Back to the Future: what does your team need in 2020?
I was speaking to an old friend about how the development of procurement teams has changed in the past 5 years. I found the conversation interesting and inspiring as he and I challenged the wisdom of traditional programs. No longer can companies be satisfied with traditional programs focusing on tactical and strategic functional skills. In recent years much has been accomplished in both the Procurement and Supply Chain profession; costs have been reduced, inventories optimized, logistics closely managed and there’s a renewed focus on supply chain alignment and integration. Lifecycles are shorter causing velocity and flexibility to be key drivers of supply chain and procurement success. So what type of skills development do our teams need now?
As we look to the next five years, we will need to design development programs that are enable companies to extract value, get innovation, improve speed to market and gain supplier to customer alignment across the entire supply chain. This will involve business integration, transparency and relationships that go far beyond what we have today. Once these new skills are embedded, synergy and interdependence will drive the supplier/customer interactions as we quickly respond to customer and market demands.
Since competency assessment models are being developed for the skill sets needed for today’s supply chain professionals, they will be inadequate as the supply chain continues to evolve unless future skills are included. Standard training programs where everyone goes through fixed, common training modules and development programs designed for functional competence will not accomplish what organizations need. It is essential that learning and development professionals and providers realign programs to move from a functional orientation to a business and relational skill-based approach.
It is true that procurement and supply chain teams still need technical and commercial skills. In fact, a few hours ago a Bloomberg news story got my attention that commodities are crashing like it’s 2008 again. To be competitive in the next five years, especially when faced with situations like commodity fluctuations wreaking havoc on your financial supply chain, these core skills must also be developed:
Organizations have changed from the command and control management model to a matrix organization structure. The interaction between business units, conflicting priorities, business drivers, budget holders and stakeholders has driven the need to develop our teams in influencing skills. The new opportunity to tailor processes, develop high-performing business teams and deliver increased levels of value depend on our ability to influence others.
2) Leadership Skills
The supply chain and procurement teams have a big role in the value contribution to their respective businesses. It is essential that we identify the right people in our organizations through succession planning, then provide leadership rotational programs, development programs and interesting projects to prepare them for their eventual role as company leaders. Companies need multi-generational leadership, combining experience and new digital thinking, for optimal results.
3) Relationship skills
It’s often difficult to understand that relationship skills are not innate. To ensure competitiveness, value extraction, alignment and trust across the supply chain, it would be wise to develop our teams in strategic relationship skills. The ability to be analytical, trustworthy, create options and operate with a principled approach is a learned skill. People operating in a tactical mode will no longer fit as the profession evolves. Since face to face communication is becoming antiquated in a fast paced environment where e-mail and text messaging becomes more the norm, written and verbal skills are more important than any other time in the history of the profession. Both internal and external company relationships will determine whether company goals are met or not.
While we are bringing in talent when we find it, it is essential to continually assimilate new employees with the company mission, vision, processes and culture. These development programs require orientation and integration of new employees so they can quickly integrate and use their talent, thus making contributions as soon as possible.
Developing supply chain and procurement professionals for the future is not business as usual. Much attention must be given to the soft skills of business when there are dramatic shifts in supply chain. Learning will continue to be an ongoing process as we advance with our technology, industry consolidation and innovation.
I am glad that my old friend asked me to provide one nugget of my learning and development philosophy. It made me think hard about moving to the future now. I am invigorated to provide the tools of the future now!
What skills are you developing?