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Managing Challenging Situations

Executive Summary

  • Supply chain leaders are taking a front role as saviours of bad situations 
  • Supply chain disruptions are now a frequent phenomenon in the business world. And navigating such challenges is also becoming an everyday task for supply chain managers.
  • Managing difficulties is an art. Stay calm, respectful, and professional, and you will get through it.

With supply chain issues being fairly prevalent recently, purchasing professionals have regularly mitigated supply shortages, delays, and price increases.

The impact may range from a minor inconvenience to a financial loss to complete project cancellation.

Whatever it is, remember to stay composed with the following steps.

Get a clear picture of the situation

Before you start panicking, you should fully understand the situation first.

Figure what will be the current impact on your project. 

  • Cost
  • Delay
  • Relationship


Make sure you have background info

  • Did the supplier drop the ball
  • Something happened further up the supply chain
  • Or something unpreventable (natural disaster, accident, etc.)


You can acquire this by:

  • Speaking to the supplier
  • Speaking to the supplier of the supplier
  • Talk to other experts in the industry to validate the information


Avoid the blame and finger-pointing for now, and stay calm and rational. 

The goal is to get a complete picture of the situation and to make an informed decision.

Some of this info may take more time to come to you. But you should have some preparation when you host the stakeholder.

Figure out your options

  • Is the backup provider ready to step up?
  • What would a switch cost? – in terms of time and cost
  • Are there any restrictions from the current contract?
  • What are the legal implications?

Breaking it to your stakeholders

Breaking the bad news to the team is an unfortunate part of the job. 

The good news is that the team will look to you as the leader to help them navigate this challenge. 

Try the following:

  • Inform the team as early as you can 
  • Be calm and be candid about the situation and the options
  • Certain information is still coming in while some options are being explored. Let everyone know that you are taking every action and making every effort. 
  • Emotions might run high but remember to stay calm, respectful, and professional. These instances are where your leadership skills shine.

Finding a resolution together

Never do this alone. Involve the stakeholders, present the options and reasons and recommendations and come to an agreement together. Providing a solution will ensure proper buy-ins.

Sometimes the resolution works out well and leads to no negative impact (cost & delay) on the final initiative. Other times, it comes down to choosing the least-worst option to minimize the pain. Either way, feel good that you are the one who helped lead the team through this challenge.