Those in the supply chain and logistics management industry have been talking a great deal about collaboration in dealing with our business partners. Adversarial relationships just do not work. You have to work together in the spirit of cooperation and harmony to obtain the best results with your partnerships, be it with a logistics provider, supplier, transportation or warehousing partner.
But, what does collaboration really mean and how do you go about it?
Are you “Radical” Enough to Make Supply Chain and Logistics Collaboration Work?
Since collaboration is in its infancy and now finally catching up and gaining focus by professionals in supply chain and logistics fields, we feel that in order to get more attention we need to make collaboration RADICAL. Messrs. James Tamm and Ronald Luyet main theme of this book, Radical Collaboration, is a series of arguments that we should conduct our business dealings more like interpersonal rather than adversarial relationships. In our interpersonal relations, we tend to hide our disagreements, as we never know what will happen in the future. We rarely burn our interpersonal bridges, for the person that you cheat, dislike or hurt may be the one who interviews you for a job sometime in the future. Most of us have taken a course in basic business, and the first thing you are told is to write and sign a contract. This is of course true, but it also overstates the value of a written contract relative to other aspects of the relationship. While a contract documents the responsibilities and expectations of both parties, like a purchase order, warehousing or transportation contract, service level agreement or quarterly business review, there is a great deal of flexibility, even when they are lengthy and rigid. This principle says nothing about how to earn the trust needed to get someone to agree to a contract or how to negotiate a viable contract.
5 Skills Needed for Radical Supply Chain and Logistics Collaboration
There are five (5) introspective skills that the authors put forward to help you learn how to have more of a collaborative mindset. They are:
- Collaborative intention: Maintain an authentic (not just lip service) non-defensive presence and make a personal commitment to mutual success in the relationship. Often times we have seen this in the supply chain and logistics realm for outsourcing (and in outsourcing in general) called “Vested Outsourcing.“
- Truthfulness: Tell the truth and listen to the truth; be open with your partner: Listen (rather than talk) intently, and create a climate of openness so both parties are safe enough to discuss concerns, solve problems and deal directly with difficult issues.
- Self-accountability: Take responsibility for the choices you make, either by acting or failing to act. Find a solution for an issue rather than finding someone to blame.
- Self-awareness and awareness of others: Know yourself, and your partner deeply, be willing to explore difficult issues.
- Problem Solving and Negotiating: Use problem-solving methods that promote a cooperative atmosphere; avoid fostering subtle or unconscious competition.
Each of these skills is necessary for a successful collaboration. You first must want to collaborate and be honest with yourself and others regarding what you want and what you are willing to do. After that, you must follow through, making sure that you are holding up your end of the bargain. Finally, you must honestly appraise your performance and also be aware of how you perceive others and how they perceive you.
Applications in the Supply Chain and Logistics Field of “Radical” Collaboration
- Holding a “Supplier Day“ and set forth rules following the above 5 guidelines.
- Setting up an inbound freight management program with your suppliers with specific KPIs set from the onset and looked at again every quarter.
- Work with your carriers and continually invite more into the mix and make sure you work with the carrier to beget a more fruitful, and cost sustainable relationship.
- Network with possible affiliate partners to create holistic solutions for your customer base based on feedback (can apply to technology improvements too.)
- Invest in your employees so they are aware of how the supply chain and logistics processes work with the whole company. In most companies the failure or success of the organization depends heavily on successful supply chain and logistics operations. In “radical” collaboration, if you have the 5 above tenets (and the below 15 ways to improve a relationship at heart) you create a culture in your business of continual improvement and this allows for innovations in both products and process from your people.
FIRO: An Explanation of the Human Side of “Radical” Supply Chain and Logistics Collaboration
The heart of the book is a theory called Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) and is based on unmet emotional needs. We are all human beings and we take our emotions with us wherever we go and into whatever we do. It is our ego and emotions that sustain us in life, motivating us to succeed and strive to do better. No company is an island; everyone must work with others to get what they want. This book will show you how to submerge the aspects of your ego and emotions that can poison your collaborative well and I strongly recommend that everyone in business read it. 15 things to do in order to improve a relationship
- Tell your truth
- Realize that you choose
- Seek deeper self-awareness
- Respond emotionally
- Give up blame and postpone judgment
- Seek not to consciously hurt others
- Take time to envision yourself as you want to be
- Consciously change your limiting beliefs
- Assert yourself
- Be as sincere and as vulnerable as possible
- Be in touch with your body and its wisdom
- Seek a higher meaning or purpose in your life
- Treat your personal growth with respect, excitement, and patience, rather than judgment.
- Give to give
- Laugh a little
Take supply chain and logistics collaboration, and your internal company collaboration seriously. Be radical. It works very effectively if you follow these steps. Be the leader in your industry to be a radical collaborator. Any questions or comments are very welcome in the comment section below the “Related Articles” section of this post. If you have specific collaboration applications you have seen work, please share those as well!
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Note: (Published with authorization of the author)