Senior Management Support: What Is It and Why You Need It

- July 29, 2009 9:07 AM
Categories: Spend Management |

Recently Dan Gilmore, Editor-in-Chief of Supply Chain Digest, penned a piece, “What is Senior Management Support for Supply Chain Projects?” He noted that everyone says you need senior management support for a project to be successful, but no one really defines what it means. In fact, the phrase is used so gratuitously, in his opinion, to the point where it has become meaningless. He concludes that organizations need to define what senior management support really means.

In my experience, the consequences of not having senior management support are easy to predict. Here’s what I have seen that senior management support means and the consequences of not having it:

  • The most common and show-stopping consequence is little or no budget allocated to do a particular project or initiative. If senior management doesn’t truly support a particular initiative, they won’t give sufficient, if any, money to do it. This will lessen the chances of project success or else prevent it from going forward altogether.
  • When things go wrong or you run into trouble, senior management won’t run interference. If you go forward with a project or initiative that is unsupported, you’re on your own when: people won’t cooperate; people stonewall the implementation; people won’t use a new system or process.
  • Forget getting cooperation from other functions. Sure, you can implement within the four walls of your function. But who ever implemented a successful supply management project, or for that matter, any significant initiative, that way? Most initiatives with any impact require cross-functional cooperation. It is much harder to get that cooperation without the bosses of other functions being on board. Senior management can enable that support.
  • Senior management wants and requires their goals and objectives to be implemented. If a supply management initiative doesn’t support or clearly fit into senior management goals and objectives, then they might fail to meet those goals because in their minds they are focusing on unrelated activities. Members of senior management do not want to miss their goals or they will be in trouble.
  • Change from the bottom up might be a way to get started, then try to gain senior management support based on the success of a grass-roots initiative. This might work in politics, but it doesn’t translate very well to the business world. Bottoms-up initiatives are uphill battles. They are time-consuming, difficult and fraught with peril. Initiatives started this way may initially enjoy some success, but they are hard to sustain and expand.

Spend Matters readers may have other thoughts and experiences to relate on this subject. Ideally, senior management support means truly backing a project and the team that is implementing it. It may include: coaching the team, removing obstacles, championing the project, and doing everything possible to ensure successful results. How to get senior management support can be a challenge, one that I recently wrote about in relation to supplier performance management (SPM) initiatives here.

– Sherry Gordon

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