Extreme Makeover

From mid-level purchasing executive to strategic business partner


The leadership competencies included the ability to:

  • Exhibit drive
  • Engage and lead others to be their best
  • Build internal and external relationships
  • Execute performance management and metrics for managing people
  • Be commercially minded
  • Think strategically and proactively regarding their role

These competencies were carefully weighted, with finely calibrated scoring criteria for each. Ideal candidates would score high in both the technical and leadership dimensions.

The team assessed approximately 350 internal personnel spread over 10 business units globally, with the addition of approximately 100 external people. The assessments included behaviorally based interviewing focused on technical competencies and in-depth interviewing designed to understand each individual's leadership potential and personal motivation. In addition, each individual was tested for problem-solving skills, relationship styles and thinking preferences. Feedback sessions, based on the interviewing and testing, were also conducted in order to refine the assessment. The goal was to determine who met minimal standards for the new role, who didn't and the development potential for individuals in both groups.

These results were conveyed to the supply chain "board," which then made decisions about who would move forward in the new roles and who might find other roles. Having identified the right people, the team then executed an extraordinary rollout designed to get people to cast off the old ways, embrace the new and adopt individualized development plans — all in just three days, rather than over a period of months.

On the first two days, the supply chain leaders of each business unit and their direct reports set goals for the transformation and focused on how they would lead it. They digested feedback from stakeholders outside the supply function about their performance. They also engaged in intense one-on-one leadership development conversations with project team consultants and reviewed the principles of mentoring, coaching and feedback so that they would be prepared to help facilitate the transformation.

On the third day, the direct reports of the supply chain leaders rolled out the program to their direct reports — the middle managers throughout the business unit. These critically important personnel were given ownership for developing the capability of their people in order to optimize individual and team performance. They were provided with coaching tools for tailoring advice and supporting individuals and teams. They also engaged in intense one-on-one sessions with project consultants, and each left the meeting with an individually tailored plan for the development of the personal and professional skills they would need to succeed.

What this barebones account misses is the depth and rapidity of the individual and collective transformation of the function. Most people naturally resist change. But in just three days in each business unit, the leadership of the function, the middle managers and the individual contributors genuinely let go of the old way of doing things. They enthusiastically embraced their new roles and an ongoing process, which included supply chain and business stakeholders, for measuring progress.

As a result of the makeover, the supply chain function has moved from adding value to the function to adding value to the business. Instead of varying degrees of alignment with the business, the supply chain function is aligned with strategy and operational needs, while challenging the thinking of the business and creating tension to achieve the best value. The function now gets involved early in the business planning process and agrees on fundamentals that prevent delays in the operation of the business. Perhaps most importantly, the function now has the ability to train, coach and develop its supply chain management and line expertise to proactively add value to the business — now and into the future.

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