The holy grail

Supply chain management professionals have been searching for how their discipline adds strategic value for years. It’s similar to the quest for the ‘holy grail’ that will give the supply chain director a position on the board of directors or more status. Several recent meetings with Harm van Tongeren, Vice President Supply Chain Benelux at Unilever, have convinced me that – after my own lengthy quest – I’ve finally found it. “Supply chain management is an integral part of the business,” he states, firmly. “An enabler for sustainable business growth rather than mere support. I continually repeat that to my employees and other colleagues.”

By Martijn Lofvers, publishing director & chief editor

My quest reminds me of the film Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, in which Indy goes in search of the holy grail. Various pointers in Europe eventually lead him to the Jordanian temple where the holy grail – a cup that gives eternal life – lies. Indy has to choose between a large number of cups, one of which can save his fatally wounded father. Helped by the notes in his notebook, Indy succeeds in picking the correct one: a simple clay cup. Just like Indiana Jones, I’ve spent the past ten years collecting all kinds of pointers that connect the corporate strategy to supply chains. At long last I’ve managed to correctly put together all the existing puzzle pieces from various renowned academics, resulting in the Strategy Compass. The Strategy Mindmapping workshops that I’ve given at companies including Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo and Office Depot have confirmed to me that I’ve chosen the right model.

The next step is now for supply chain professionals and also the rest of their company to understand and apply the Strategy Compass together. Harm van Tongeren told me that he attends an annual session to agree on strategic projects with his supply chain colleagues at Unilever Benelux, in addition to his meetings with the management team. By using the Strategy Compass both with the management team and with employees, the supply chain director demonstrates the strategic value of the discipline once and for all. That’s the holy grail.