A good well-rounded Supply Chain Manager is always in high demand, but they are in scarce supply in my opinion! You just need to look around how many jobs are available with title of “Supply Chain Manager”.
I have worked as a Supply Chain Manager for 5 years in two entirely different businesses and in the process I have seen and worked with lot of Supply Chain Managers either as colleagues or Suppliers or sometime as Customers. There are several habits that many successful Supply Chain Managers have in common. Sometimes these habits form naturally, but they are more often than not the result of conscious effort. Here I discuss what effective Supply Chain Managers do to make themselves engaging, successful, and credible.
1. Effective Supply Chain Manager Deliver Results.
Let’s get the most important point straight, Supply Chain is all about results (of course when achieved ethically!) and when I say results, I mean numbers. All effective Supply Chain Managers must be able to deliver cost, quality, delivery and lead time goals. And this should come with day-to-day focus on metrics and KPI to work for them, rather than they work to make KPI look good!
Drive for results is about their personally drive for results to meet and exceed expectations, but also to have a passion for achievement as a team. While understanding that “How” accomplishments are achieved is as important as “What” is actually achieved.
2. They are Technically Competent
All Supply Chain Managers should strive to be technically competent. What I mean by this is they should have some degree of command in the 8 dimensions of Supply Chain Competencies. In most cases a typical Supply Chain Manager had started in one of the junior position and over the years while climbing the career ladder he or she has built those competencies. But it is not a surprise to me anymore that in some cases that is not a case. I have to work for a Non-Supply Chain leader (not mentioning function to keep it anonymous) who ended up being an operations head probably due to his/her leadership skills. But due to his/her lack of technical competency, it was very difficult to get convince or properly understood. Don’t be that person!
3. They Built Credibility
Effective Supply Chain Managers work towards building credibility over time. And they do it by being Consistent, showing Competence, Commitment and Concern of people as depicted in the picture below.
4. They Understand and Execute Strategy
Like all good managers, Supply Chain Managers should have strategic agility and business acumen to see the big picture to ensure alignment of their own team’s work with the business goals. They also need to ensure the team knows the right things to be working on (or not working on). They also recognize patterns within the current and possible future trends and internal /external customer requirements to create a compelling vision, establish strategies, communicate them effectively, and measure critical outcomes. Most importantly they make good decisions based upon analysis, experience, global and cultural factors, and judgment.
An effective Supply Chain Manager can anticipate future consequences and trends accurately. And have the ability to create competitive and breakthrough strategies and plans. Lastly, they understand the 4 Key Pillars of Supply Chain Strategy which keep them focused towards the execution.
5. They Develop Future Supply Chain Leaders
Effective Supply Chain Manager engages, develops and motivate others. They actively upgrade the organization through the infusion of top talent into one’s team—through both selection of new talent and the coaching and development of current talent, and addressing performance issues as needed. I’ve hired three fresh graduates 5 years ago, it was risk worth taking. Now all three of them are Supply Chain and Materials Managers in different businesses!
I have seen some of the managers try to hold information or let go talent to get hold of their job. I find this a defensive strategy, as I always believe
“Leaders create leaders not followers”
6. They Work Hard to Try New Things
Effective Supply Chain Manager try new things. They know what they want, and they are brave enough to take the steps to get there. This often means trying new things—things which they are often terrible at.
I would agree supply chain is not a definite body of knowledge like computer programming where knowledge becomes obsolete very fast, but it is always evolving. So they go out of their way to try new things. The very act of seeking new experiences also happens to be great for everyone’s mood, and people who are happy are productive and far more interesting to be around!
7. They Are Eager Learners.
They are relentless and versatile learners and mostly open to change. Effective Supply Chain Manager analyze both successes and failures as clues to improvement. They experiment to try and find solutions. They also enjoy the challenge of unfamiliar tasks to quickly grasp the essence and the underlying structure of anything.
This curiosity about the unknown leads to constant learning, fueled by an ever-burning desire to discover the unknown.
8. They are happy to show “Sharing is Caring”!
I have seen respectable Supply Chain Managers take responsibility for their own decisions, actions, and results; accept blame and share credit, whenever appropriate. They also enjoy learning and sharing those learning experiences with others. It helps them build rapport with peers and direct reports and also their Subject Matter Expert in some cases.
It might not always be easy to find or develop these habits quickly or all together, but that is exactly what makes the people who do something interesting—they go against the grain, and that undeniably requires a lot of effort to be effective. While they are effective habits of Supply Chain Manager from my perspective, they are not exhaustive. I am sure you have quite a few to add from your experience.
What other qualities are there of an effective Supply Chain Manager? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.