4 Ways to Create a Resilient Supply Chain Culture

Culture isn’t built overnight. Businesses must nurture it through communication, training and employee recognition.

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Culture binds an organization, blending its DNA, legacy, mission, processes and leadership. In short, culture colors how we work. People generally think of culture as a method to engage employees and ensure they don’t leave.

Culture is an equally essential lever for supply chain professionals during crises. Stressful situations – either human-made or natural – have different effects on people. Those in a supportive environment are more likely to behave positively and understand their role in managing a chaotic situation.

Guided by purpose, a positive culture inspires collaboration and transparency, two foundational elements of a resilient program. But, how do we get there?

Here are four key success factors for creating a positive, resilient culture.

Culture starts at the top

Cultural shifts are sometimes necessary to boost performance, and in these cases, they require C-level executives to lead by example and establish clear communication channels with employees. During a disruptive event, businesses must prioritize data and transparency to inform decision-making and action while also enabling collaboration for better outcomes.

Data is the means, not the end

Everyone says they’re data-driven these days, but they often don’t talk about what that truly means. Organizations can have brilliant analysis from the best data, but, at the end of the day, your organization must put these insights into action for them to truly deliver value.

Beyond using real-time and actionable tools, supply chain professionals must be disciplined about making decisions with credible data. As people combine data with their judgment and analysis, they are well-positioned to eliminate biases and defend conclusions. This habit must be driven deep into the organization by the leadership team. Optimal decisions that lead to beneficial outcomes for your customers, suppliers, and stakeholders don’t happen by chance.

Empower employees to make decisions

Agility’s foundations are rooted in an organization’s ability to improve transparency and collapse silos. As a team, supply chain professionals see the same signals and get ahead of issues with minimal friction. It doesn’t make sense to make it difficult for a person to solve a problem without gaining approval from a dozen others.

When there’s a customer change order, for instance, a team member should orchestrate the change to understand the impact on the organization’s value chain, from engineering to finance, to ensure coordination.

Good supplier relationships create opportunities

Collaboration and transparency also apply to how businesses engage with their vendors. Smart companies keep open communication lines, particularly with critical suppliers, to build relationships that elevate themselves as suppliers’ customers of choice. Productive relationships inevitably turn profitable. Key developments and opportunities always bubble up when the value chain is running smoothly.

During the pandemic, suppliers’ intelligence was an invaluable aid in decision-making. Gaining first-hand knowledge of the quickly evolving political climate, shutdowns, and shortages resulted from strong, longstanding relationships built on trust. It takes years to develop effective relationships that enable effective partnerships during challenging times.

Culture in action

During the first signs of intense shortages induced by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in early 2020, companies had limited contact with suppliers due to work-from-home mandates. Leaving no stones unturned, closing the contact gap requires technology, relationships and teamwork.

Culture isn’t built overnight. Businesses must nurture it through communication, training and employee recognition. There are times when supply chain leaders may have difficulty justifying these long-term investments, but they are critical. Many supply chain professionals discovered the value of their corporate culture – good and bad – last year. Global supply chains’ resilience was tested on a scale and ferocity unseen in history. Businesses that had developed a tight-knit group worked through the situation while those that hadn’t suffered. Focusing on culture insures businesses from disaster when disaster strikes.