Supply chain briefings. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Supply chain briefings are a fantastic way of getting your whole supply chain engaged and excited about a new contract or framework. They can provide the potential for two-way constructive dialogue to take place and can add value for both suppliers and clients.

Or they can be a disaster, filled with self-promotion, leaving your suppliers feeling uninspired and a bit exhausted!

Having attended a number of briefings recently as Pick Everard has expanded and secured new large scale frameworks in the public and private sector, I have shared here some of my experiences; the good, the bad and the ugly. All clients remain anonymous of course. I’d love for you to share your experiences in the comments below!

The Good — Inspiring, engaging and thought-provoking

I believe a good supplier briefing should be inspiring. It should encourage the supply chain to feed back and contribute to the success of your contract / framework, and should allow enough time for suppliers to effectively digest briefings, contribute and interact with your team.

In recent months I attended a very good example of this, where a Contractor allocated half a day to their design supply chain launch, using inspiring and interesting examples from across their business and the wider industry to challenge our team to think differently and challenge perceptions. The event felt like it was set up to identify where the whole team could provide value to their end clients, and despite a large supply chain being in the room, many of whom are direct competitors, having positive leadership and a good pace to the event meant everyone came together and competitors very quickly became partners.

Find inspiration or alternative ways of getting your message across; we watched this video on the Backwards Brain Bicycle and then had a chance to try and ride the bike in real life. This drove home the concept of thinking differently and challenging what we had always considered to be the norm.

The Bad — Self-indulgence, procedure overload, one-way communication

If the good events are two-way and open, bad events generally fall into two categories; either self-indulgence from the client, where they talk about themselves for hours, or procedural overload, where processes, method of operation and rules are delivered via bland powerpoint slides. In both these cases, dialogue is generally one-way, with the awkward “any questions” call at the end of the presentation being met by silence and a look of relief from the presenter!

Addressing the first of these formats, there is a time and place for a bit of self-promotion. Your supply chain do want to hear about your drivers, vision and achievements, but you also need to consider what this means to your suppliers and how you can use the event to get them on-board and thinking like you. Also consider context; how do your achievements translate and impact on the contract at hand? Can you show a link between what your supply chain will be working on and the outcomes of your organisation or business?

I recognise procedures and processes are important, but often a short briefing will be an effective way of getting this over to your supply chain, supported by documents, guides or tools issued separately. Long, drawn out lectures which drive into the detail will turn off your audience, and will likely destroy any momentum or enthusiasm you may have built up through earlier parts of your event.

The Ugly — Under prepared, understaffed and unsupported

So what makes an ugly event? Perhaps ugly is a bit of an unfair title, but in my time heading up frameworks and major contracts I’ve encountered a couple of disaster events.

Consider your venue! I once attended a briefing on a hot summers day, in a building with no air conditioning, next to a major Crossrail construction site… at this venue:

Well… the venue was actually the first floor offices above that shop, but you get the idea. If you want your guests to pay attention you need to feed them, water them and make sure the venue is comfortable and sets the tone you want for your event.

I recognise that sometimes a physical event won’t work for your supply chain. Webinars are a viable alternative, but bear in mind:

  1. It’s very hard to get valuable feedback from webinars; technology is starting to make this a little easier but it’s still a challenge,
  2. Suppliers will be doing emails, chatting to colleagues or browsing Facebook whilst you’re talking; are you making your message stick?
  3. Remember to mute microphones. I’ve sat through two webinars where microphones weren’t muted, in one case it was a bid briefing where one supplier read out their entire win strategy over the call, and in the second a supplier spent half the call swearing about the incompetence of the client. Neither of these calls were effective in getting their message across.

So what can you learn from my experiences?

When you distill these experiences down, it’s clear that if you want a productive relationship with your supply chain, two-way dialogue and investing time in the staging and content within supplier briefings is vital.

Supplier briefings are as much about the message you give off through the event itself as they are the content in your slide deck.

Spend time planning, practicing and make them count!

Originally published at on July 5, 2017.

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