Monday, October 24, 2011

Are you prepared for the Supply Chain Talent Crisis?

The CSCMP Annual Global Conference was held earlier this month (October).  I had the honor of serving on its planning committee and overseeing two tracks and one of the conference's mega sessions.  The Mega Sessions are held on the last day of the conference and focus on issues of major interest to most attendees.  

My Mega Session focused on the the current talent crisis in the supply chain arenaKen Cottrill actually wrote the white paper on this particular topic at the end of 2010 for MIT entitled: Are You Prepared for the Supply Chain Talent Crisis?  The paper served as the basis for our "Talent Crisis Mega Session."  

The basic premise for Ken's paper revolves around the fact that supply chain is becoming a critical strategic piece in the health and future success of organizations.  Companies need the kind of supply chain talent that can offer not only high technical skills, but also broad business skills as well as the ability to operate in atmospheres of ambiguity.  

Tackling this talent crisis topic is best done by looking at the different perspectives of corporations, educators and recruiters.  Thus our panel consisted of Stewart Lumsden, the North American head of the SpencerStuart Supply Chain Practice, who provided a recruiter’s perspective; Rebecca Lyons, Vice President of Strategy and Supply Chain Services at Johnson & Johnson and Ty Gent, SVP Supply Chain Commercialization, GNG Sourcing and Contract Management, PepsiCo providing a corporate perspective; and Jarrod Goentzel, Ph.D., Executive Director, MIT Supply Chain Management Program, who gave us a talent provider point of view.  
The panel members talked about the reality of the talent crisis and how their institutions were addressing it.  The focus was on cross-training with other disciplines within organizations, mentoring, and bringing in talent from other fields and training programs.

The Talent Crisis Mega S
ession was extremely well-attended. The standing-room-only crowd actively participated in the highly interactive 90-minute session. We've posted photos of the session on my Facebook Profile and the (very new) Stratman Partners Company Page. 

I have to say that this particular topic appealed to everyone. In other words, you're either the talent or the talent acquirer--both sides want to know the status of the marketplace. As an executive coach, I am a huge advocate for broadening leadership skills regardless of the position one holds.  This mega session provided an excellent forum for this message.  Supply chain is integral to the success of an organization and therefore supply chain needs to have talent with the tools necessary to understanding and fully participating in  the company’s strategy.  To read more, click here.  If you attended our Talent Crisis Mega Session, I'd love to get your feedback. Feel free to leave your comments here on this blog post. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thought Time

“I wish I had more time to think about my business. I’m so involved in running this place, it’s hard to find time to deeply consider where we're going.”  If this sounds at all too familiar, you're not alone. 

For the senior executive, there never seems to be enough time.

Business is a contact sport and without action (execution) nothing happens. But opportunities can be missed when you don’t deliberately put aside personal time to think about your business.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article a few years back about Bill Gates describing how he deliberately carved out two weeks each year for this singular purpose. These “Think Weeks” involved seven days of self-imposed seclusion to “ponder the future of technology and then propagate those thoughts across the Microsoft empire.” He devoured journals, papers and most importantly, the many ideas submitted by Microsoft employees. 

This was no vacation.  He worked up to 18 hours each day. “By the week’s end Mr. Gates would read 100 papers, send e-mails to hundreds of people and write a Think Week summary for executives.” The results were impressive.  One Think Week led Microsoft to develop its Internet browser which sealed Netscape’s doom. 

Consider setting aside some dedicated personal time to think about your business’ challenges and opportunities from both your perspective and those of your employees. It will likely pay dividends.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What should you do to ensure your political behavior is channeled positively?

Note: The following is also posted in our LinkedIn Group (as a discussion topic), The Executive Challenge.

Politics are a part of the human condition; so, business affairs are rife with political behavior.  This really isn’t good or bad.   What maters is how we manage this reality. As executives, we need to wade through political waters effectively by leveraging the positive aspects and minimizing the negatives ones. 

Webster’s defines politics this way: Political affairs of business: competition between groups or individuals for power and leadership.  Anyone with kids has seen this play out from the earliest years.  My twins were keeping score from the time they were infants.  They watched closely for signs that they were receiving their fair share of attention and competed for power in simple and effective ways.  They learned and developed as they competed with one another. They were being political.

Let’s look at business executives. A business leader is expected to bring in the best talent, create a high performing organization, and hit the numbers.  In the thrust and parry of competition, there will be winners, losers and a good dose of political behavior.  When managed correctly, politics are healthy.  When ignored, our competitive drives can lead to bad behavior and hurt a business’s ability to execute.  Bad behavior can play out in many ways and most of us can recite our fair share of examples.

So what should the leader do to ensure political behavior is channeled positively?   

In my mind's eye, it’s all about simply and clearly communicating your values. 

Values act as the lighthouse, keeping your team off the rocks, and focusing them on what’s important. Simple values are best and the fewer the better.  

Here is an example of three simple values that during the heat of competition, can keep your team “off the rocks.”

Straight Talk            Lou Gerstner used this effectively at IBM.  
                                    Tell Lou “your truth,” not what you think he wants to hear.

Teamwork                We get there together

Accountability         We must choose to be accountable and not engage in the “Blame Game”.

Values must be communicated simply, concisely, and FREQUENTLY.  In every interaction, you should consciously model them.  With the passage of time, they will become second nature and ever present.  

You may see the rocks, but you won’t hit them.

When you think about politics, think about values. Your team will appreciate it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Protecting objectivity will increase effectiveness

Webster defines objectivity as “treating or dealing with facts without distortion by personal feelings or prejudices.”  No one can divorce feelings completely from decisions or judgments.  Feelings are part of being human and in fact, having feelings make us human.  However, as a business leader, you need to remain vigilant that feelings don’t over ride facts. 

People issues are fertile ground for distorting objectivity.  When we think about the quality of our people, we often have our favorites.  People we have personally hired are in this category as well as people who have qualities similar to our own.  All of this can lead to a serious leadership trap: overestimating the talent of your organization.

This is a common tendency we often observe, even at the highest levels.  It can seriously impact performance, morale, and succession planning.  One way to avoid this trap is to BE AWARE and honest about your feelings when it comes to people in your organization.  Seek outside evaluations from time to time as well.  A third party can see things that you simply can’t.

Having strong people in the right roles is the surest way to drive high performance.  By accepting your human vulnerabilities, you can protect your objectivity and increase the effectiveness of your team.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Your calendar says a lot……

Time seems to always be in short supply for the senior executive. 

“If I had more time I could spend it with my people.” 

“Of course it would be great to visit that facility, but I just don’t have the time.”  

No doubt, when you are leading an organization, everyone needs you and your time is under constant pressure.

One of the simplest ways to get a handle on your time is to put two documents in front of you: your calendar and your business goals.  

Look closely at every appointment that found its way onto your calendar for the next four weeks.

How well do these meetings, calls, and other obligations match up with achieving your business goals? 

Do they have a close “line of sight” or do you have to talk yourself into making them relevant? 

To be sure, if you don’t have time to develop your people, something is probably out of whack.  

What could be more important?
Your calendar is all about your priorities.  

Don’t be a victim by letting others decide what is relevant to your mission.  Continually ask the question, “How does this specific time allocation relate to hitting my business goals?”  

By using this filter and allocating your time accordingly, you’ll be ensuring that time truly is on your side.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Feedback is Fuel

We have all heard broadcasters, media moguls, and actors of every stripe discuss the importance of ratings.  With the proliferation of media options this has become even more important.

For a broadcaster, ratings are the scorecard.  Without constant ratings feedback, there is no way to know how well a show has been received by the audience. Certainly the advertisers who are paying big bucks for a brief commercial want to know about ratings.

As a business leader, you should think about your ratings.  

Are you receiving high quality, regular feedback on your performance?  If not, why not?  Could you be preventing feedback from getting to you by your actions and behavior?   In other words, are the people around you comfortable giving you candid feedback?  Do they feel they can without paying a price? (And by the way, I am really not talking about the typical annual performance appraisal. By the time you get that feedback, it’s often too late.)

We can prevent feedback from getting to us simply by sending signals (consciously or unconsciously) that we don’t want to hear it.  Consider facial expressions and other non-verbal ques.  Of course, biting someone’s head off is another way to shut down the feedback pipeline.

What happens? 

You hear little or nothing about how you are doing from those who matter most.  This is like having a TV show without ratings. How can you be effective if you don’t know how your audience is feeling about you?

Frequent high quality feedback is like rocket fuel. 
Feedback enables course corrections, reduces errors in judgment, and stimulates performance.  In other words, it makes you better.  Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about.  

How good is the quality of the feedback you’ve been getting lately?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Let's Walk theTalk and visibly live our values

I was listening to an interview on a national news station the other day.  The reporter was interviewing a well known academic and expert in political communication strategies. This individual has developed a specific reputation for creating powerful “sound bites”---those short and easily remembered lines that are intended to be repeated often in the media. Here is what the Phrase Finder website has to say about the origin of sound bites:
This originated in US media circles in the 1980s.  It is clear that the first known printed citations come from that period.  For example, The Washington Post, June 1980---"Remember that any editor watching needs a concise, 30-second sound bite. Anything more than that, you're losing them."

By the mid-1980s we had a new breed--"the Spin Doctors."  Their influence is such that the use of sound bites is now [2006] commonplace throughout those parts of the world that is strongly influenced by the media, i.e. pretty much everywhere.

The expert being interviewed passionately articulated some clear concerns about the use of sound bites.  Specifically that at best they were highly incomplete disclosures of an important idea or position.  At worst, they were outright manipulations of the facts. He made the case that we desperately need more information about important issues and need to be willing to invest in a more comprehensive understanding.  We shouldn’t be “lost” (as the above quote implies), if we have to actually listen for more than 30 seconds.  

I found it ironic that this individual, who was passionately advocating for  more information, followed his plea with (I paraphrase) “don’t get me wrong, I make a lot of money creating sound bites for politicians, it is a big business.”  As I was driving I remember asking out loud, “why are you doing it then?”  My opinion of this individual’s credibility dropped immediately in my eyes.  He sounded like a hypocrite.

The validity of sound bites is not really the point here. The point is that as leaders, we need to visibly live our values; we need to “walk the talk.”  Followers can spot a hypocrite a mile away.  If you are engaged in something that is inconsistent with your values and beliefs, you need to stop doing it.  If you lose your credibility, you will lose the hearts and minds of your followers.

Please pass along any comments; I always appreciate your thoughts.