Velocity. Speed. Quickness. In speaking with customers, I’ve heard a lot about how critical speed is in maximizing efficiency, agility, and profitability. I’ve heard how having the ability to know sooner and act faster in relation to opportunities and risks can make life a whole lot easier when it comes to supply chain management. And it’s abundantly clear that it does. All of the articles I’ve read and the examples I’ve come across have been focused on using speed to propel you toward success. But what about using it to take you full steam ahead toward failure?
To me it first seemed like a bit of a backward concept—until I learned to look at failure as just another form of victory in disguise. I went from asking myself why anyone would want to fail, to actually looking forward to my next mistake! And much to my surprise, what helped me come to this realization was hearing several prominent figures speaking about the failures they’ve experienced in their businesses and with their supply chains at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference.
Chris Tyas, Senior Vice President Global Head of Supply Chain from Nestle, gave a keynote on Supply Chain Innovation & Excellence: Engaging 36,000 Supply Chain Brains Across the World. While the focus was much more on crowdsourcing knowledge and ideas from within your own employee base, he did provide an example of supply chain failure. He mentioned the horse meat scandal from a few years ago, where several big businesses were found to have contaminated food products. Nestle originally came out saying there was no way they were involved—based on the fact their top tier suppliers weren’t implicated. Three days later, they had to retract that statement. A supplier much further along the chain, one they had no knowledge of, was using horsemeat in producing one of Nestle’s products.
What Tyas learned from that mistake was the importance of end-to-end visibility. What I learned was the importance of discovering your mistakes quickly—and then taking ownership of them. As soon as Nestle uncovered the problem, they took immediate action to correct the issue, from a public relations standpoint and from the supply chain side. It motivated them to be more aware of what was happening across their entire supply network, and more open and transparent with their customers.