skip to Main Content

3 Questions to Ask as you Prepare for an S&OP meeting


Have you ever figured out a problem on your own, just by asking yourself the right questions? Have you ever had that boss or mentor that guides you on the right path by asking questions rather than just giving you answers? What can we learn by asking ourselves or our peers the right questions?

In my experience, the S&OP meeting and entire process can be quickly undermined by only a few obstacles. These obstacles are largely related to a general misunderstanding of the S&OP meeting and process, its purpose, and in turn, a lack of alignment. To address these, I have found that there are three universal questions a demand planner or the persons responsible for preparing for an S&OP meeting should ask and in turn answer during their preparation. These will help increase the likelihood of success by aligning the executive team with what we call the 3 golden rules of S&OP which we will cover in depth in a future blog post.

The questions are:

  1. How do I ensure executive buy-in?
  2. Do the participants in the meeting know where we want to go?
  3. How do we know what we are doing is helping us get to where we want to go?


What follows is a series of rapid-fire questions to help get your tactical juices flowing to get you and your executive team on the right path.

Question 1: How do I ensure executive buy in, in advance of the S&OP meeting and process?

Have you taken a sales approach to engage your executives process? If your executive team was asked what sales and operations planning was and how their position ties in would they know? Do they understand the value of the process? Has any training taken place with the stakeholders to help them understand the overall process and their role?

Do I understand the personalities of the executives? Can I tailor the S&OP meeting to appeal to them? Have I  met with the executives individually before the S&OP meeting to prep them? Is the process consistent and run on a time-bound cycle? If I were the executive, would I believe the process adds value? Are the meetings too long or lose focus?

The Big Question: If I was the CEO or a member of the executive team, what will grab and hold my attention?

The above questions help the process conform to S&OP Golden Rule Number 1: The S&OP meeting and process requires top-down executive engagement and understanding in order to be successful.

Question 2: Do we know where we want to go?

What is the companies short and long terms goal or goals? Is exponential growth in the future? If so, Are we prepared? What routes should be taken to get there? Who will ensure the right strategy is implemented?  Has the right research been done? Do we have the right people? Do we know the risk that must be taken? Have we evaluated the cost to get there? If we are planning for growth are we prepared for it? Are we going to enter new markets? Are we going to leave old markets? Do we have the resources and tools in place for the future? Do our people know how to use the tools? Do we have our processes aligned with our strategy? Are these goals an explicit part of the S&OP meeting?

The Big Question: Do we all know and agree on the definition of where we want to be in one year? Five years? Ten years?

The above questions help the process conform to S&OP Rule Number 2: The S&OP meeting and process must have have clearly defined and universally accepted short and long term goals and objectives to help align all facets of the company.

Question 3: How do we know what we are doing is helping us get to where we want to go?

Do we track performance? Are the metrics we track the right metrics? Do our metrics provide meaningful information and help tell a story and lead to a goal? Did we set targets for our metrics? Can we easily trouble shoot and find a root cause for the unfavorable metrics? Do we trust the integrity of the metrics? Is their consensus on their definitions and methods of calculation? Does the management team and their associated reporting department follow their assigned metrics? Do we have metrics that require cross-functional collaboration to meet the goal?

The Big Question: Collectively, do the metrics provide confidence that the company is on the right path toward achieving it's long and short term goals?

The above questions help the process conform to S&OP Rule Number 3: The S&OP meeting and process must be numbers driven in order to track progress and continually improve. Remember the old management adage "People respect what you inspect."

Related Articles

The Difference Between S&OP and Budgeting & Why It Matters

The easiest analogy to understand the difference between sales and operations planning and budgeting is to think of your business as a football game. Before the start of a game, the coaches will devise a plan, comprised of various plays, [...]


In the previous article we talked about the essential requirements for people and processes to ensure successful S&OP. In this second part, we will talk about the initial business decisions that must take place before the implementation process begins.

Why All CEOs Must Embrace S&OP

According to Merriam-Webster, “The English word chaos is borrowed from the Greek word that means ‘abyss.’ In ancient Greece, Chaos was originally thought of as the abyss or emptiness that existed before things came into being.” When chaos rules over everyday business operations, it [...]

Best of the Best Conference Highlights: S&OP Maturity Brings Balance

Sales and operational planning (S&OP) is not a new concept. Organizations have been relying on this discipline for decades to balance forecasting, supply/demand planning, and operational delivery. What is happening now is people, processes, and tools have matured—and some are [...]

S&OP Kick Off Guide

The purpose of this article is to make clear the essential requirements for sustainable S&OP process implementation. S&OP implementation has a high failure rate, with most initiatives not actually delivering any value and doing nothing to improve the balance between demand and supply. Using [...]

From Excel Spreadsheets to Robust Cloud S&OP Software: Why CFOs Are Trading Up

You can almost hear a group of employees saying it: “But that’s the way we’ve always done things!” It’s the legacy thinking siren song, but spend any time at all doing a gap analysis on S&OP processes and you’ll see [...]

Are You Having Chewy Conversations?

The demand consensus meeting is one of the most important steps in sales and operations planning (S&OP), with the resultant demand plan serving as a critical input for all other S&OP process meetings. Without a demand plan as a starting [...]

The Huge Benefit Of Dollarizing Your Forecast Accuracy

Imagine you’re in the middle of the monthly S&OP meeting, and you’ve come to the point on the agenda that says: “review forecast accuracy KPIs”. You can already feel the Salespeople zoning out because they don’t have a clue what you’re about to [...]

How to Build a Strategic Capability in S&OP

There’s a huge amount of information on the deployment of S&OP – at the last count there were around 40 million hits on a combined search of S&OP and IBP. Despite all this information and the many years of cross-industry experience of applying S&OP since [...]

K.I.S.S. Your Complicated S&OP Goodbye

Is your S&OP process too complicated? If so it’s time to KISS that headache good-bye. A sales and operations planning (S&OP) process should simplify and streamline the company, not add additional complications. If this is not your reality, it’s time [...]
Subscribe to our Blog
Back To Top