Successful managers understand their role in an S&OP meeting

The virtual game The Fresh Connection, a new round of which is about to start in several countries, demonstrates strong similarities to a Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) meeting. “In the teams which excel at the game, each of the team members understand their own role,” says Alfons Willemsen from the consultancy Involvation.

A team in The Fresh Connection comprises four people, each of whom represents a different department: Sales, Operations, Purchasing and Supply Chain. The meetings that take place between the team members share many similarities with real-life business situations. They all have insight into one other’s information, yet each of them makes the decisions relating to their own position.


“Teams in which players are focused on their own success will never achieve a good result together,” explains Willemsen – as last year’s winners, FrieslandCampina, were quick to realise. “We noticed that a high individual score did not necessarily mean that the team scored well overall,” said Chris Mangnus, who fulfilled the role of vice president purchasing in the team, in a recent edition of Supply Chain Magazine.

An individual win is a collective loss. The secret lies in putting the company’s interests ahead of one’s own. “And it’s no different in real life. However, politics often also enter the mix in everyday business,” says Involvation’s Willemsen.


The main question during an S&OP meeting is which issues should be raised. Each and every decision influences the total supply chain to some extent. “You have to be able to make a fair assessment of the impact of your decision on the other disciplines. Silo thinking needs to be dismantled. Some teams want to discuss everything but they find themselves running out of time. The same would happen if you did that in real life; it’s important that routine decisions remain routine,” claims Willemsen.

In his view, the good teams are made up of people who understand their own particular role. “There is a certain sense of calm, and the team members know exactly what they need to discuss with their colleagues and which decisions they can make on their own” states Willemsen.

International competition

Nowadays, The Fresh Connection competition has been rolled out in 13 countries around the world. The winners of each local competition play against each other in the global final. Willemsen: “We add a few extra elements in the final stage of the competition to make the game even more interesting. Last year, for example, the teams had to hold interviews with a potential new logistics service supplier, or they could choose to invest in new technology together with other teams.” New countries this year are the USA, India and New Zealand, and several Southeast Asian countries (Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam) are playing as one group.

Interested in competing in The Fresh Connection? It’s not too late to register. For more details, visit the website.