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How do you go about understanding the problems faced by your suppliers and customers?
You could hold meetings and talk through issues. You could visit. Or you could go and work for them.
Sounds a bit like overkill? Perhaps, but that is exactly what Tesco and Coca Cola Enterprises have been doing.
They organised a 12 month job swap for two of their rising stars: Samantha White from CCE and Mark Honey from Tesco.
“We wanted to do something radically different that would give us greater insight and have a lasting impact on the way we work as a team and with our suppliers,” says Tony Mitchell, Tesco’s supply chain director.
“The opportunity to trade roles for a year was one the team embraced and during the placement both Mark and Samantha completely immersed themselves in their new roles and the host company’s culture.”
The result is described an “unqualified success” by CCE’s customer logistics director Wendy Manning.
“We have been able to embrace a business relationship that is much more than skin deep; it’s open, it’s honest, and it’s more intimate. We now have people in our teams who have direct experience of one another’s challenges which will continue to make a huge difference to the mutual understanding between us and how we work together in the future.”
The job swap clearly impressed ECR Europe. It has just chosen the project as the winner of its first ever award for the best collaborative project.
This “extreme” collaboration has clearly worked for Tesco and CCE, but I suspect the notion will cause extreme apprehension in some quarters.
Nevertheless, it’s an idea worth exploring. There are tangible benefits from such an approach.

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