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Written by Dan Pellathy

This is the third in a series of blog posts based on the applied research report “Developing the Next Generation of Supply Chain Planning Talent and Leadership” by the research team of Dan Pellathy, Michael Burnette, and Ted Stank. Download the white paper.

In the first post of this series on supply chain planning talent development, I outlined five critical challenges facing the profession. In the second post, I shared the cluster of knowledge, skills, and attitudes essential for planners to succeed in today’s business world.

In addition to the challenges and core competencies, the research team I was a part of with GSCI’s Advanced Supply Chain Collaborative identified organizational action areas to support the development of the skills modern-day planners need. These five action areas are broad, mutually supportive, and simultaneously help develop a range of abilities. No action area alone will be enough; organizations should strive toward achieving them all.

Below are the five organizational action areas, with their related educational opportunities, processes, metrics, and incentives.

Enhancing Storytelling and Communication

Integrating information about the operating environment into a coherent narrative that motivates action is central to planning. Customers must be persuaded to share information. Colleagues must agree to system transformations. Supply chain partners must align with plans.

Enhancing storytelling and communication supports several core competencies by improving planners’ ability to articulate a concrete plan of action for a target audience (compelling communication), articulate a strategy for change (change leadership), and connect intelligence and action (data analytics).

10 Tips for Companies to Enhance Storytelling and Communication

  1. Develop compelling presentations using PowerPoint, Prezi, and other tools
  2. Take time to develop, review, and practice presentations with supervisors and peers
  3. Improve basic writing (e.g., grammar, syntax) and research skills (e.g., sourcing) for business
  4. Learn how to work with incomplete or ambiguous information
  5. Articulate the drivers behind past and future performance
  6. Improve basic data, regression, and decision-modeling skills
  7. Interview leadership to understand the context of decisions and roles
  8. Gather and present oral histories that record company experiences and culture
  9. Present to internal and external stakeholders
  10. Articulate drivers behind past and future performance

Infusing Change Management and Influence Strategies

Inspiring and leading change is critical for planners tasked with system transformation. Change management starts with identifying a compelling business need with measurable goals. Planners must then create a blueprint with clear strategies for achieving their goals. This vision must be focused on winning with consumers and meeting future business challenges. Planners must articulate the opportunity a change in the planning system would provide the company. A compelling business need and blueprint of change must be deployed with C-suite leadership endorsement using marketing and change management resources to help.

10 Tips for Infusing Change Management and Influence Strategies

  1. Introduce and use self-reflection tools (e.g., Personal Values Assessment, Gallup/Clifton Strengths, Myers-Briggs)
  2. Engage in strategy workshops and change management training
  3. Understand and manage body language
  4. Introduce and use frameworks for envisioning change (e.g., Innovator’s Compass, Design Thinking, Appreciative Inquiry)
  5. Enable managers to coach direct reports and all team members to access mentorship
  6. Develop a communication plan for change
  7. Sett data-driven targets for change initiatives
  8. Regularly benchmark best-in-class supply chains, regardless of industry
  9. Link change efforts to promotion
  10. Interview people throughout the organization to learn about concerns, priorities, and needs

Linking Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to Supply Chain Success

A six-year study by the consulting firm McKinsey confirms the strong business case for gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity in corporate leadership. Put simply, diverse companies outperform less diverse peers. Linking diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to supply chain success entails developing talent from underrepresented groups and tapping their knowledge and experiences as resources for learning how to improve core work. A robust DEI program has enormous potential to benefit the entire planning organization, especially individuals not directly impacted by DEI recruitment and retention efforts. Our research suggests that a robust DEI program has the potential to significantly support development in nine of the eleven core competencies identified above, including ambiguity tolerance, awareness, change leadership, compelling communication, conflict management, cultural leadership, empathy, negotiation skills, and team leadership.

10 Tips for Linking DEI to Supply Chain Success

  1. Engage individuals across different levels and functional areas of the organization
  2. Align DEI to a range of goals related to outcomes, company culture, and professional development
  3. Evaluate options from alternative points of view
  4. Highlight ethical considerations in decision-making
  5. Build connections with a wide range of people
  6. Develop employee resource groups that foster community and belonging
  7. Set data-driven targets for the representation of diverse talent
  8. Place core business leaders and managers at the heart of DEI efforts and hold them accountable for progress
  9. Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, harassment, and discriminatory behavior
  10. Explicitly assess belonging through participation in internal surveys and focus groups

Mentoring, Coaching, and Leadership

Everyone needs help to succeed. The experience of benchmark supply chains suggests that new hires and top talent do significantly better with an active sponsor, mentor, or coach. Mentor and sponsor practices are not new. A mentor is someone in the hierarchy who owns the success and development of their mentee over the long term.

Most companies only create formal mentors for top candidates, but evidence suggests that mentorship can be highly impactful for anyone. Mentors do not have to be friends but must be effective role models. They must be able to support and represent the person they mentor in key management systems reviews (e.g., promotion, assignments).

A sponsor or coach can be anyone in the organization. Many examples exist of technical experts effectively sponsoring talent development. The sponsor can coach (i.e., productively and directly talk about improvements, strengths, and perceptions), support, network, suggest solutions, and recommend resources. Our discussions suggest a significant need for coaching, mentorship, and leadership opportunities in the supply chain space.

10 Tips for Mentoring, Coaching, and Leadership

  1. Create a culture that values feedback and constant improvement
  2. Review leadership theories
  3. Craft formal development plans with targeted resources for coaching and mentoring
  4. Build leadership rotations and development programs
  5. Create a talent development framework that includes participation in mentorship, either as a mentor or mentee
  6. Integrate mentorship into performance management
  7. Acquire and use personal, professional, and team assessment tools
  8. Acquire and use frameworks for mentorship, coaching, and leadership
  9. Establish clear expectations for mentors and mentees regarding roles, responsibilities, and time commitments
  10. Create opportunities to work cross-functionally to gain experience in collaboration across teams

Managing through Ambiguity

Sustaining exceptional performance requires a workforce that can adapt to changes in the marketplace and rapid technological advances. Under these conditions, existing experiences and operating policies in training manuals are best used to manage future problems. Managing through this ambiguity requires people-development systems that plan and track progress against business- and employee-driven skill development. Leading companies also estimate the return on investment from learning initiatives and hold business leaders accountable for employee success. Beyond technical or process-level competencies, these companies also focus on measuring and encouraging development in emotional, social, and digital competencies.

Further, all of these are enabled by a strong business acumen. When this approach is data-driven, tracked, and rewarded, it encourages faster talent development, addresses performance opportunities objectively and fairly, and empowers the employee to pursue personal growth. Notably, such people development systems, especially those aimed at improving the ability to manage through ambiguity, must be characterized by a high level of employee ownership.

10 Tips for Managing through Ambiguity

  1. Study decision-making, especially opportunity costs
  2. Participate in workshops on change management
  3. Keep people aware of the pace and direction of change
  4. Introduce and use problem-solving frameworks (e.g., decision modeling, SWOT analysis, value chain analysis, BOR equity stack)
  5. Provide individuals with opportunities to work alongside more experienced managers on high-priority projects
  6. Push the boundaries of current systems to develop innovative solutions to problems
  7. Establish norms for experimentation
  8. Create opportunities to present recommendations to senior management for adoption and implementation
  9. Collaborate with human resources to support ambiguity tolerance in training and promotion
  10. Create multi-functional problem-solving teams that engage at all levels and diverse perspectives to solve the most challenging companywide problems.

I recognize that this seems like a lot for any organization to tackle. However, the research supports that broadly thinking about critical challenges, capabilities, and talent and leadership development positions planners to deliver on their transformational potential.

Several other vital learnings emerged from our discussions with senior business leaders. They can be condensed down to three points: one, that talent and leadership development require transformation; two, that developing talent supports multiple leading-edge planning capabilities; and three, that competencies are mainly oriented toward managing people and change.

In our fourth and final blog post in this planning talent series, I will discuss critical background and organizational support for senior planning leaders.

To learn more about how your company can partner with us to explore advanced concepts in supply chain management, visit ASCC.

Download the white paper using the form below to read more about developing the next generation of supply chain planning talent.