How many times have you been in a Pre-S&OP meeting that seems to drag on and tie up several high end people who are already overloaded? S&OP is a great and vital process, but sometimes parts of it can be unnecessarily time consuming. This can especially be the case when an organization is implementing S&OP and transitioning from familiar detailed executional level discussions to the product family, longer-term discussions we want in S&OP. Pre-S&OP can be the toughest meeting in the cycle because of the multiple functions and people involved. I once observed a meeting the company called S&OP that had no less than twenty people in the room while the leader conducted conference calls to multiple plants in sequence. The cost of the meeting had a lot of commas and zeros in it, not to mention the pain inflicted on some participants. Here are 5 suggestions to consider to make your Pre-S&OP better:
1. Don’t standardize the meeting – While you should standardize dates for all S&OP meetings way in advance, you don’t need to standardize the participants for Pre-S&OP. Aside from a small core group, only those participants who have plan or KPI exceptions to address really need to attend. The others may want to attend for informational purposes, but leave that up to them.
2. Allow groups to rotate in and out – Everyone doesn’t need to be present for everyone else’s material. It’s nice to share information and practices across business units, but don’t force a common meeting on your organization if they don’t want it. You can still run a standard process by rotating business units in an out. If you have inter-business unit matters to discuss, the prior point governs. Business units will still come together at the next level in Executive S&OP.
3. Confirm the plan virtually – No forward imbalances or deviations from budget that need to be resolved this month? I’ve not seen that too often, but celebrate your success (or luck!) when that happens. Don’t force a meeting when you don’t need one. Make sure KPIs are OK though before foregoing the face-to-face meeting.
4. Discuss an ad-hoc improvement topic – Members of the group will always be working on some improvement effort. If you don’t have a structured change program going on, their interface needs are likely being handled informally. Perhaps a 10 minute slot in the Pre-S&OP could be a good place for them to celebrate a success or build momentum for cross-functional support. Don’t solve those kind of issues in this meeting though, create an awareness, commitment to address, and take it off-line.
5. Invite a rotating executive to participate in the meeting – Having an occasional invited guest from the Executive S&OP will give this person more exposure to the process (perhaps education in some cases) and could generate more support at the next level and within the Pre-S&OP group. This person could also give an update of their area or other topic of interest. Another thought on this idea is if you have a topic you know is headed for Executive S&OP, having the relevant executive(s) at the Pre-S&OP for that part of the meeting not only gives them some background, but could accelerate the decision process. Just make sure they aren’t put on the spot in the meeting and their presence doesn’t impede any discussion. If this is the case, brief them off-line in the traditional manner.
While all of these aren’t intended to work in all organizations, some may fit yours. What are your thoughts, and have you tried anything to improve your Pre-S&OP? The Institute of Business Forecasting & Planning, IBF and I would enjoy hearing your comments below.
Eric J. Tinker