- On January 16, 2016
- decision, management, mentor, supply chain, supply chain management, training
It is a strange phrase, but quite true. When few years ago I was trained to be a manager, the trainer used this phrase. All the trainees started to laugh and comment. The trainer coolly waited for us to stop and calm down and explained the following:
„When you are managers, many people and processes will depend on you. To manage them properly and you to be respected, you have to take decisions. Nevertheless how difficult the situation is, nevertheless you do not have all data to analyze – you must define the course and the participants. Even when you are wrong, the wrong decision is better than the lack of a decision“.
Looked through my experience at that time I thought that it is more than clear that managers have to take decisions by default, if possible to take the right decisions. My bosses played a big role in this my understanding because they themselves have passed successfully the same trainings and were great managers. However, this phrase nested in my mind in a way that I recall it even nowadays when I meet big palette of characters. Just now I see that many people did not have the chance to be trained properly…
The lack of decision in supply chain may lead to unpleasant situations. Can you imagine how the whole company works on a project, thinks over different strategies, calculates future profits and when the implementation time comes, the supply chain manager decides to be passive? He starts to wait, to think over, to hesitate which approach to apply until a competitor realizes the project. Yes, there are such people – hesitating thinkers, whose watch has forgotten to click on the emergency hour. It is understandable young managers to hesitate as they do not have experience, but for senior managers it is not acceptable.
The sequences from not taking decisions can be seen very soon. The employees want someone to follow and when there is no leader, they transform to people visiting one and the same office. In the beginning if they receive a task (which they know how to complete) and a term, the task is fulfilled on time. As time passes the employees ask more frequently the manager how and when to fulfil a task. Why? Because their hesitating manager would wander how to reply and in this time the employee will spend pleasantly the hours in the office, avoiding any efforts. This is how the tempo in one dynamic department is slowed. As a result, all departments back in the chain must also slow down the speed because the supply chain department is “overloaded”.
Usually the managers, who take decisions slowly or prefer not to take decisions, blame their subordinated for whatever issues – for something not done or done incorrectly. The reaction is the employees to stop proposing ideas and avoid taking actions, just waiting their boss to get ready for the job. The result is postponed and stopped projects for the company.
Here is one example:
A production company is building an own warehouse. The project has started 2 years ago with a subsiding. At that moment the goods and raw materials were stored in rented warehouses. The new warehouse is ready and the time for movement has come. The warehouse supervisor offers to the supply chain manager a scheme for racks and arranging the goods. The supply chain manager, who has recently joined the company and has no experience with warehouses, started to wander whether to approve the scheme or not. He is afraid that if he approves the scheme and it is not effective enough, the owner will scold on him. Apart from that, the supply chain manager is suspicious and in not sure in the warehouse supervisor’s competency. And the approval is postponed. The owner is abroad and when he comes back he sees that the movement has not started yet even the new warehouse was ready a month ago. Pushed by the owner, the supply chain manager approves the scheme and warns the warehouse supervisor that if anything goes wrong, the supervisor will be responsible. Up to now the extraordinary expense is the 1-month rent. During the movement, the workers point a big volume of packaging materials which haven’t been used more than 2 years. The chance to be used in future is zero as the designs are old and the cartons have bent and would not run on the machines. The warehouse supervisor asks the supply chain manager for approval to destroy the obsolete packaging materials. The supply chain manager knows that the owner is not fond of destroying anything and thus does not take any action. The goods are moved but the packaging is still in the old warehouse. One month later the accountant alarms that the owner of the rented warehouse has issued an invoice for the past month, e.g. he has invoiced a service which has not been provided, as the rented warehouse should have been empty. Yes, but not quite… This time the supply chain manager is not pushed to take a decision because the decision is taken by the owner: the obsolete packaging is destroyed and in total 3-months rents were paid additionally. The owner does not fire the supply chain manager as the latter was a good professional but starts to check his steps and take decisions.
I ask immediately: how a good specialist and manager would allow such waste for the company?…
There are pretty much examples for problems, even accidents with supply chain employees, due to delayed or not taken decisions. I don’t say that decisions should not be thought out. But to be thought in a reasonable time frames and employees should obligatory receive an answer. What is necessary to one young supply chain manager to quickly win the respect of his subordinates:
- Knowledge in his working field – of course, he must be competent.
- Leader skills – the function requires a real leader who is burning bright and involves his colleagues in the job.
- Feeling for emergency – this is compulsory criteria to meet the dynamics of the profile.
When these three factors are available, taking a decision is not a challenge but a simple obligation. In more complicated cases, which require more thinking, it is important the manager to answer to his subordinate something like „I cannot answer now, but I’ll give you a decision in 2 days“. And in 2 days the manager really should give the decision.
Managers demonstrate maturity and motivate their teams via open communication and leading by example about keeping the promise (for instance giving the solution in 2 days). This is how subordinates will trust their manager and when restrictions occur (for instance the situation cannot wait 2 days for a decision but it should be taken faster), the employee would express this to the manager and require faster solution. For example, if there is an attractive offer for purchase of raw materials and its validity is just one day, obviously 2 days is a too long period for a decision and if the moment is missed the company loses might be big.
A manager, who replies to selected emails only, takes decisions when it is convenient to him, postpones solutions of different cases, he teaches his staff to behave the same way. The employees are afraid to remind about the waited decision and at one moment the case is “swept under the carpet”. And the cycle of everlasting excuses starts to spin: I haven’t done this because I had no approval; I had not proposed anything because it wouldn’t have been approved anyway and so on.
The operational departments are mechanism, moved by daily small and big decisions. So if we stop ensuring the charge (which is the decision) we ourselves plug up the most dynamic department and slow the progress of the whole company. That is why in supply chain we cannot afford postponing or not taking decisions because it cost a lot to the company and to the people.