How to Deploy Agile into Daily Operations to Get More Done

3/10/21

Author: William Crane, CEO of IndustryStar

Supply chain professionals are notoriously heavy users of work overload jargon like firefighting, swamped, and buried, but do we have to be?

Do we have to struggle as a profession to work harder and longer hours? The answer is a resounding no. We can get more flow into our days.

This change will require more than an adjustment in vocabulary. It will require us to change the way we organize, manage, and execute a portion of our work. We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. After all, that is the definition of insanity. If we are to take back control of our day, we need to work differently.

Why We Feel Overworked


Much of the manufacturing sector’s management practices can be traced to the military command and control industrial complex. Yes, there have been refinements from rigid mass production systems to slightly less rigid Lean systems that empower teams to process work only when needed. However, Lean management systems are structured to only address standardized work.


If you were to root cause the last ten fires you put out, you will likely find the tasks involved nonstandard work. These non-reoccurring unique tasks slow down our workflow. Tasks from following up on semiconductor part supply shortages to brainstorming ideas to compress a new vehicle production launch.


This nonlinear work is managed by our team in a wide range of nonstandard methods from storing tasks in our heads, which causes headaches, to writing tasks down on paper, which hinders collaboration. The result is siloed information that stresses teams and leads to wildly unpredictable results.


Right Tool for The Job

Simply put, we do not have a standard process or system to manage our nonstandard daily supply chain work. The Agile management system was built to manage nonstandard work; it is thus the right tool for the job. The application of Agile to address nonstandard work allows us to capture and better manage daily tasks to improve our personal and team productivity.


5 Phase Deployment Plan to Inject Agile into Your Daily Supply Chain Operations.

  1. Form Agile Team

Most successful initiatives include Executive Sponsors. Agile deployments are no different. Leaders should seek to actively support Agile deployments and assign a Champion to facilitate project management, and training. Agile concepts are not difficult to grasp but require a mindset shift and discipline to change the way teams work. Outlining a project charter, timeline, and project team will best position your team to realize early results and sustain success over time.


  1. Define Initiative Scope

Determining what is in scope is as important as what is out of scope. Companies with large global supply chain organizations, such as Automotive Tier I suppliers, should focus on targeted deployments. Select a supply chain subfunction, such as purchasing or processes, such as new program launches. As a tip, focus on a team or process within the company that has bandwidth challenges or unique tasks. Freeing up time and alleviating work stresses offer opportunities to accelerate team buy-in.


  1. Determine Task Metrics

One unique benefit of Agile is the assignment of effort to tasks which enables more granular workload management. The definition of effort can range from point-based, difficulty to complete the task, to time-based, hours required to complete the task. Point or time methods both work great. Notably, your preference of method could inform your software system selection, but some systems allow you to track both points and time. Second, the task priority and associated levels, typically 1-6 levels from critical to very low is another metric that can allow for better workload visibility.


  1. Setup Sprint Windows

A sprint is a time-boxed period, typically two weeks, from which a manager scores and assigns tasks to team members. It is important that the number of tasks assigned to an individual can be completed within the sprint. As the application of Agile in the supply chain is to better manage nonstandard work, allocate time each sprint to address “unknown tasks.” The assignment of due dates to known and unknown tasks is another required adjustment that allows the system to track all nonstandard work.


  1. Link Progress Status

Supply chain professionals spend a disproportionate amount of time updating colleagues on the status of tasks. These emails, calls, and meetings, while important, consume valuable time. Adding a task status to your Agile system, typically 1-6 levels that range from in progress to on hold, will reduce the work required to provide task status updates. Instead, team members can self-service by checking system statuses and prioritizing critical tasks that are past their due date.


Unlocking New Performance Gear

Deploying Agile as a management system within the supply chain to better organize day-to-day nonstandard tasks offers to unlock a productivity boom. The simple matter is that our supply chain workload is exponentially growing as companies strive to shorten new product introductions and navigate major technological shifts. Today, more than ever, there are ten things to do and time for two. Thus, we need to seek ways to prioritize what matters most, collaborate more efficiently, and empower teams to get more done. Here’s to getting more done!


As a supply chain professional, what trends are most likely to impact your company over the long term and how are you planning for them? Send us your thoughts at arollins@apicsdet.org. We'd love to hear from you and possibly feature your company in one of our upcoming blogs!

About the Author

William Crane, CEO of IndustryStar, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based supply chain software and services technology company that empowers leaders with greater supply chain agility and company profitability. William is a trusted advisor in supply chain with demonstrated results starting, launching, and enhancing procurement, supplier quality, materials, logistics, and manufacturing organizations.

His work has appeared frequently in the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), Institute for Supply Management (ISM), Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Sourcing Industry Group (SIG), among others. William’s passion for bringing technologies to market that have a positive impact on the world can be found via his blog Supply Chain for Tomorrow’s Technology.

William is also Host of the Supply Chain Innovation podcast where he interviews top industry change-makers to uncover strategies, tactics, and tools to expedite, optimize, and de-risk supply chain operations.

Author Contact Information: William Crane ; E: william.crane@industrystar.com; M: 248 404 824

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