Making the Difference through People and Teamwork
I had the privilege to learn S&OP directly from its 2 fathers, Dick Ling, the creator of the first S&OP, and Andy Coldrick who co-created with Dick in the 90's, the concept of Breakthrough S&OP, also called IBP (Integrated Business Planning). I met Andy for first the time in 1992 when I was working for Mars, and introduced there S&OP with his help. Since then, the 2 of us never stopped collaborating on S&OP until Andy passed away in 2014.
The key message on S&OP I learnt from Andy was the Right To Left Thinking attitude. Although the process was moving chronologically from left to right, the mindset had to be from right to left, i.e. start from the end (the final S&OP meeting) then desing and run the other steps to fully satisfy it.
Right To Left Thinking is a simple and powerful statement which forces the emergence of breakthrough solutions because it creates a healthy tension between the right part of the process which is oriented towards Strategy, and the left part which has to confront the brutal facts of the daily realities. The Right To Left Thinking and the healthy tension it generates, gives a fundamental role to the step 4, which Dick & Andy coined Integrated Reconciliation. I prefer to call it now Dynamic Reconciliation to emphasize it is NOT only one meeting per month to prepare the final meeting. It is a continuous process with feedback loops to the left part of the process either to push back monkeys (i.e. problems submitted by Steps 1,2,3 to Step 4, they could solve by themselves) or to ask for further work before submission to the final meeting.
Although it looks like common sense, my experience of more than 100 S&OP implementations all over the world has shown me that the Right To Left Thinking mindset is the biggest challenge. In fact, with some hard work, S&OP Processes & Tools can always be implemented without risk because they have been known for a long time and well documented. The mindset change through the Right To Left Thinking approach is a complete different story where each implementation is UNIQUE because People and Cultures are UNIQUE, in particular with regard to their perception of TIME, past, present, and future. That is why S&OP check-lists are useful for processes & tools which can be universal, but are useless for the People part (i.e. the most important part) because each situation is particular and cannot be captured with a check-list. A customized approach focused on People makes each S&OP implementation more complex than a Process focused 'one size fitz all' approach, but well led, it also gives a competitive edge to companies which chooses this approach because it fits their strategy and their culture like a glove. Consequently, Best In Class Companies, use S&OP to deploy their Strategy.