Planning For Uncertainty — With Your Suppliers

Purchasing recently ran a somewhat titillating titled bylined column by Eaton's Supply Chain VP, Richard Jacobs,"How to prepare for the constraints you can't predict". While the article is relative short, it has some good nuggets of information in it. I like Richard's view that while "History has proven no one can predict all the events ... being open to change is critical to survival. My advice is that the only way to dampen the effect of the coming yet unforeseen constraints, whatever they are, is to develop superior relationships with your suppliers at the most senior levels. I label this the collaborative supply chain."

As a scenario planning practitioner who has helped executives manage three to five year strategic planning initiatives, I find the idea of including suppliers and partners in such workshops and efforts to be absolutely invaluable. Whereas a decade ago it was in vogue to introduce a diverse set of internal stakeholders and brainpower into such efforts, it now makes perfect sense to include your critical supply chain partners as well. After all, those who plan for the future from internal silos thinking it will be "up and to the right" plus or minus 5% will be the ones truly left out in the cold given the pace of global change and the critical interplay of supply relationships with the rest of the business. Whether you like it or not, your most important suppliers can -- and should -- serve as an extension of your own planning efforts.

Jason Busch

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