3 Questions to Ask as you Prepare for an S&OP meeting

Have you ever figured out a problem on your own, just by asking yourself the right questions? Have you ever had that boss or mentor that guides you on the right path by asking questions rather than just giving you answers? What can we learn by asking ourselves or our peers the right questions?

In my experience, the S&OP meeting and entire process can be quickly undermined by only a few obstacles. These obstacle are largely related to a general mis-understanding of the S&OP meeting and process, its purpose, and in turn, a lack of alignment. To address these, I have found that there are three universal questions a demand planner or the persons responsible for preparing for an S&OP meeting should ask and in turn answer during their preparation. These will help increase the likelihood of success by aligning the executive team with what we call the 3 golden rules of S&OP which we will cover in depth in a future blog post.

The questions are:

  1. How do I ensure executive buy in?
  2. Do the participants in the meeting know where we want to go?
  3. How do we know what we are doing is helping us get to where we want to go?

What follows is a series of rapid fire questions to help get your tactical juices flowing to get you and your executive team on the right path.

Question 1: How do I ensure executive buy in, in advance of the S&OP meeting and process?

Have you taken a sales approach to engage your executives process? If your executive team was asked what sales and operations planning was and how their position ties in would they know? Do they understand the value of the process? Has any training taken place with the stakeholders to help them understand the overall process and their role?

Do I understand the personalities of the executives? Can I tailor the S&OP meeting to appeal to them? Have I  met with the executives individually before the S&OP meeting to prep them? Is the process consistent and run on a time-bound cycle? If I were the executive, would I believe the process adds value? Are the meetings too long or lose focus?

The Big Question: If I was the CEO or a member of the executive team, what will grab and hold my attention?

The above questions help the process conform to S&OP Golden Rule Number 1: The S&OP meeting and process requires top-down executive engagement and understanding in order to be successful.

Question 2: Do we know where we want to go?

What is the companies short and long terms goal or goals? Is exponential growth in the future? If so, Are we prepared? What routes should be taken to get there? Who will ensure the right strategy is implemented?  Has the right research been done? Do we have the right people? Do we know the risk that must be taken? Have we evaluated the cost to get there? If we are planning for growth are we prepared for it? Are we going to enter new markets? Are we going to leave old markets? Do we have the resources and tools in place for the future? Do our people know how to use the tools? Do we have our processes aligned with our strategy? Are these goals an explicit part of the S&OP meeting?

The Big Question: Do we all know and agree on the definition of where we want to be in one year? Five years? Ten years?

The above questions help the process conform to S&OP Rule Number 2: The S&OP meeting and process must have have clearly defined and universally accepted short and long term goals and objectives to help align all facets of the company.

Question 3: How do we know what we are doing is helping us get to where we want to go?

Do we track performance? Are the metrics we track the right metrics? Do our metrics provide meaningful information and help tell a story and lead to a goal? Did we set targets for our metrics? Can we easily trouble shoot and find a root cause for the unfavorable metrics? Do we trust the integrity of the metrics? Is their consensus on their definitions and methods of calculation? Does the management team and their associated reporting department follow their assigned metrics? Do we have metrics that require cross-functional collaboration to meet the goal?

The Big Question: Collectively, do the metrics provide confidence that the company is on the right path toward achieving it’s long and short term goals?

The above questions help the process conform to S&OP Rule Number 3: The S&OP meeting and process must be numbers driven in order to track progress and continually improve. Remember the old management adage “People respect what you inspect.”

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