The Supply Chain Manager’s Daily Decathlon (part 4 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. We’ve already passed the halfway-mark through the decathlon, here goes the fourth part.

Decathlon – Game 7: “Dragons’ Den”

(Pitch a business idea to a panel of venture capitalists in order to secure investment finance from them. The winner is the one who achieves to sell and negotiate best and obtain the highest amount of money from the panel, while maintaining the highest possible stake in the own venture.)

It has already become clear in the previous games: Supply Chain decisions have in most cases also implications for other functional areas, sometimes even far reaching, for good or for (perceived) bad. So step 1 in the Supply Chain Manager’s stakeholder management is to be able to make your point, sell your ideas, get buy-in from an audience via short, lively and to-the-point presentations or talks. They should be able to verbalize and visualize well-founded argumentations in terms that the audience understands and likes, because if they don’t understand it, it is much less likely that they will accept it. What sounds better when you want to get attention? Saying that you will close 2 warehouses, reduce from 10 to 2 logistics partners and increase your inventory rotation from 8 to 10? Or saying that you will improve delivery reliability with 5%, shortening lead-times with 1 week and reduce costs with 2 million? Two different statements which could perfectly well be about the same project, but which sound completely different. Given the fact that in the audience in most cases will include some top-management or Board Members, it becomes evident that the Supply Chain Manager will have to be good at elevator pitching: get people interested in or even convinced of their point in less than a minute. And remember: haste, but don’t hurry!

Decathlon – Game 8: “Diplomacy®”

(A board-game in which each player has to win possession of a majority of strategic “supply centers” on the map, by making alliances with other players. The winner is the one who controls the highest number of supply centers.)

Apart from the technical difficulties involved, how complex is a typical SC project, like for example the pan-European centralization of warehousing and distribution from 15 current national solutions into one integrated solution with 3 regional DC’s and maximum 1 or 2 logistics & transport providers? Tell 13 country managers and their respective Business Development Managers that their country will go through an implementation which implies the end of their own local warehouse and saying goodbye to their long-time transportation partner; Explain to Corporate and National HR people, that this rationalization will have important staffing consequences, including relocating or even firing people; Ask the planning department to start redefining aggregate planning algorithms for the newly defined S&OP regions, and tell them to start preparing the stock build-up for the transition phase, etc. etc. Supply Chain, especially in the case of important changes, is many times a potential political battlefield, given the cross-functional nature of the areas it touches. In order to create a situation in which these changes can flourish, the Supply Chain Manager needs to have good skills for making “friends” and find ways to liaise directly or indirectly with potential “enemies”, in other words be very good at continuous dynamic stakeholder management. Stay sharp!

We’re getting closer and closer to the finish line, just one more good sponge full of water and we’re going for the last stretch. In the next post, we should be able to reach the finish line of 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