Leaders are striving to put the customer at ‘the heart of S&OP’. This series of articles will assume this is a given and will place emphasis on the internal organisational dynamics around the needs of an effective S&OP.

The success of any Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) process is built on a platform of effective leadership. At its core, effective S&OP requires more than just strategic planning and data analysis; it demands visionary leadership that cultivates a culture of ownership and empowerment across the cohort of the S&OP actors. It goes beyond merely setting directives; it involves inspiring and motivating every member of the team to actively participate in the process. A culture where everyone buys into the S&OP vision is crucial for its success. When individuals understand the purpose and value of S&OP, they are more likely to align their efforts towards achieving its goals. Passive attendance at meetings may have been acceptable in less pressured times, often fueled by a demand forecast that looks so aspirational that it is out of reach. This further alienates the S&OP actors. However, the recent cost and service challenges have required people to raise their game.

Fostering an ownership culture requires leaders to empower their teams, providing them with the autonomy and resources needed to excel. This empowerment instils the necessary sense of ownership, where individuals feel personally invested in the outcomes of the S&OP process. When employees feel valued and empowered, they are more inclined to take initiative, innovate, and contribute their best efforts towards achieving collective success.

Moreover, effective leadership in S&OP involves clear communication of a compelling vision to achieve growth or in some cases ensure long term survival of the business. Leaders must openly champion the importance of S&OP in driving business success, highlighting how it aligns with broader organizational goals. By connecting the dots between individual contributions and overarching objectives, leaders inspire a sense of purpose and direction among team members.

To foster a culture of ownership and vision in S&OP, leaders can implement several strategies. This includes providing ongoing training and development opportunities to enhance skills and competencies relevant to S&OP. This still may not be enough. Exposing people to training is fine but in reality the S&OP actors are senior individuals and training may not have the desired impact. Leadership in this case may need an innovative approach. Specific one to one coaching sessions on clarifying expectations of each key player will go a long way to creating the necessary contribution. Additionally, recognising and rewarding individuals who demonstrate proactive engagement and innovative thinking reinforces the importance of ownership and contribution within the organisation.

Keith Holdsworth, Partner at Perfection Ltd, specialising in S&OP and IBP states that ensuring the S&OP process is one that is owned by the collective team, with assigned “co-ordinators” to take the lead for the completion of the Demand, Supply and Approval steps is critical. Allowing appropriate decisions to be made within those steps by the team, giving them autonomy to act, will empower the group as a whole to support the S&OP process. The exec S&OP meeting should only face the really tough decisions, where maybe multiple options are identified and require the senior team alignment to agree the way forward. Placing decision making into the hands of the appropriate members of the team, whilst allowing the S&OP process to visualise the outcomes and validate the options, will often mean individuals get a much stronger sense of contribution to the business.”

In conclusion, empowering leadership is essential for cultivating a culture of ownership in S&OP. By inspiring and empowering employees, clarifying organisational goals, and providing the necessary support, resources and active coaching, leaders can drive successful S&OP processes that deliver sustainable value, drive organisational excellence and ensure long term health of the business.

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