In our Expert Insights Series, we ask supply chain thought leaders to weigh in on key topics. This time, we talk about lessons learned.
The world of supply chain is constantly evolving, moving along an increasing need to drive faster, optimized, more sustainable, and more efficient practices across industries. The risks are ubiquitous, and the challenges persist, but the stories of supply chain transformation and success are ever so inspiring! With so much going on in our industry, including the availability of innovative technologies and processes, there has never been a more thrilling time to learn and grow in the field.
We believe aspiring supply chain professionals should seek out opportunities to learn from industry experts to gain a broad perspective on the industry and the challenges and opportunities it presents. Advice based on expertise can help young professionals become more strategic thinkers and leaders in their own right, as well as deliver valuable insights for personal development and greater success.
With this in mind, we tapped into a wealth of knowledge from supply chain experts and thought leaders and asked the question: What lesson learned from experience would you share with future leaders? Here are their thoughts:
“By far, the most important lesson that I've learned through trial and error is that there is a misunderstanding regarding the purpose of a supply chain. The purpose of a supply chain is to do one thing - enable growth. When viewed from this perspective, it becomes much easier to determine the tactics and strategy to design and implement the optimal supply chain.”
“For people out there working in supply chain and who are in the process of becoming our next generation leaders, I would like to share with them that the greatest thing they can learn is to be fueled and powered by "no's". Throughout your career and professional journey you might face people who doubt you or who don't believe you can or should make it and you will hear a lot of "no's". A great mentor of mine once told me that we have the power to choose not to be harmed by these "no's". When you finally make it, you'll look back and see that all that negativity and doubt did not stop you, but rather propelled you to arrive.”
“Someone once said - "follow the money". I will add follow the data. Understanding how cash and data moves throughout an organization is an absolute leg up in maturing your supply chain knowledge. We have four relatively new hires in Logistics, all within the first two years of the career, and my standing advice to them is to not think of yourself as a logistics or a supply chain person, but as a business person. And the best business people know how data and money moves in an organization.”
“Having worked for more than 25 years with supply chains that deliver everything from desserts and treats, electronics, to tires – I have learned that the same principles and approaches to supply chain carry across industries, products, and channels. Supply Chain constantly offers new and unique challenges, which requires different strategies and tactics, even within the same company!
To be successful you need to continuously learn and be open to new ideas and strategies. For me, one of the most valuable means of learning has been getting to work with many different people. This constant exposure to great minds and ideas has allowed me to develop a deep and broad set of supply chain knowledge by listening and being challenged.”
“Adaptability. By far, the last few years have taught us that complexity and unpredictability is here to stay. Therefore, I think the future leader needs to be agile, keep calm and cool under pressure and adapt to any circumstance.”
“The first is that procurement and supply management is like rugby on many accounts: constant adaptation to the game and circumstances; coordination and collaboration win the day; even when the ball is dropped you can pick it up and carry it to the posts.
The second: have a plan for when there is no plan! One can’t be ready for everything, however you should know what to do, and who to involve, when the map is blank.”
“Don't try to solve every problem alone. Surround yourself with smart, inspiring people and discuss your challenges openly with them. A regular exchange at eye level will help both sides. You can discuss anything from ‘how many pallets should I order’ to ‘how can we reorganize our teams to increase productivity’.”
“The cheat sheet to be a successful supply chain leader is the #CHAIN model from our Source To Sold book. And if I am to highlight further one in particular, it is the N in the CHAIN model. N stands for narrative - so my sharing to future supply chain leaders is work on your presentation skills. Learn to narrate a vision in a way the business understands - and buys into it. That is key to get support. Your agenda across. And make a top career.”
“Build a flexible and agile organization, set goals for you and your team, and continuously improve over time.
Establish tools and procedures to improve visibility and identify supply chain issues once (or before) they occur.
Keep good relationships and frequent communication with your teams, management, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
Manage potential risks, prepare game plans for each scenario to quickly address supply chain issues, efficiently.
Add value to your business partners and help them expand the business using your unique capabilities.
Surround yourself with a good team and HAVE FUN!”
“Learn to speak the language of every department. Understand what matters to other teams, what motivates them, and translate your own requirements accordingly.”
“Be prepared for unexpected changes and have the ability to think outside of the box when solving problems.”