Alignment in Cross-Functional and Cross-Firm Supply Chain Planning

by Santiago Kraiselburd & Noel Watson

Overview — Organizational behavior has become an increasingly important aspect of operations management. In this paper, alignment refers to an organization's sales and manufacturing groups working toward the same target for the sales of a particular product. What are the best conditions in supply chain planning for alignment across functions and across the firm? Kraiselburd and Watson push the frontier of theory with their use of mathematical modeling and game theory. They show that seemingly behavioral and psychological effects may still occur if both parties are rational profit maximizers in an economic sense. Key concepts include:

  • Alignment can be achieved even if incentives are misaligned. The communication structure often determines whether or not alignment occurs.
  • The key to alignment is less how each function is rewarded (i.e., transfer prices) but rather what each function knows about the other function's beliefs.
  • Any effort to increase knowledge of each other's perspective, especially the final perspective, will improve the changes of alignment even if there is no change in incentives.

Author Abstract

In this paper, we seek to use quantitative models to help appreciate the behavioral processes associated with successful cross-functional and cross-firm alignment in supply/demand planning. We model the interaction between a sales and a manufacturing function within a firm, or between an upstream and downstream firm. We claim that misalignment is costly both to the involved functions/firms and to the rest of the organization or supply chain, and focus the paper on studying the circumstances under which alignment will or will not happen. Using game theory, we find that, although misaligned economic incentives can play a role in explaining misalignment of planning behaviors, there is another important issue to consider: in our setting, the key factor that determines whether two functions or firms can align their planning is how much each party knows about the other's beliefs about demand. Thus, in this paper's setting, improved communication can induce alignment even if no economic incentives are changed. While consistent with the predominant view in organizational behavior (OB), this is a fundamental departure from the extant operations management (OM) literature.

Paper Information