Giving people room to make mistakes and make their own decisions is crucial to becoming a more agile function, according to Nina Bomberg, global lead buyer at SEG Automotive.
Speaking at the CIPS UK Conference, Bomberg said the components supplier is having to learn to take advantage of agility, following its transition to an independent company from Bosch two years ago.
“We come from a very, very big company with a massive procedural landscape to follow. We're much smaller now so we have to become more agile. Everybody understands that we need to because agility is a big benefit, but we're still struggling to play that advantage.”
Agile working allows functions to operate more flexibly. In procurement, this could mean stepping away from strict procedures in order to boost speed and efficiency in buying.
Bomberg said moving to a more agile way of working required a change in mindset from every single person within the business. While the firm has been able to employ new people to facilitate change, it was also important to take existing employees on the journey.
“We have to understand in the past, people were not empowered to make decisions on their own. There was a process for everything and the process rulebook was supposed to be followed. Now suddenly we're expecting people who have worked in that way for 25 years to go and make their own decisions and think outside of the box.
“We need to guide them along the way and show them it's okay to make these decisions. It also means providing encouragement and security to show them it’s okay to fail. 'Failing fast' is something that is new to our company.”
Bomberg said a lot of the work is around showing people it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them as the business strives to become more agile.
“It happens. We don't appreciate it, but that's life and we have to find a way to deal with these mistakes. We need to be able to classify these mistakes as avoidable and unavoidable. You can learn from them and in the future, you’ll deal with them differently.”
While agility is often about compromise, one area the business cannot afford to make concessions is speed over quality, said Bomberg.
“Taking risks is not our second nature. It’s not even our third nature to be honest. We’re coming to terms with the fact that there are things that we have to speed up where we can. We see Chinese automakers and US companies like Tesla are able to respond a lot faster, and still meet their quality thresholds. I think that's where we have to learn where we can compromise, without losing on quality because, in cars and safety, that's not a step we're willing to take.”
During a panel discussion on agile supply chains and procurement, Katja Lehmann-Rogers, group head of property, operations and corporate procurement at sports betting and gambling company GVC Group, said a tech-focused business with a constantly changing market could prioritise speed.
“We have a completely digital supply chain, which is based around three pillars. The product, which is what people see so there could be pictures, games, content. There's the platform to deliver the product and then the infrastructure underpinning that,” she said.
“In terms of what agility means for us and for that supply chain, agility is part of our fabric. Our market constantly changes. There is a constant rate of growth and a constant race to attract new customers. We have to be agile, in order to be able to react to that demand.”
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