This week, we’re at the 2023 Gartner Supply Chain Symposium in Orlando, FL to explore big ideas, connect with supply chain leaders and share insights to help companies develop agile and resilient supply chain strategies. In this blog, we share insights from the opening keynote on May 8th, delivered by Caroline Chumakov, Director Analyst in the Talent and Sustainability team at Gartner.

Chumakov started the session by encouraging the audience to think about what we are going to leave behind for future generations of supply chain leaders: What will be our legacy?

“There is no doubt that we are facing challenges. Employee turnover in supply chain is 33% higher than pre-pandemic. Only a quarter of employees are highly engaged, and only 16% of them are willing to go above and beyond in their jobs. Our employees are checked out, challenged, and choosing to quiet-quit.” – shared Chumakov.

The speaker highlighted that labor productivity is at its lowest point in decades. She invited the audience to imagine how organizations can overcome this challenge, and reach peak levels of productivity, affirming that this can be achieved by unlocking the collective potential of the supply chain, defined as the “recognition that the whole of the supply chain is greater than the sum of its parts”. This concept entails that every individual, every community built around the organization and the technology implemented form a powerful combination to unlock the collective potential.

3 Factors that Make up the Collective Potential of the Supply Chain

1 - Individuals

We are in the midst of a supply chain labor shortage; yet there are valuable skills not being fully utilized. To unlock individual potential, companies must take a deeper look at the capabilities of every member of the team. Employees are not made with the same set of strengths – each of them is equipped with a unique set of skills. Companies have a chance to reimagine the roles employees can play within the organization to reach a fuller potential.

“Human-centered leadership is the future of leadership”, said the Gartner analyst. She explained that a human-centered leadership approach is required to deliver the greatest return and improve individual engagement and employee well-being. Chumakov then said that there are three critical skills to becoming more effective human leaders: 1- demonstrating authenticity to enable true employee self-expression; 2- practicing empathy; and 3- embodying adaptivity to make sure that individual needs can be met.

2 - Communities

Communities provide a space for people to share common goals, interests, a sense of belonging and purpose. People naturally come together to work as a group, to reach goals and overcome challenges. But this act of coming together has led to the hierarchical organizational structure which creates siloes, disparate business units or departments, and many layers of management.

Gartner research shows that the more levels of management there are in the organization, the harder it is for people to do their jobs. “Whether we centralize or decentralize presents real limitations to employee agility and resilience,” – said Chumakov.

In the face of disruption and volatility, it’s important that organizations fight silos and focus on mobilizing people to action by building communities, targeted at specific challenges and aligned to key objectives. An important example of these communities is the ecosystem. Ecosystems are macro communities that allow us to mobilize beyond the enterprise, involving employees, suppliers, manufacturers and more. These groups need to be able to achieve business outcomes while avoiding risk, which requires a shift to a decision-making approach from command and control to connected, contextual and continuous.

This is, as explained by the speaker, what Gartner calls the 3 C’s of Decision-making: 

  • Connected: decision-making must be connected to key stakeholders. Each decision should include input from peers and be backed by a clear rationale. 
  • Contextual: good decision-making also requires the context of the extended supply chain, leveraging data from customers, suppliers and public sources, and reflecting on the impact of our decisions.   
  • Continuous: we must constantly evaluate the factors going into decision-making as they are likely to change, and look to accelerate decision-making automation.

To truly unlock community potential, organizations ought to mobilize people to action beyond the hierarchy, and then guarantee their decision quality with the 3 C’s – encouraging decision-making to be continuous within the context of the extended supply chain, and in connection to stakeholder priorities.

3 - Technology

Finally, companies can unlock technological potential by redesigning how humans and machines interact and work together to achieve optimal results.

Technology enables individuals and communities to work together at the speed of business. But even though digital tech initiatives are a top business priority for the next two years, according to Gartner research, 67% of CFOs believe that digital spending is underperforming against expected outcomes.

Supply chain leaders need a new framework to redefine the human-technology relationship. The speaker highlighted examples of leading organizations that are investing in technology to guide employees to better decision-making and achieving great results in forecasting accuracy, reduced costs, supplier replenishment automation, and much more.

There are huge opportunities for technology and humans to work more effectively together, but it’s critical that employees are in the right mindset to accept and adapt to organizational change. According to Gartner research, most employees (81%) say that changes are adding to their workload, affecting their productivity.

Companies can use technology to its fullest potential by considering the relative strengths of humans and technology and by embracing Reciprocal Learning. As Chumakov explained, the concept of Reciprocal Learning allows employees to experiment with technology and provide input based on their knowledge, while technology can learn from human input.

Helping You Power Supply Chain Transformation and Re-engineer Decision-Making

Leaders are in a critical position to shift to a fresh mindset and steer organizations into unlocking the true potential of their workforce, their ecosystems and their technology investments.

We help companies like yours embrace technology and unleash the power of digital tools like AI and machine learning to augment human decision making and automate operational best practices. Our Atlas Planning Platform provides a comprehensive end-to-end supply chain planning solution for companies across all industries and sizes to help them solve today’s critical operational challenges, empowering users to make faster and more confident data-driven decisions for superior outcomes.

Let’s take a look at how we can help you accelerate your digital supply chain transformation and re-engineer decision-making to yield greater results.