Ring, Ring, Has Bayer Reduced Forecast Error by Avoiding the Telephone Game Effect Through Better Communication?

I’m sure that all of us have played the Telephone Game at one time or another. One person starts a message that travels through several people and then we all have a good laugh over how much that message changed by the time it got to the last person. As funny as that can be in a game, think about the consequences if the information is critical in some way. Similarly we have all seen war movies where the captain of a ship issues an order, which is then verbally repeated by an officer, then by another sailor and so on until it gets to whoever does the actual action. Ever wondered why they go through this whole process of repeating when everyone standing on the bridge heard the captain’s original order?

There are two purposes to this; first and foremost it is to avoid the telephone effect. To ensure that the message is heard correctly before it is actioned. If it is repeated incorrectly then there is an immediate indication of a communications failure. The second purpose is to ensure that everyone else in the chain of command understood the order correctly. On a normal day that may not be a critical issue, but when the warship is in action it is very possible that any person in that chain of command could abruptly be the person in charge. That means that everyone needs to clearly understand what is happening and planned no matter what chaos is going on around them.

Obviously, forecasting is rarely a life and death type of situation (though it can be) but it is still critical that all communication be clear and understood. If the wrong information is used in the forecast process or the information is biased in some way by the process then the final result will not be everything it should be. (Think GIGO). The problem is that most people take communications for granted. They assume that everyone understood them or that they understood what they were being told and this is not always correct. If the information used to create the forecast, the S&OP process, the plan, whatever, is not understood and interpreted correctly then the results will be sub-optimal.

I am looking forward to the chance to meet with other IBF Best Practices Conference attendees and sharing thoughts on improved communications and why that is important to the forecasting community.

Ed White
Supply Chain Specialist
Bayer Canada Inc.

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