identifying shared interests and in enabling better solutions.
My exposure to this sector is largely through such stakeholder gatherings. Cross-functional (or cross-associational) gatherings in “supply chain” often generate discussion around “what is supply chain, anyway?” The opportunity to clarify the function and value of the sector has the potential to unite the many stakeholders. All of a sudden, there is a pan-sector identity (e.g., in-group) whose job it is to convey that value proposition to non-sector (e.g., out-group) stakeholders, who include employers, job-seekers, students, their parents, other functional areas of the business, etc., etc. We all win when these “others” realize the strategic importance and potential of supply chain… and they win, too!
Interaction between competing forces also helps everyone, by fostering good-old differentiation. For colleges, associations and “others”, this is positive – and necessary – because competitive markets don’t tolerate a “six-of-one” and “half-dozen-of-the-other” split for long. Contact and dialogue help to define core competencies and clear the way for collaboration that helps the sector overall.
As a related example, I worked in media sales where we had one main competitor. At an ad-agency function, I recall turning a corner and coming face-to-face with my “rival account manager” who was talking to our mutual client. Once our poor client realized that she could not avoid acknowledging us to each other, she betrayed the look of someone forced between former spouses from an acrimonious marriage. Shortly after I left that company, the “six” and “half-dozen” merged into one company. Strange how competition forces new ways of working.
It is very easy to pay lip service to collaboration and looking for “win-win” solutions to today’s complex problems. Examples are rarer in reality, but I came across one recently whereby rival conference organizers found they both targeted events in Western Canada that addressed the environmental implications of supply chain. Isn’t it fitting that the two are co-branding their events to spur discussion on the opportunities for supply chain and corporate social responsibility to deliver positive impact? Check out “Supply Chains and the Environment,” to take place on May 25 and 26 in Calgary.
The lines between friends and enemies may be blurring. There is value to be had and created in stakeholder gatherings that help us look for intersecting interests. I guess it takes a sector council to foster that dialogue.
THIS ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE FEBRUARY NEWSLETTER FOR THE CANADIAN SUPPLY CHAIN SECTOR COUNCIL (www.supplychaincanada.org).
I have written before about my involvement with the facilitation practice of Management Advisory Services, a volunteer consulting organization. (Visit the link for more information. To my paying clients: Let’s just say, you don’t qualify for these services, OK?) Similar to my other consulting work, in this volunteer role I help groups to either distill ideas or to effectively share their ideas… and sometimes both. The question at the heart of all of it is: Where is the value? Who sees it? Who needs help seeing what is there?
Over the past couple of weeks, I worked with a client who, not surprisingly, operates in a multiple stakeholder environment, where value comes from tapping into people’s time and energy, as much as, from funding and donations. To this agency’s credit, they were able to gather an impressive cross-section of perspectives to share and discuss ideas. (Homemade food was likely part of their recipe for success!) Ideas flew back and forth, and at least one occasion each of the two evenings, one of the “tougher” stakeholders occupied the floor momentarily.
The rosy collaborative vibe took a temporary back seat, and I know that at least a few people realized the importance of the critical/challenging insight. Those who were really listening could see the road map of the challenges in dealing with that particular constituency. Nobody likes a pothole, but it is certainly nicer to be able to see them clearly! The real danger in these situations is succumbing (like any human could) to “turning off” people who have turned you off.
To once again beat the drum on the power of effective conflict, last week I had a great conversation with a colleague who has similar passions to mine, though different orientations and approaches. Despite what our fellow patrons in the adjacent booth (@ The Abbott on Yonge Street) may have thought, we were not fighting! As tempting as it is to counter and explain yourself, good stuff comes from taking in the critique of others, which I think I was able to do. From my side, I left the conversation enriched (Again, the Ploughman’s Lunch may have had something to do with that!) and better prepared to move my ideas forward.
I would also assert that strong working relationships increase the chances of producing that value; they provide a foundation that won’t get shaky as easily. And, if you ask me, those relationships are going to need at least some face-time to materialize.
You will see that I have started using Twitter (look to the right side of the top page). In the era of fighting for attention (a stubbornly scarce resource), hitting the window of opportunity with valuable insight can seem like bullseyeing that ventilation shaft on the Death Star (”use the force, Luke.”). This is where I think Twitter fits.
My plan is to restrict my twits (?) to comments on customer service with, as advertised, a wide definition of “customer.” Some interactions create an opportunity to move the relationship needle in your favour, or hold it steady against a negative pull. I plan to call out excellence and shortcomings. Follow if you like; we will both see where it goes.
Longer discussions and stories (conceivably for those prepared to invest more attention) will stay on this blog. Things like this:
I dearly hope that business models that rely on high switching costs are on the wane. (See this article summary from HBR.) I currently have insurance relationships with two different Canadian banks (car and house); the renewal rates are weeks apart. Every year, I am reminded by each of the bundling discount that I could receive by increasing the number of products, but neither makes it easy for me to do anything but renew what I have… and I never remember until after automatic renewal notice! (Talk about scarce attention!)
Good for them for deriving value from my inability to keep track of the dates! The downside, I would argue, is that my home mortgage is currently with a third major back (in the current climate, this may not or may not be desireable business for a bank!). My experiences with small-ticket insurance items is such that I won’t entertain moving my business to either of the other two when the mortgage comes up for renewal (and that date is in my calendar!).
Perhaps the impossibility of maintaining customer equity when you have diversified products and an old-school model will drive more customer-centric approaches… but maybe not. Hey, they may not even miss me.
Here is an account of wrongful “not hiring” that is going to be heard by at BC Human Rights Tribunal. A woman is unsuccessful in a job interview. She believes that she is unfairly treated because she smokes. She gets her hands on an e-mail that claims this was part of the reasoning in the decision not to hire her. Game on!
If you have read other posts of mine (or attended courses or training with me), you will know that Getting to Yes’ “Power, rights, interests” model is one that I am quick to reference. The idea being that Power and Rights approaches often get bogged down faster than approach that starts with the Interests (e.g. what do you want?). Could it be that part of the problem with Human Rights Tribunals is that middle word? How does Human Interest Tribunal sound to you?
What does the woman want? Probably a job, but it will not end there: respect, some flexibility, smoking breaks? Maybe she wants to work with nice people. It is worth asking the question. The prospective employer wants an employee who will do the job, and to stick around because interviewing and hiring are time consuming. They want someone reliable and responsible, maybe they need someone who is independent. They likely don’t need someone who is “perfect,” and, if they are like me, are very suspect of people who claim to be so.
When the woman describes her “perfect attendance” in the interview, she is certainly telling them what she thinks they want to hear, but she is not telling the truth.
NOTE: I would suggest that if anyone is 100% truthful in an interview, they won’t get the job. Similarly, if an employer is completely straight with prospective employees, offer acceptance will plummet. There is an expectation that both sides couch things that cannot be supported objectively (i.e. she is the most difficult person to deal with; don’t get him going on his tomato garden, etc.)
An employer does want to hire someone they can trust. If “perfect attendance” is claimed in an interview and later found to be overstated (e.g. false), why hire the person? Does that not demonstrate a lack of judgement? Not hiring someone because they smoke is discrimination, but I hope that the reasoning goes beyond that. Not hiring someone because they exaggerated inappropriately in an interview is entirely justified. I will be interested to see where this ends up.
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