Maximizing Results While Maintaining Flexibility

With his first-day Conference session, “Maximizing Results While Maintaining Flexibility,” Shelley Stewart, Jr., CPSM, senior vice president of operational excellence and CPO of Tyco International, spent a lot of time discussing the critical role flexibility plays in times of change. It’s a subject he and his team are reminded of every day as Tyco is divided into three strong, standalone companies.

Throughout his session, he reiterated a main idea: Change is constant, and people are afraid of it. But, if you do it right, it also affords opportunities to improve people and processes.

To keep his team engaged and productive during this time of transition (and uncertainty), Stewart said a “people, process, strategy, data” model is key. “You have to keep people motivated. You have to have process to deliver value. And without data, there’s no strategy.”

Stewart asserted the C-suite now looks to supply chain and procurement to be more strategic than ever before. While this is a challenge, it’s also an opportunity. “As a result, when I go in looking for funding, I usually get it,” he said. “Our ROI is proven.”

Flexibility during transition also requires organizational support, including strategic alignment with other business units. “This is critical,” Stewart pointed out. “You’ve got to find out what matters to them so they know you’re aligned with that ─ and that you’ll save them money.”

Being flexible also requires supply chain executives to “play offense and defense,” Stewart continued. Playing offense involves practicing continuous talent management, developing partnerships, enhancing commitment to suppliers, and exploiting value-analysis/value-engineering opportunities. Playing defense requires a solid risk assessment plan, flexible contract terms (not just for one side; for both parties), strong supplier performance management, and continually building talent and bench strength.

Since 2002, Tyco’s business strategy has required plenty of flexibility of its supply management function. The approaches have varied greatly, from “save the company,” to “fix the company,” to “refine the company,” to “grow the company,” to its current strategy: “split the company.” Accordingly, supply chain has adapted new ways to drive and deliver value.

Regardless of what operating mode an organization is currently in, Stewart contended that a changing business environment requires:

  • Clear and concise, yet ever-changing, goals;
  • Shared and expanded knowledge;
  • Talent (skills, motivation, coaching, continuous training);
  • Expectations that are factual, meaningful and flexible; and
  • A process that involves details, rigor, cadence, measurements and metrics ─ all of which should also be adaptable. (“During times of change, the focus must be adaptive while unwavering.”) 

Organizational change also affords tangible opportunities in the area of people management. Rewards and recognition can be developed to retain employees.

And, when attracting new employees to replace the ones that do leave, Stewart pointed out that certain candidates are actually drawn to ─ not dissuaded by ─ organizations in transition. These companies represent a chance to “get in on the ground floor” of a potentially rewarding, successful venture.


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