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The Executive’s Role in S&OP: Management and Participation

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

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How many times have you heard: “The President your company has a critical role to play to the success of… insert project name here”? For any major change project that impacts culture, crosses departments, and/or requires significant resource, the business leader is typically highlighted as a critical resource. In S&OP, your role is different.

S&OP doesn’t just require your executive sponsorship – S&OP is YOUR process. You should expect the process to help you identify and arbitrate conflicts between sales and operations and have confidence that your team is able to move from strategic objectives to operational execution.

To achieve this, there are two aspects to your role: Management and Participation. Management encompasses how you enable your team to be successful in their roles. Participation includes the tasks or activities you have to perform as part of the monthly cycle.

Let’s look at your management role first. This includes:

  1. Having overall accountability for the S&OP process. As stated before, this is YOUR process. You are the only one that can take accountability for getting it in place. It needs to work for you.

  2. Providing resources to get the process in place. The key resource, especially starting out, is the S&OP coordinator. The coordinator needs to be organized, proactive, and able to bring the proper people to the table. Someone you can trust. In addition, consider outside expertise to provide the direction and experience to move your organization through this significant change.

  3. Holding your team accountable. Establish clear RACI and expect your team to deliver. In simple terms, sales need to be accountable for bringing in the orders and developing the booking plan, while operations have accountability for production performance and future plans. Be specific, expect answers, and expect a clear understanding of the risks going forward.

Secondly when it comes to the monthly S&OP participation, your role is to:

  1. Show up. It may sound blunt, but it is especially important early on as you build momentum in the process. It’s your meeting, so you need to be there. When working well, the Executive S&OP meeting will be your critical monthly management meeting; but you won’t get there if you don’t start by showing up.

  2. Review the S&OP plan(s) PRIOR to the Executive S&OP meeting. You should review each family plan and check that it makes sense. This may sound onerous, but by using a standardized presentation you should be able to run through this in half hour. This data will help you develop “the Story” for each family prior to the meeting. What your team presents should match this story.

  3. Settle the constrained shipment plan. The plan must balance between sales and operations. If they could not reach agreement in the pre-S&OP meeting, or if you feel their decision needs modification, be prepared to make that call.

  4. Be prepared to take action on the family plan. The Executive S&OP meeting shouldn’t be just a report out. Seldom will business be at an equilibrium; as you move from strategy to execution, major changes to resources may be required. This may include capital expenditures, manpower changes, significant changes to purchases, and changes to the targets for the inventory and backlog buffers. These decisions should be clearly presented, and you need to be prepared to make them.

  5. Be prepared to defend the plan to corporate. Sometimes the results don’t match what you’ve committed to, or the future may not look the same as previously planned. With a process that is working well, you will not only trust the plan, but you will have the details you need to backup changes to the plan.

As an executive, your role in S&OP is not only critical – it is essential. S&OP will only deliver outcomes and results if you both manage and participate fully. If your S&OP process isn’t meeting your expectations, start by looking in the mirror and asking yourself if you are filling your executive roles.


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At DBM Systems, our consultants have over 20 years of experience providing S&OP leadership to businesses worldwide. We equip teams with coaching and the tools needed to run an effective S&OP process. Learn about our process and unlock the power of S&OP in your organization.


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