Tag Archives: purchasing teams

Why Supply Chain Skills Assessment Fails and Total Competency Assessment Succeeds


When reviewing the current state of purchasing and supply chain in organizations, I am amazed at the talent and the core skills that are lacking. In many cases the companies have segmented procurement and supply chain jobs in a finite way so that the individuals on the team only know their functional activities. Over time this functional focus results in many people showing a lack of curiosity or interest in their career. To reach business goals, organizations need a curious, motivated team with the functional skills as well as business acumen. Like reading skills, just because you can read all of the words doesn’t mean you can comprehend the meaning and understand the paragraph’s importance to the story.

In my experience, I’ve learned that true competency assessment requires a way to determine if individuals have the desired thinking, practices and behavioral skills the organization needs. These are hard to evaluate in a standard skillset gap analysis or personality profile. While standard competency assessments are great at determining functional skillset gaps and personality profiling and emotional quotients can help build a team that can work together, both fall short of determining how well a person is able to use those skills to develop actionable strategies based on knowledge, experience, process, rational competency, business acumen and execution capability.

Competent procurement and supply chain practitioners must have a natural curiosity, personal drive, interest in how the business works and an understanding of the end-to-end process that they are involved in as well as the technical skills for the role. If individuals are content in a limited, functional, tactical role without the understanding of the processes, business acumen, and relationship capabilities, it is likely they’ll not add value to the business in the long term.

When a business has launched a major initiative to transform procurement and supply chain, often the senior executive team is unwilling to invest time, money and energy in developing the team to reach the new desired levels of performance. While some people in the organization will not meet the new requirements, others will with minimal support and development. To determine who has potential, I recommend a conducting assessment centers. The assessment center process consists of a two-day evaluation of individuals and teams. It determines the presence and application of problem solving skills, technical knowledge, business knowledge, relationship building skills, initiative and influencing skills. Participants are giving a series of case studies that require solving custom designed business cases. This process is very successful in succession planning and identification of high potential employees.

Assessment centers provide a total competency profile, but for successful implementation of a program, organizations must build an action plan for the way forward. Without a development strategy, the value drain is significant over time and the potential of skilled individuals is under optimized.

Assessing competency is critical for any organization.

Does your organization rely on functional tests?

What have you done for them lately?

I worked with a food industry client whose team was dedicated, hard working, and focused on their mission to reduce costs and deliver value. It was extremely competitive industry and the media reported that competitors were doing poorly based on price increases on commodities and raw materials. When this client reported a 57% increase in profit with a 9% increase in sales for the quarter, it became obvious to all that the procurement team was driving the results.

When I had a conversation with the CEO about providing a reward and recognition for this hard working team, he was astonished that I would ask what he planned to do for the team. Admitting he’d not thought of holding an event to reward and recognize the entire team, he was willing to try. He decided to host a dinner at the city’s finest restaurant. He invited all of the purchasing employees and their significant others and arranged a limo pickup for each. The CEO provided a nice gift for both the employees and their guests and thanked the guests for their sacrifice for the company to achieve this milestone. Needless to say, this recognition was the talk of the company for a long time. The team continued to excel and later the CEO acknowledged that this low cost activity provided many benefits long after the event occurred.

When economic and business conditions deteriorate, many companies cut employee reward activities when they are needed most. Low cost events can pull the team together and focus them on a shared vision and mission. While most companies acknowledge teambuilding as a key to organization development, they fail to see how a reward event can drive:

• Goal alignment
• Interpersonal relationships
• Role clarification
• Improved problem solving skills
• Sense of purpose

I think every leader should budget and plan for team events globally. These do not need to be elaborate nor expensive to be effective. The ability to have fun, get to know others in a non-work/political setting, and build understanding and trust go a long way to improving team performance and team dynamics. Don’t wait for a formal meeting or strategy session to do some teambuilding, although that is what many firms do. With finding and retaining talent a challenge, don’t forget the importance of a feeling of belonging to a team and company.

Looking for ideas for team activities? Here’s a good list I read recently “5 Team Building Activities That Don’t Suck”, January 2, 2015 — Posted By Kim Tracy Prince. And, here’s a list of fun events I’ve seen:

1. Whirly Ball
2. Bocce ball
3. Paint Ball
4. Picnic in the parking lot on a work day
5. Bowling
6. Attend a sports event

Casey Stengel said: “Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ’em to play together is the hard part.”

What will you do for your team?