The Supply Chain Manager’s Daily Decathlon (part 3 of 6)

Given the diversity of the challenges in their job, Supply Chain Managers need to be versatile, multi-skilled people, chameleonic in a way. A bit like the decathlon athlete, (s)he needs to perform well on a lot of different disciplines, not necessarily the best at each, but good enough to have a good shot at becoming the overall number 1 in the tournament. Inspired by the concept of the “T-Shaped Supply Chain Manager”, as it has appeared in various publications and was further developed by Inspired-Search, I will in a short series of blogs discuss the main important aspects of the Supply Chain Manager’s peculiar modern-day 21st century Daily Decathlon, as well as some of the main implications for the company. Here goes the third part!

Decathlon – Game 5: “World of Warcraft®”

 

(A game in which complex quests have to be completed under high time pressure. The winner is the one who reaches the highest level within the given timeframe.)

Until now, in all of the games played so far, we have already seen a variety of situations, from high-level to very detailed, from long-term to urgent and operational. An important skill of the Supply Chain Manager should be to not panic under any of these circumstances, whatever the facts presented or the questions asked. Stay cool, even bluff a bit when necessary, but have well-founded confidence that things will work out. Because of the overall complexity, many Supply Chain issues have an element of ongoing discovery, so upfront planning has its limitations, which will inevitably create a certain amount of uncertainty that the manager will have to deal with. Supplier negotiations, internal cross-functional meetings, board-sessions, customer business reviews, walking the talk in front of the own staff, etc. etc. Stay cool!

Decathlon – Game 6: “High-hope Tightrope”

(A re-invent of the classical circus act, in which the objective is to reach the other side safely, fast and stylishly, while no safety-net is allowed. The winner is the one who reaches the highest score in a combination of speed and aesthetics.)

Supply Chain Managers have to be the kings and queens of trade-off management, great at balancing sometimes conflicting interests. We all know the examples: costs versus service; lead-time versus customization; variety versus efficiency; resilience versus low-cost; ambition level versus available resources; etc., etc. Successful Supply Chain Managers first of all have a certain kind of trade-off sensitivity, which helps them simply to have their trade-offs very clear. Secondly, they know how manage them within the organization, while keeping the different objectives reasonably aligned. And lastly, they are constantly pushing the limits, trying to “break” the rules of conventional trade-off wisdom: more service for the same costs, more variety at the same efficiency level, etc. Be careful, keep your balance!

We’ve already passed the halfway some time ago and again we’ve been handed out some refreshing sponges, a bit of cool water and some solid food to take us right to the finish. In the next post, we will continue our Supply Chain Manager’s Daily Decathlon.

To be continued here shortly.

Ed Weenk

Owner QuSL, Supply Chain Consulting, Training & Education, and lecturer on Logistics & Supply Chain Management at EADA Business School in Barcelona, Spain, which is ranked as one of the world’s TOP-100 business schools by prestigious rankings such as FT and Economist