Dual accountability between a buyer and its strategic suppliers, through tools such as a Two-Way Scorecard, is a new and tangible approach to improving supply chain relationships.
Ask any executive to describe how their company interacts with others in their supply chain, and it isn’t long before words such as “marriage,” “partnership” or “relationship” come up. However, if there is one truism at all about relationships today, it is that of constant communication. Yet in some of the most “strategic” supplier relationships, this simple concept is almost never deployed. The literature on supply chain management offers a range of metrics for suppliers, including “hard” metrics such as cost and quality and “soft” metrics such as service and innovation and the need for sophisticated models to evaluate supplier performance. But where is the discussion of holding the buyer company accountable for its end of the bargain? In very few cases do buyers adhere to supply chain metrics for themselves. Nonetheless, buyers have as much influence as suppliers on the success or failure of a supply chain relationship. Some companies are addressing this notion with mechanisms that emphasize dual accountability. Dual accountability requires a fundamental shift in the psychology of buyer-supplier relationships. Not only is tangible accountability demanded from both partners, but suppliers and buyers also must show greater communication, openness and trust.
The article explores the genesis of the dual accountability concept, outlines the benefits — which range from decreased risk to improved reputation to lower total cost — and illustrates how dual accountability can be profitably applied by suppliers and buyers working together. One means of achieving dual accountability is the Two-Way Scorecard, a performance tool that measures supplier and buyer results across a balanced set of categories and, within those categories, tailors metrics for each party. As such, it is a concrete means of embedding cooperation in the supplier-buyer relationship. Experiences with implementation of the Two-Way Scorecard and other methods of dual accountability are discussed for Johnson & Johnson Group of Consumer Companies and other corporations. The article offers keys to implementation of dual accountability and discusses the crucial role of technology.