Improving behaviours in support of world class S&OP: Coach to Sustain


An S&OP implementation requires many changes, not the least behavioural change.  However, practitioners indicate that behaviours are not addressed enough in S&OP implementations. There are different behavioural change requirements during S&OP maturity stages.  In three posts, three coaching phases will be explained to support leaders with behavioural change in their S&OP journey. These are; Coach to change, coach to sustain and coach for excellence. In this post; coach to sustain.

Once you develop critical mass of senior leaders and other S&OP stakeholders who after the S&OP implementation support the process and behavioural principles, there is commitment to the process disciplines, meetings and data inputs and outputs. Basic S&OP behavioural principles like open communications, transparent data usage, public information sharing, conflict resolution, follow through on actions and cross functional cooperation will start to be common.

To further cement these behaviours and make the newly build S&OP foundation more sustainable, two other core elements of S&OP need to be developed. We need to coach to sustain and improve Trust and Communication.  My research shows that satisfaction on trust and communication increases slightly with S&OP experience. However, even with more than five years of S&OP experience, less than 50% of survey participant indicate they are satisfied with the levels of trust and communication. What follows are some tips to accelerate the improvement of trust and communication.


Improve Trust

Trust has been suggested as one of the most important predictors of positive organizational outcomes and is also linked to positively affect psychological well-being. Increased trust also improves and smooths the basic S&OP behaviours. In the article Corporate culture and S&OP: why culture counts, Trustworthiness is mentioned as a key cultural element to support S&OP by professor John Mello. Trust is the invisible gel that makes about anything work faster. In the ‘The Speed of Trust’, Stephen Covey shares many examples how speed goes up and costs go down when trust increases in a businesses.. It is also a major foundation in team effectiveness. As Patrick Lencioni shows nicely in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, without trust in teams, there is a fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance accountability and inattention to results.


These are all behaviours that undermine S&OP or any change effort for that matter. Building trust doesn’t happen overnight and there are many ways to improve trust, but here are some examples I used to build trust in a business.

Trust workshops: In one business I worked for, I facilitated trust workshops with the top 40 leaders. In these sessions we identified trust builders and trust roadblocks. Key themes were fed back to the MD and we followed up with actions to address the key themes in S&OP, team meetings and the general business. Find below the framework I developed to gather feedback during those workshops.


Get personal: a simple but great way to build trust is to get personal with your team and colleagues and start to get to know them privately. A great outcome of the trust workshops was that people started to understand each other’s business and personal issues better. This developed stronger, more trustful, relationships. Keep ‘getting personal’ in mind when organizing company off sites, business drinks, lunches or team efforts like working for a good cause.

Embrace Trust behaviours: Use the 13 behaviours from Covey that create trust (talk straight, demonstrate respect, create transparency, listen first, keep commitments, get better etc.). Select a few and start focusing on using them in your team and S&OP meetings. Provide each other feedback after S&OP meetings on these specific trust creating behaviours.

Increase Self-awareness: self-thought and perceptions have impact on how people deal with trust. Do they grant trust a colleague, or does a colleague has to earn it? How will trust be breached and how does an individual deal with that emotionally? This is where coaching and psychometric behavioural tool like Mental Toughness or Life Styles Inventory can support further. A good hard look in the mirror is also a good start!

Improve Communication

As John Kotter indicates in his 8 steps for successful change, ‘communicating the vision clearly and often’ is vital for change management. McKinsey puts communication in the top three impacts on successful business transformations and there is statistical evidence that poor communication is directly correlated to poor strategy execution and decreased profits. So, communication is important! S&OP participants indicate to me year over year in The S&OP Pulse Check that the main reason to implement S&OP is ‘to improve cross functional communication’. They also indicate that the main cultural change is ‘better understanding and communication between functions.’

Having an S&OP communication plan as part of a corporate communication plan, is a sign of S&OP maturity. With a S&OP communication plan, executives can inform, energize and re-focuses employees and call out for action to fill budget or strategy gaps. However, S&OP is first of all about improving horizontal communication and consensus between functions. To improve horizontal communication, we have to train and educate employees to give them a proper communication tool set. Furthermore, we can coach them to take away any individual obstacle that holds them back from communicating effectively. Here are some communication skills I learned and applied over the years.

Listening: often forgotten as part of communication. Active listening or listening with empathy as Covey writes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Mindful listening, which can be trained with meditation. Listen with the intention to be influenced and find a win-win opportunities.

Techniques: listening techniques like reflecting, clarification, summarizing, paraphrasing can be trained to improve communication.

Story telling: we often bore each other with left brain communication, based on facts, numbers and logic. Story telling activates the right brain and connects an audience on a deeper level. This improves engagement and your story will be remembered better.

Give and receive feedback: Providing constructive feedback is a gift, and shows that you care about the other person. Receiving feedback and take it as a learning, without the need to react, requires training for many. Start to use roundtable feedback from every senior leader after an executive S&OP.

Develop curiosity: Again tapping in to the right brain. Develop curiosity to seek to understand before being understood (again a habit from Covey) to develop a deep understanding of what the other wants and needs.

Body language: become conscious of your body language and learn to control it. Constructive body language engages the audience. Leaning in, eye contact, mindful and generous with a smile always wins from arms crossed, absent minded, staring down or laying back on your chair.


Coach for Excellence

With all the world’s workshops and training on trust and communication, many individuals will still find it hard to apply their learned skills. For example, an individual with a lack of confidence will find it harder to communicate across functions or provide feedback to a person. This person might also find it hard to display trust behaviours like talking straight and displaying transparency. Interpersonal confidence is an attribute of Mental Toughness and can be measured on individual and on team level. Like many personal traits, confidence can be improved and in this case could have a positive impact on trust and communication in support of S&OP.

These types of interventions requires advanced coaching techniques and coaching for self-excellence. Coaching on other personal traits and behaviours can help improve strengths or unlock hidden potential and helps an individual be the best version of themselves. The next post in this series, coaching for excellence.