How to become Highly Effective Supply chain manager :
25 Practical Career hacks
An effective supply chain manager needs to have good business and consumer understanding, end to end supply chain visibility and able to build an engaged team. This Article shares 25 practical career hacks in Strategy, Leadership, performance management, Operations and people to become highly effective supply chain manager and achieve organization goals.
1.Business and consumer Orientation :
To be an effective supply chain manager , understand the needs of business and consumer to service them. Supply chain enable the business growth. Be passionate to deliver value to the consumer.
2. End to end :
Keep End to end Mindset while taking decisions for entire value chain. Decisions considering only one or few legs of supply chain will lead to suboptimal solution.
3. Inputs from senior management:
Taking Inputs of senior stakeholders and aligning them on key decisions is important to gain from their experience and perspective. Seek their support regularly to achieve organization objectives.
4. Connect people to mission of organization :
Organization vision, mission and yearly goals need to be clearly communicated to team and how their contributions are important for the organization to be explained by effective supply chain manager
If Employees are able to understand the big picture, they will be motivated to achieve the goals. Goals need to be stretched to expand people capabilities and provide them sense of achievement and satisfaction.
5. Provide Clear, Right and Long term direction to become effective supply chain manager :
An effective supply chain manager need to provide direction at every step. It will take effort and time to convince stakeholders on long term right direction because some of they may be looking for short term benefits
6. Show Courage and Lead by example :
Personally demonstrate the values and principles that you want others to follow. Teams don’t follow what is being told but they follow what they see themselves being in practice.
Courage is evolving as most important leadership trait in crisis and is required to be effective supply chain manager. Covid-19 pandemic has tested the courage of leaders in full measure
7. Guide and Support in crisis:
An effective supply chain manager does not leave team on their own during the crisis. Rather they get involved fully, provide direction and support with information, resources and timely decisions. Stay calm under pressure. Don’t show it even if you are stressful
8. Be fair and honest:
People can see through dishonesty. Taking actions in the right direction and being fair to them and ensuring transparency builds trust. Don’t keep favourites and don’t spend lot of time with very few people. Treat all at par to build teamwork and become an effective supply chain manager
9. Be Available:
Be available and approachable for stakeholders physically, on phone and emails for any required help .
10. Take decisions and don’t procrastinate tasks :
An effective Supply chain manger need to take tough decisions and provide clarity on execution. Poor decisions or avoiding them altogether can bring down team morale and their efforts drastically.
Take immediate actions to close the issues. Don’t keep things hanging. It will lead to long pending buildup of issues which will increase stress and mental pressure
c. Performance management
11. Measure performance to drive improvement :
Measuring performance is important to understand where supply chain is doing well and not doing well. Root cause analysis to be done in concern areas to identify the problem and brainstorm to arrive at solutions. It is must to become effective supply chain manager
12. Be Analytical and Logical :
Data and information need to be collected to get the real picture. Trends and analysis of information is required to make the right decisions. Effective supply chain manager needs to be logical in his approach and relate cause and effect to each situation and your decisions. Every step and action should have a sound reason behind it and take time out to explain it to people.
Decisions should be taken on basis facts and assumptions to be thoroughly verified. Right decisions can be taken basis accurate and correct information only. Real information and insights are discovered in detail. It is important to dig the data deep and arrive at right conclusion. Detailing provides thought clarity and clear knowledge of concepts and basics. New ideas generate innovation for breakthrough Supply Chain.
13. Challenge status quo for improvement :
Effective supply chain manager use data driven insights to challenge the status quo and drive improvement. Question the existing practices and the reason why they are being followed. Is it because of history or there is logical reason behind the current practice?. Simply asking why question will open lot of opportunities
14. Conduct regular reviews :
Many new initiatives die mid-way because of absence of regular reviews. An effective supply chain manager needs to review regularly to sustain the new initiatives. It also provides opportunity to so called silent performers to showcase their performance. Daily review is important for regular updates, problem solving and team collaboration. Entire team gets updated on the function progress and are aligned on the same page
c. Operations and Execution:
15. Get involved:
An effective supply chain manager understands that knowing the work and getting involved is paramount to understand the operations and take the right decisions. Real knowledge can be gained when one makes efforts and undergoes pain to understand the things at ground level.
Without getting involved, things may slip over a period of time and work will not be done in the right way. Keep the mind open, reflect and organize the learnings to build the required experience
16. Problem solving :
Problem solving is essential part of supply chain function and problems exist to be solved. Lot of issues and challenge are faced on daily basis which needs to be addressed and resolved by taking immediate actions. Use innovative ideas to solve problems permanently
17. Action orientation and Hands on :
An Effective supply chain manager needs to get started and be action oriented. If you keep on making the efforts, you will find the way. Do it now what can be done today. Finish the tasks as fast as possible. Be hands on as facts are found on the shop floor. Real and lasting improvements are made and sustained on the ground
18. Follow up :
People needs to be followed up to get things done not because they don’t want to do their work but because their priorities got changed. Important tasks may skip their mind due to other urgencies or they need further support to complete them. Follow up is the key for closing the actions. It is not an option but a necessity
e. People Management
19. Care for people :
People need to feel secure to give their best. They should know that they are safe and allowed to focus fully on their jobs. Know people, their background and interest to connect with them. It will also help to understand the areas in which they can contribute which may be hidden till now
Assess people and provide appreciation and recognition for good work to become highly effective supply chain manager. It will motivate people to do more and better with sense of satisfaction and achievement. Celebrate both short and long wins.
Don’t scold people on common chat groups. It is common mistake that many line managers do. Don’t scold individuals in WhatsApp groups or group meetings. Any feedback or action to be provided in one to one meeting.
Don’t wait for year end to provide feedback. Provide immediate and specific feedback for improvement. Feedback given late in time lose relevance and its importance. People need to be cared for and they have the expectation that someone at work takes proper care of them.
20. Assign clear roles and responsibilities :
If people are not clear what is expected out of them, then they cannot deliver superlative performance. Job responsibilities need to be clear with specific objective and defined scope of work. Matching the person strength with job requirement deliver the best results
If role complexity is high and person is not able to cope up with the same, then either role complexity to be reduced or person role to be changed. An effective supply chain manager recruit strong candidates who set performance benchmarks in the team and challenge and improve the status quo
21. Develop Mentors :
An effective supply chain manager encourages mentoring between seniors and juniors. Seniors have the responsibility to guide and groom young talent and young workforce can learn from senior’s rich experience. Keep a good mix of experience personnel and young talent to ensure the right balance between experienced knowledge and fresh ideas.
22. Empower and support :
An effective supply chain manager empower people to take decisions and adopt coaching style of management. People need to think about the problems they have been facing and take decisions independently. This is one of the best ways to develop people and make them independent in their roles.
Simply providing readymade solutions to problems is not helpful. Guide people by asking relevant questions and go in detail. People need to find own solutions to their problems as they best understand the situation and, in the process, may also create new and effective solutions
Provide support to team as they are chasing stretch goals and facing multiple challenges on daily basis
23. Encourage open communication:
Issues and Problems need to be discussed openly and it will be possible if there is mutual trust among the team members. Team members often come to line manager to get their problems resolved with other team members.
Encourage to build good peer relationships which will avoid conflicts and improve team productivity. Strengthen communication, proactively address communication gaps and complete the loop till the end.
24. Provide opportunities to learn and grow:
An effective supply chain manager modify roles, add new responsibilities and drive continuous improvement projects which will build capability and allow teams to learn and grow.
Rotate people among various roles to build diverse perspective. It also builds team competencies and they can act as each other backup in the time of crisis. To know, various type of roles, read Supply chain careers
25. Build collaboration with external partners :
External business partners are essential and integral part of supply chain function and lot of improvements are driven along with them. an effective supply chain manager collaborates and coordinates to build synergy and grow together
These are the multiple facets of becoming an effective supply chain manager and by following these behaviours one can achieve success to meet organization goals
Sharing a real life story from my career when I first became the line manager and overcome a big challenge in managing a team
I first became a line manager at the age of 22 years. Was assigned responsibility to lead a team early in my career and was quite enthusiastic to handle a line manager job. It was considered one of the challenging teams to lead which I was soon going to discover.
Team was expert in their jobs and each person job experience was more than my age. Daily routine followed. I planned work and issued instructions beginning of the day and reviewed progress end of the day. After some time, I sensed something is not right. Team was not listening and least bothered with the information and instructions that I was sharing with them.
I got annoyed and faced them straight off that why are you not listening to me. Team said that we know everything and you don’t know anything then why should we obey you and plainly refused to accept me as their line manager. Moreover, team was not happy with the arrangement of reporting to me as earlier they were reporting to my boss and new appointment added one more management layer in between.
Went to my boss and narrated him the situation and seek his support to use his power to make team understand who the boss is. To my surprise, he said what your team is saying is absolutely correct. You don’t know anything then why should they listen to you. He also made a very important statement that it means “you are not able to manage people”.
Discussion was quite opposite to my expectation and I was shocked to hear this. I thought that it will not be possible to work in this environment and time has come to quit the job. I prepared my resume and started applying in other companies.
As days passed, I further reflected on the situation and yes quitting was an option and an easy one. Then why not to try another option although a difficult one. I made up my mind that even if need to quit will do so but not without trying and giving all I have. I had the best interest of team and organization on my mind.
This team’s strength was their knowledge and expertise and to command their respect I need to reach somewhat near to them in a short time. I started to behave with them less like a boss and more like a supporter and started learning the work and worked with my own hands. Spent endless hours in the operations and studying books in library after office hours. I started to get good knowledge of the basics and in depth understanding by reflecting on daily learnings.
New problems came in operations which my team was not able to resolve and I solved them with new ways of thinking. Customers started looking for me when they had a problem. I proactively identified the key challenges and pain points team was facing and addressed them.
Team started respecting me and I went out of the way to help them and looked for opportunities to expand their capabilities. Recognized them for the good performance they showcased. Slowly team realized that I am playing out theirs and organization’s best interests and thye started supporting me fully. A bond was built which would last forever. Even today I am in touch with them.
Key Learning was that leadership is not about dictating from the position and taking it for granted but proving with the daily actions the position one occupies is the one deserved. Biggest learnings, confidence and achievements in life are gained when we face the challenge and overcome them.