Five Pillars to Crafting A Winning Supply Chain Strategy
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Five Pillars to Crafting A Winning Supply Chain Strategy

Darrell Edwards, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, La-Z-Boy
Darrell Edwards, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, La-Z-Boy

Darrell Edwards, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, La-Z-Boy

During this time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, never before has the business performance needed to be more effective and efficient. Creating organizational value is and always has been critical to thriving, but now possibly more than ever, it’s critical to surviving. With the speed of business accelerating more rapidly every year, having a winning strategy for your supply chain becomes increasingly more important to remain relevant. Every business is different, but it’s also similar; meaning, there are several strategic tenants that are universal in effectiveness. Whether your supply chain needs a complete transformation or you’re simply refining it, these five pillars should be considered while crafting a winning strategy.


Before developing any new strategy, first, take a pause to truly understand who your competition is. Who is winning within your market space and how they are winning? What are they doing differently than their peer group? Moreover, after this competitive review ask yourself these questions; what are the strategic implications for our business, and how do we not only compete successfully but win, really win? What is our value proposition? What business problem can we solve better than anyone else in the markets we choose to compete within, and how will we know we’re winning? Fully understanding your competitive landscape and what’s your competitive advantage is one of the critical steps in crafting a winning strategy.


After you’ve taken sufficient time to survey the competitive landscape of your market space, you’ve likely developed some idea or hypothesis of what should be changed about your supply chain strategy. Maybe your company needs to devote more time to building machine learning capability, or performing a network optimization study, or improving service and inventory position, whatever the case, you now have an idea, but remember, it’s just one person’s idea or one function’s idea. Leveraging only one perspective is too myopic. Before crystallizing any strategy, it’s important to gather opinions from those within the organization you not only trust but are key stakeholders to the business. If you work to survey a cross-function of key stakeholders, you not only increase your pr obabi l i t y of crafting the right strategy at the right time for your business, but you increase the probability of its success. The brainpower of the collective team is far greater than the individual.


Generally, step one of any relevant strategy is to intimately understand both the needs and direction of the overall business enterprise and how the supply chain can most effectively support both. Meaning, what’s most important to the “now” of the business and what may become most important for the next three to five years? Ask yourself, how can the global supply chain uniquely support the strategy? Once you fully understand the needs of the business, it becomes much easier to architect a strategy to deliver against the plan. After you have developed the playbook, it becomes all about execution. It’s important to know how your strategy complements and supports other functions, and don’t forget to ask the question, did we miss anything?

  ​Before developing any new strategy, first, take a pause to truly understand who your competition is  


Now that you have developed your strategy, it’s time to critically evaluate your talent. In other words, can your team successfully execute the playbook? You may have the greatest supply chain strategy ever crafted within your company, but if you don’t have the right talent to execute it at a high level, the brutal reality is, it will never reach its potential. As we have previously discussed, there are various components to crafting a winning supply chain strategy, but I would argue none are more critical to its success than the talent component.


Regardless of how well-thought-out or crafted your supply chain strategy is, if it’s not communicated succinctly throughout all levels of the organization, it’s probably doomed before it’s ever launched. Now let’s be clear, every organizational level doesn’t need the same granularity of detail, and frankly, you probably can’t share all details at all levels, but for maximum effectiveness, every employee should understand how they contribute for the supply chain to win. Match your communication plan to your team’s role.


As you begin, crafting a winning strategy for your supply chain is sure to dedicate appropriate time to understanding your competition within your specific market space. Knowing how you successfully compete is critical. Be sure to engage your business partners early in your planning process. By gathering multiple perspectives, you increase the probability of building a supply chain strategy that not only aligns well with the overall corporate strategy but remains relevant for a longer period of time. Probably there is nothing more important than building your talent bench. Remember, your people are your team’s greatest strength and its only true differentiator. One of your chief roles as a leader is to ensure you have the talent to execute your strategy at a high level; without the talent, the strategy itself really matters little. Once you have built your strategy and your team, work equally as hard at communicating it throughout all levels the organization. Remember, when your entire organization is moving in the same direction, magic occurs.

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