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4 Ways Leaders Can Drive Even More Supply Chain Metric Success

Posted by Brad Liddie on Aug 10, 2017 3:43:50 PM

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A sense of complacency can lurk behind benchmarks.

Once you hit your monthly warehouse goals, there can be a pull toward maintaining rather than gaining on your goals. Simply maintaining your goal patterns instead of gaining on your goals will keep your growth at a standstill if you don't actively and routinely work to overcome it.

As a leader, you need many tools to eliminate this mindset. The four key methods here will help you drive more success as you bring the metrics to life on your warehouse floor:

1. Understand "All Green" Does Not Mean "All Good":

Leadership is about solving problems––so it can feel counter-intuitive to seek out issues if you already are performing well. If your team isn't challenged to meet their goals, your bar is likely set too low. Posted figures and targets can be motivating, but if progress continually shows as an "all green," there is little to inspire or motivate teams to give more discretionary effort or be more engaged in the bigger picture.

The "to-do" of achieving a goal is checked off in their mental list, and they go right back to work the same way they always have. For companies, this is an unsustainable attitude of complacency at the employee level and one that can stagnate progress in many ways.

Going "red," defined as not meeting stated goals, should not be treated as an abject failure if continuous improvement is anywhere in your business plan. Learning and evolving can only happen in an environment that permits failure: not consistently (as this points to a much deeper operational issue) but occasionally. Failures offer a rare reason to reflect, take stock of what's going on within the team, and discuss choke points, obstacles, and other issues your team might inaccurately be working around.

Additionally, consistent "greens" don't necessarily mean you're delivering value either. The stagnated standards they represent might mask underlying problems with visitors, customers, or even management itself. The green/red dichotomy shouldn't be an all-or-nothing venture; smart, sustainable businesses, and teams will always fluctuate on some level as a natural side effect of healthy growth.

How to make it happen in your company: 

Infuse engagement and excitement into your team by reinforcing a bigger goal and more long-term growth conversations. Set goals you're close to reaching each month, but goals that still require consistent effort to achieve. Show the "story" of your metrics with quarterly and yearly growth charts; show how far you've come as a team over time.

Make sure you're not unwittingly supporting the all-or-nothing dialogue or a fear of "going red" in results.

2. Communicate Multi-Level Target Specifics to Key Players

Brevity isn't only the soul of wit; It's also the starting point of a well-run warehouse floor. Succinctly defining targets is an important component for successful communication in company workflows; you need to deliver this information in a timely fashion, in an easily-digestible format, to the key employees at each involved level of your organization.

These key individuals should know not only the likely impact of these reports in the immediate operational sense but also what the impact will be on the company as a whole when they perform well.

Communication flows from the bottom to the top, as well. If your staff is hesitant to talk about their identified KPIs with leadership, then you're missing out on a conversation that could enhance or empower your team's productivity. Make sure your team members are comfortable casually discussing KPIs. Much like the "in the green"/"in the red" problem cited above, if they feel like they're getting called out for every KPI discussion, they're not going to be very forthcoming. KPI discussion needs to be an ongoing conversation, not a once-a-month meeting fraught with concern and disappointment.

No line of communication should ever take a one-and-done approach. As a leader, you set the tone for the level of emphasis on a given target: if you simply communicate and go back to other tasks, you tell your team periodic listening is all you expect. Discuss your communications as part of an ongoing conversation, and prompt ideas and responses from your team whenever you can to increase engagement and ownership.

How to make it happen in your company or on your team: 

If you're struggling with inter-site communication and productivity, consider implementing a site Hoshin Plan. Not only does the name itself mean "to set an objective," it's a time-proven strategy for companies needing an organizational boost. Using tiered accountability to manifest internal alignment, a Hoshin Plan helps point your business on the right trajectory for continuous improvement and desired results.


Don't measure to justify. Measure to create value.


While most metrics stop at the output level, multiple layers of metrics in a Hoshin Plan actually determine if you're even focusing on the right targets.

3. Challenge the Status Quo

It sounds like a simple issue, but the persistence of status quo in management is a complex obstacle: adhering to the status quo isn't relegated to goals alone. Complacency seeps into forecasting and planning perspectives, leading unengaged managers to embrace last year's goals even if they're no longer a good fit for company direction.

This is another problem a Hoshin plan can tackle skillfully: the very act of creating one makes it nearly impossible to be complacent. It's important to look holistically at the history of your company's ups and downs when considering what looks like a radical move.

How to make it happen in your company: 

Step back and commit to completing a comprehensive profile analysis or MSA. If you're struggling to achieve goals now and had no problem with them in the past, what has changed in the interim? The path you need to take will depend on how long you've been stagnant and how far you've veered off course from your goals––but be prepared for an out-of-box solution to get back on track. When you keep an open mind, you could potentially move past a long, painful period of realignment.

4. Keep an Eye on Holistic Company Health

A static report can never truly capture the well-being of a company's growth. While metrics are powerful tools, they're only one tool amongst the many a leader can use. In a balanced company, good leaders understand actions create a domino effect. Increasing picking speed in the warehouse may have an inverse effect on customer complaints and returns; if you make customer service your top priority, warehouse order volume may increase as repeat sales tick up. But Team A's "green" is meaningless if it caused Team B to surge into the red.


Without a balanced approach to success, your cost-savings approach in one area with likely result in a loss somewhere else.


Before you make any wide-scale operational decisions, identify how this goal might affect all other departments. This is a vital task for all management professionals. If you have goals in each department, you'll be able to tell when Action A has negatively affected Team B too much to continue. Metrics will help you determine where you need to adjust your momentum or course-correct a workflow.

How to make it happen in your company: 

A Hoshin Plan illuminates these causes and effects. It also helps your team learn to recognize and respect each other's efforts. A gain in one area at a detriment to another isn't really a gain, after all: it's simply swapping one resource––time, materials, workforce, and so on––for another in pursuit of praise, avoidance of accountability, or desire for recognition.

Lastly, Remember to Eliminate Outdated KPIs:

From a technology perspective, there has to be some tangible and intangible return on what you measure and how you measure it to gauge your success as outlined above. Often times leaders rely way too much on visually laying out reports in complex tables and charts on TV screens and may inadvertently alienate the members of the team, as the information is not easily accessible, effectively managed over time, or understood by all. This can also become a massive expense to automate, review, and analyze each month. Unfortunately, too many teams don't see ROI on this complex form or reporting and visualizing metrics.

You might actually be stepping over a much faster, manual way to easily digest key information that can impact the work by engaging the people closest to the work -- the woman or man on the warehouse floor.


Is your visual reporting complex and expensive, just for the sake of being visual?


It is best to think about your team when implementing visual reporting. There are some leaders whose only goal is to strive to be the most technologically advanced, but they can sacrifice clear communication opportunities with team members on the floor with ambitions of technology. Certain facets of the warehouse do work well with these pieces of more high-tech reporting tools. In the end, it's up to you as a leader to determine how to achieve the right impact at a local level.

To Sum It All Up

Leaders can drive success home with smart management and metrics: with the information above, you've got the former handled, so honing the second is the best way to peak operational stability and efficiency.

Now that you understand the four points of driving supply chain metrics success––cement your momentum with the next step: our eBook, The Value of Metrics in Supply Chain Performance.

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Brad Liddie

Written by Brad Liddie

Experienced Vice President Operations with a demonstrated history of working in the logistics and supply chain industry. Skilled in Operations Management, Freight, Reverse Logistics, Operational Excellence, and Pricing Strategy. Strong business development professional with a Executive MBA focused in Global Supply Chain from University of Tennessee-Knoxville.