#BabaWhileYouWereAway: Conflict Resolution in Logistics

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June 10, 2014

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Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In another show of stellar behavior befitting our political leaders, the Nairobi County Assembly descended into chaos early last week, following what some considered inflammatory statements made by Leader of the Minority Abdi Guyo, making reference to opposition leader Raila Odinga (colloquially known as ‘Baba’ and welcomed home with  trending hashtag on Twitter) and the last election.  Following loud protests by CORD members, degenerating into an unfortunate commotion, the Speaker of the County Assembly dismissed an unapologetic Guyo from the sitting, prompting an angry walk out by members of the Jubilee party. Being objective parties in the matter, we hold no opinion on who was right or wrong in the situation. What we do have an opinion on, however, is what our fellow logistic managers can learn from this incident: conflict resolution.

For the supply chain industry, conflict resolution can take two major forms. The first is naturally internal conflict. Where one employee or department has an issue with another, escalating to where duties cannot be properly executed due to the dispute, it is upon the supply chain management in charge to find a resolution, both for the sake of the employees and the company. The other form of conflict can occur between the company and a client or customer. In this case, it is often that the customer has a problem with delivery of services and wishes to raise it with the service provider, here referring to you.

The most important thing you can do as a supply chain manager is to set up appropriate procedures for dealing with conflicts well in advance, before they ever arise.  A good logistics manager will ensure that systems have been put in place that are widely known and easily accessible to resolve the issue in the shortest time possible. A good way to do this is to designate persons who are able to mediate and help negotiations between the aggrieved parties. For internal conflicts, this can be designated to the human resources department, while customer complaints can be handled by setting up a customer service department.

The actual process of conflict resolution consists of key steps that are well applicable in the supply chain management industry. The first, most important and most often dismissed step is identifying the problem. By taking the time to hear out the aggrieved parties, and seeking clarification on their complaints, we can lay the foundation for effective conflict resolution.

Photo credit: bookboon.com

Photo credit: bookboon.com

After establishing the  agenda for conflict resolution – for instance, a customer whose parcel arrived damaged- we as supply chain management participants can move towards designing a solution. It is advisable to generate as many possible solutions here, with the assistance of the complainants. This ensures that all possible bases are covered as each party provides their ideal situation.

These are then tempered to tailor a mutually beneficial end strategy. An example in our industry would be where a customer who received a packaged damaged due to incorrect handling may want the company to replace the product or pay out its equivalent value. You as a business owner or manager will of course want to avoid such expenditures that would eat into your profit margin, and recommend instead providing an apology and free logistics services for a given frame of time to compensate. In the case of feuding employees, similar strategies can be used to achieve a win-win solution.

In the case of our esteemed County Representatives, the only solution to the irritation was to remove the parties from each other’s company, which is also a valid strategy where all else has failed. The ultimate strategy, however, would be to do your part to ensure conflicts do not begin in the first place, ensuring you stay well away from time-wasting strife. Wishing you all a peaceful week.


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