21 Ways on How to Make Any Stakeholder Fall In Love with Your S&OP/ IBP

Jan 25, 2024 | S&OP/ IBP

With Valentine’s Day coming up, love is in the air. Some years ago—I don’t remember the exact date—my husband and I watched a movie named “How to lose a guy in 10 days” with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson.

It was an entertaining and funny movie in which the main actor and actress had opposite objectives based on their personal interests.

The actor wanted to demonstrate that he could make any woman fall in love with him, while the actress wanted to show the opposite; that she can lose any guy in 10 days, as the movie name suggests.

This movie plot makes me think of S&OP/ IBP. It is a highly cross-functional process where participants have multiple interests and different goals; they can even have opposite goals like in the movie.

How could we achieve alignment in S&OP considering the multiple participants and with them, the myriad of perspectives and objectives?

Based on my experience, I have put together the Manifesto of How to Make Any Stakeholder fall in love with your S&OP/ IBP. The 21 points included in this manifesto are below.

1. Learn about the Context/ History

Learn as much as possible about the history behind. Knowing what worked well and what didn’t work give you an edge to help your stakeholders.

With open ended questions, dig deeper on what didn’t work well to understand the reasons.

2. Take Action on Feedback Received

It is critical to act upon the feedback received. For example, I had prepared an initial matrix with planning challenges and asked my stakeholders for their inputs.

I then sent the revised matrix incorporating their changes. It can become frustrating for our stakeholders when we have an ask for them and then we don’t turn it into action on our end.

3. Follow Through Every Concern

Being candid about concerns implies that stakeholders are becoming more open with us. To build on such trust, we want to take action and follow through with every concern.

4. Set Agenda for the Meetings

Meetings have gained a negative reputation. They are perceived as a waste of time in many cases. S&OP meetings are not the exception.

They must be decision meetings and show the items that need resolution. All the preparation work must be done in advance. To show this, meetings must have a clear preceding agenda.

5. Define Action Items

We want to have a list with the specific action items resulting from the meetings. We want to track them until successful resolution.

6. Ask Questions

It’s important to encourage questions to foster stakeholders’ participations and enrich the discussion. We want to hear the voice of our stakeholders.

7. Adhere to Schedule

“If you want to be more productive, then start at the start: get there on time. Whether it is a meeting, a flight, an appointment or a date, ensure you are there when you say you will be there”, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group.

Being on time at meetings and ending them on time shows respect for everybody’s time.

8. Identify Pain Points

What are the critical challenges and pain points of your stakeholders? The answer to this question will also help you to prioritize based on the operational and financial impact.

Go to the manufacturing plants, talk to the team, see and feel their challenges.

9. Deliver Value

Based on your stakeholders’ pain points and priorities, deliver exceptional results. The effects of delivering value compounds. Your stakeholders will look for your help more and the results will become greater with their support.

10. Measure

“If you cannot measure it, you can’t improve it,” Lord Kelvin. As the six sigma methodology suggests, it’s essential to define the baseline to then implement improvements and measure again after such improvements to compare against the baseline.

Stakeholders delight with a clear measurement of the value delivered.

11. Have Different Levels of Data Aggregation

“They think I am lying but they don’t want to see the details”, shared a planner with me. The secret to address this issue is having different levels of data aggregation.

What you show depends on the stakeholders. Executives will want to see less, for example. I made the mistake of showing granular data instead of a high-level summary and got my audience confused and overwhelmed with so many numbers in my Excel spreadsheet.

12. Show Visuals/ Dashboards

You can’t go wrong with the right visuals for communication. Related to different levels of data aggregation, PowerBI is a helpful tool that allows for amazing dashboards.

13. Communicate with Various Channels/ Media

Get to know your stakeholders’ way of communication and learning. Some stakeholders identify themselves as visual persons, enjoying graphs and charts.

Others prefer “learning by doing” with workshops. It is important to be open and flexible, considering the available options, including narrative style like Jeff Bezos as well as video tutorials.

14. Provide Status Updates

I love status updates because they have been very successful to keep stakeholders’ engagement. I started using them during my time at Cummins Inc. when there was a record flood in Columbus, Indiana.

A status update consists of a structured e-mail with the key accomplishments, what is expected for next week, and any challenges that require support. The frequency can be daily or weekly.

15. Build Roadmap

If your stakeholders understand where you are going, there are higher chances that they respond positively and support the S&OP/ IBP process.

It’s critical to have a roadmap connecting your ask with the end goal to drive alignment. When stakeholders can connect the dots, they are ready for action.

 16. Have Tables with Equivalents/ Conversions

As S&OP/ IBP is so diverse, there is no surprise that participants use different language. Having a table with equivalents or conversions have been a helpful resource in my conversations with stakeholders.

For example, if we have packaging, we want to include the finished goods that use it—part number and brief description—company, supplier, 3PL part numbers along with other key conversions so next time that marketing talks about “the minis”, you can provide them with the right answers faster.

17. Learn Finance and Accounting Language

Finance and Accounting is the language that the business speak. Financializing S&OP is fundamental for the business.

We want to translate operational plans into financial plans and make decisions that will benefit the business as whole, going beyond the functional silos.

Learning Finance and Accounting is also fundamental for your career advancement. After all, what’s the language that the C-suite speaks.

18. Develop a Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck has developed the concept of a growth mindset. This is the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and solve problems, as opposed to having a fixed mindset.

By having a growth mindset, we are open to collaborate, embrace others’ perspectives, and build better solutions together with our stakeholders instead of looking for validation of our own ideas and proving ourselves right.

19. Keep Learning

Related to having a growth mindset, continuous learning is critical. S&OP gives a fantastic opportunity to learn from other teams as it is a highly cross-functional process.

Per Bill Gates, failure is a good teacher for learning and growing. Founder of Spanx and billionaire Sara Blakely even celebrates failure.

At the dinner table, Blakely’s father used to give high five if she had failed on something that day. Failure is an opportunity to keep learning.

20. Roll up Your Sleeves

There is nothing like getting in the weeds to experience your stakeholders’ challenges. Conversations are good but doing their work is great to develop effective and actionable solutions.

This is my secret sauce. I had a recent opportunity to improve inventory management of a key ingredient.

I went to the plant, met with the truck drivers, warehousing team, and other actions to then develop a new improved process. I knew it was going to be happily received because I had tested it by doing myself. Rolling up your sleeves leads to guaranteed success.

21. Be Committed

Go all-in. Commit to the S&OP project. Commit to your stakeholders. Commit to yourself.

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