Ever heard of maternal gatekeeping? It’s the term invented for that feeling that a mother tends to have: ‘no one can take care of my child the way I do’. The cliché goes that mothers are inclined to give babysitters five pages of instructions, while fathers would be okay with two or three bullet points. But I’m sure that men can act as maternal gatekeepers as much as women. I’ve seen that in my professional life in a supply chain planning department a few years ago. With master data representing the child I had to take care of.Let me explain that a little. In a supply chain organization, you would usually have a dedicated team in charge of creating and maintaining the master data. As a team, they take pride in what they do and they are keen to demonstrate the quality of their work. One way to do that would be to show how standardized their data is: ‘we have this under control, there are no outliers’. The master data is their baby, and no one knows better how to care for it than they do.
Now, is that always true? Here’s an example where the practice of giving tight instructions can backfire. Imagine a supplier of boxes who always delivers in 10 days. The planner knows it, the master data team knows it. One day, the product development team comes up with this new box which uses a different kind of cardboard. The supplier informs the planner that it will take a bit longer, up to 14 days. But as the master data team is not involved in the discussion, they routinely set up the new material with a 10-day lead time, the standard they had defined for this supplier. The planner would be instructed to adhere to the master data standard. Which in this case means that the cardboard would be late. Shucks!
Here’s another example: safety stocks for ingredients and semi-finished products are usually set up as standard values. But do we always have to be strict about these values? Planners with enough field experience know very well which suppliers need to be kept on a tight leash and which can be given some room for negotiation. In our planning department, I saw that trustworthy suppliers got more wiggle room when they needed it, because then they would be more likely to go the extra mile for us if we were in need.
Of course, data that doesn’t change often, such as a bill of materials, can best be guarded by the master data team so that setups are right the first time. But some data can change every day. In this case, it’s good to know that your planner will keep an eye on strange values. Planners see the impact of master data on their planning first hand. They are in a good position to make decisions that deviate from the standard.
The master data team can guide them in making those decisions by means of some bullet points stating the ground rules, for example about which customers are to be served first in the event of a conflict or which material is most critical. It is better to reserve the five pages of instructions for planners still building their experience. That’s my advice to master data teams: take care of your baby, but give yourself some slack and trust your babysitter too. Because the best way to get a terrible babysitter is to treat them poorly.
After building experience in master data and project management for seven years, An turned to technical writing. Her focus is on user manuals and training materials for the basics of the OMP Solution.