Monday, 21 October 2013

Grad Learnings

Last year I was part of a graduate program with my company. It introduced us to the complexity of supply chain and also aimed to give us broader business exposure. This year I have been part of the organising committee for the current grads and it's been an awesome experience. Last week we held our last grad event for the year.

At 4:30 last Tuesday morning I dragged myself out of bed so that I could get started with lifts to the airport for two of my grad friends. When we got there the whole of OR Tambo carousel had broken down and everyone's bags were piling up at the check in counters. I felt sorry for the poor guys who had to fix that broken carousel - they would have been feeling the pressure even more than our guys do when one of our conveyors breaks down!

Anyway, we got to Durban in one piece. I would really like to give credit to ACSA and all the airlines - even though our bags didn't come with us on the plane, our details were noted down and they were delivered to our hotel later that morning.

For the first day, our grads had the morning to finalise their business case presentations that they had been working on for the last month or so. We then went to another venue where they presented solutions to current issues in our company to members from the senior leadership team. They did a lot better than our group last year - we were told to go back, re-think our presentations and do them again in two weeks. This year they were much better prepared - mainly due to the horror stories and threats that they had been told by myself and the other committee members. 

There were very good questions asked by the leadership team at the presentation. The learning that I took away with me this time was to take a look at how leaders can remove complexity from their business. How can you use current tools (or remove tools completely) in order to make your teams lives easier? Perhaps all the tools are there and it's the behaviour that isn't proper. How then can you change behaviour to make the best use of the tools that you have?

On the second day, we visited one of our packaging suppliers and it was awesome to see incredibly different technology at work in their factory. We learnt a bit about the difficulties experienced from their side of the business and of potential areas of improvement between both parties. That afternoon we took the grads back to head office where they were split into teams to do a negotiation role play between a supplier and customer. As most of our grads are engineers and had no clue about how to go about a negotiation, there was a huge amount that all of us (committee members included) learnt from participating and observing the negotiation prac.

What I took away from the prac is that maintaining the relationship and respect for the other party is incredibly important. It's also important to prepare - it was suggested to us that for every hour spent negotiating, you should prepare for 9 hours! You need to be willing to compromise on some things in order to gain advantages somewhere else. You also need to be strategic on the points that you negotiate on - it's very difficult to negotiate on labour and fixed costs. Rather pick things where for a seemingly insignificant decrease/increase you get a larger reward.

That night the committee had a close off event. All I'll say it that it was amazing. And all of us may or may not have felt tender for the whole of the next day...

We had a fear factor food race- split into 3 teams
and 3 different foods - I got the chicken feet as my dish...
Luckily there was some traditional Zulu beer to act as a
chaser afterwards! 
On the last day we had a visit to a factory that manufactures specific types of parts for the motor industry and it gave us a chance to see a different type of manufacturing and supply chain process. To end off the day we had a close off lunch with everyone, got feedback on the program and we gave out a few awards. We got such positive feedback from the grads this year and I hope that next year it's even better for them!

And to my fellow committee members - it's been such a pleasure and I'm going to miss all of you and my excuse to come and visit Durbs next year!

Grads bonding over a drumming session at the
close off event while committee wrapped up award nominations

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