HAVE YOU CONSIDERED? Frustrated & Cynical

Every two months our regional managers hold catch-up meeting with our chief executive. To be honest, I find our meetings very frustrating as people don’t seem to prepare for them and the outcomes are unclear.

You mention that people attending the meetings don’t prepare their thoughts on the issues beforehand. This usually means they do this in the actual meeting, which is very frustrating for those who have prepared properly. Or, are there too many papers on the agenda which means that people just can’t find the time to read them? Another problem may be that each paper is too long (or long-winded).
Do you have process for reflecting back on actions from previous meetings and their outcomes? If not, I’m not surprised that attendees are losing track of what actually happened and starting to wonder why they are making the effort to attend.
Another thought: how well is the meeting agenda linked to the strategy and business plans of your organisation? As your meetings are regular I am assuming that their intention is to help ensure that plans are implemented and achieved and hence the need for this close link.
Finally – and be honest here – how good is the chair at running these meetings? If they aren’t able to keep discussions timely, and make people stick to the issues, it’s no surprise that you end up sitting through ineffective meetings.
The following ideas should help you. First, check that the agenda is well structured with discussion times allocated to each item. Next, see if people will agree to submitting one-page papers (this is amazingly effective). If that idea falls on deaf ears, at least ensure that each paper has short summary and recommendations. After each meeting, prepare single integrated action list showing who is responsible for specific actions and when they will be completed. Also, check how effectively your meeting agendas are linked to your strategic and business plans. Finally, if your chair is not managing the meetings effectively consider rotating this role. Good luck.

My colleagues keep talking about supply chain management as though it’s the latest and greatest solution to our business challenges. Call me cynical, but I reckon it’s just new name for what people have been doing for years.

You’re both right and wrong. Supply chain management, according to my trusty dictionary, is “a planning, scheduling and control system that integrates all the manufacturers and suppliers who provide the parts that make up particular product”.
So, yes, of course that covers things that people have been managing for years. The difference is that the term supply chain management refers to modern integrated approach to managing these logistical stages. And that’s possible through the use of new technology and it leads to optimisation of the supply chain.
Initially, only larger organisations could afford the necessary systems. These are now becoming more readily available and virtually any organisation is able to gain the benefit. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, for example, have made it possible for an organisation to model its whole supply chain system, integrating procurement right through to customer purchase and delivery.
These integrated information systems, coupled with use of the internet, enable businesses to carry out transactions instantaneously between, for example, manufacturer and their suppliers and also with their customers.
BMW customers in Europe, for example, can now log on to the internet and pick and choose from huge number of options for their new cars. As they are doing this the system is contacting suppliers in real time, placing orders and scheduling production so that when the customer has finished they are given an immediate date of delivery for their vehicle. If they choose not to purchase the vehicle, the orders are automatically and instantaneously cancelled.
So to answer your question, supply chain management may not be new but it is major step forward from what has been done before.
Modern supply chain management is particularly important in New Zealand as we need to participate fully in the growing world economy and the more we can improve the effectiveness of our supply chain management the better we will be able to do this.

Address your problems to Kevin Gaunt to “my problem” at: [email protected]

• Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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