Inside Supply Management Magazine

‘Fail Quickly’ and Other High-Growth Strategies

June 14, 2018

Operating in a high-growth environment can require supply management organizations to think and approach the workplace and business a bit differently. For one, employment numbers can dramatically increase in a short amount of time.

During the “Sourcing Strategically in a High-Growth Environment” session at ISM2018 last month in Nashville, Tennessee, panelist Ann Libbey of Facebook said that she had joined the company as the strategic sourcing operations manager 11 months before, adding: “I’ve been there longer than nearly half of the employees — that’s how strong the growth has been.”

When having to scale a team quickly, it’s important to recruit workers “who are comfortable with change, are very flexible, and (consider) failure a common thing,” she said. “We use the phrase, ‘fail quickly,’ because you cannot be afraid to fail. You have to figure out how to learn from the failure.”

Libbey and fellow panelists Tim Jones, director of strategic sourcing at Google, and Neil Aronson, head of global strategic sourcing at Uber, offered their thoughts on the following supply management strategies when working in high-growth environments:

Engage with stakeholders. Procurement needs to have a “seat at the table” and help in decision-making. Sourcing professionals should take an advisory role — be proactive and strategic — and less reactionary. Demonstrate the value of working with procurement.

Understand the drivers. Cost is important, but speed can be even more so to stakeholders. Flexibility also can be key.

Use the 80/20 (Pareto) rule. Spend 80 percent of your time on the most important tasks (the 20 percent).

Analyze risk. Know your suppliers better. Know your suppliers’ supply chain. Consider all types of risk, including financial, reputational, supply base and environmental. Don’t wait for things to fail. Mitigate for the future.

Work with suppliers. Incentivize your suppliers to grow with you.