S&OP and Stephen Covey: Are you empowered?

It will be difficult to find a manager in any professional organisation in the western world who would dare to claim that employees should not be empowered. Effective managers can get great results from their teams if they ensure that the targeted output is crystal clear, without dictating how exactly this output should be achieved. Most employees do not like to be micro-managed and their motivation and effectiveness will go down if they are. “A solution is a mental prison” according to the Belgian author Filip Vandendriessche and as a consequence, you get the employees that you deserve. Do not expect creative solutions and having them go the extra mile if you instruct them to the nth level of detail how they should do their jobs.

By Hans van der Drift, partner at Involvation

It is fair to say that not all employees may automatically grasp and exploit the freedom of being empowered, certainly not if they have been raised in a command and control organisation. Pity, because empowerment has to come from two sides. It makes a lot of sense that Covey put “be proactive” on top of his list of habits of highly effective people. Empowerment alone is not enough; in addition, employees and teams have to be proactive in order to become highly effective.

Again there is a strong link with Sales & Operations Planning. For S&OP to be effective, it both needs to be “empowered” and be driven by a proactive team. Let us elaborate on this to make sure we understand what this means.

S&OP can only be effective if it is clear what its objectives are and what type of decisions must be taken in the process. Ideally it is a formal part of the company’s operating framework. Too often we see instances where one or more of these prerequisites are ignored: no clear strategy, no clear role of S&OP in executing this or no clear decision variables. In many cases, S&OP is not really “empowered” either: operational decisions may be taken in the process, but bigger decisions de facto are prepared only and subsequently taken somewhere else. The impact on the motivation of the S&OP practitioners and the effectiveness of the process is obvious. You get the process that you deserve.

Second prerequisite for a highly effective S&OP process is that the practitioners have to play their parts. They have to be proactive, seek and grasp opportunities and do whatever it takes to contribute to the company’s top and bottom line. Realising that it is sometimes better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. That functional targets and incentives may sometimes have to be compromised to get to the best results for the company as a whole. Because only with this proactive mind set will S&OP ever be a success. Begin with the end in mind, put first things first and be proactive. Sounds like a good set of habits for a highly effective S&OP.