C’mon Man! Stop Blaming Your Supply Chain

My computer is running slow today. They keep moving things around here. Someone called off so I’m doing it all myself.

And now, it’s the supply chain.

The computer excuse shouldn’t have been accepted since about 2010, the moving things around excuse since hand-held devices, and the someone called off — well, that one will likely be with us for decades to come.

But the supply chain excuse? It’s just like the computer running slowly. It was true at one time, but is rarely the case now. Yet, people still use it.

Prior to Covid and the legitimate supply chain problems that followed, the majority of manufacturers would run out of one part while having too many of another. The quality of data in our systems was, and is, a significant cause. Poor mastery of the basics of operations management was, and is, another.

We’ve had over 2-1/2 years to figure out how to plan for and manage supply challenges; we’ve had decades to improve the quality of our data and our mastery of operations management basics.

Blaming others is much easier than acknowledging internal weaknesses, and saying ‘we’ rather than ‘they’ is much tougher.

Would you rather hear “it’s the supply chain, you know” or “they keep moving things around here?” Both are lame excuses. Both are efforts to minimize internal control and impact over business challenges. And neither does anything to help you.

Do your employees use the term “we” when referring to something within the company’s ecosystem, or “they?” Repeatedly I’ve asked “but aren’t you part of the “they” you refer to?” That kind of accountability is rarely accepted.

If each of us quit blaming unnamed third parties for our woes, we might actually prioritize addressing them.

  • We weren’t staying close enough with some of our key suppliers and were surprised by shifts in their abilities to deliver. We are addressing that now so you will soon be able to trust and believe our promises again.
  • We failed to prioritize usage of short parts and communicate proactively with the customers impacted.
  • We chased the holy grail of cheap labor all around the world and failed to comprehend the increased risk inherent in that.
  • As we moved to supply outside China we failed to fully examine the new risks we were undertaking and continue to experience shortages and poor communication.

Those four example admissions get closer to the real problems, each of which is ours to own and fix. “It’s the supply chain” does nothing to identify or solve real problems.

C’mon Man! Stop blaming your supply chain.

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