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Hot Skills for the New Millennium

Author(s):

Cathy Martin-Kendrick, C.P.M.
Cathy Martin-Kendrick, C.P.M., Manager/Consultant, BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., 675 West Peachtree St., 39S40, Atlanta, GA 30375, Tel: 404/420-8775, Fax: 404/525-3045, email: cathy.a.martin@bridge.bellsouth.com

84th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1999 

Abstract. Supply Chain Management and Logistics has been on the "HOT Job Track" since 1997. How does one build and support the appropriate competencies to keep supply management a strategic focus? A focus must be placed on competency modeling for career development and continuous management assessment. This presentation will address processes, best tools and proven practices that allow you to attract, motivate and retain the brightest and most talented in the profession.

Processes. Many processes exist and are available for an organization to increase its organizational capabilities. An organizational analysis, based on the strategic plan for the department and its business drivers is a first step. Concurrently, a personal analysis must be performed. The personal analysis allows individuals and management to review skill gaps, both job specific and basic managerial skills. Once a baseline assessment is made, core supply management competencies can be identified. Selecting required competencies is a critical first step. Organizational placement will help ascertain your spot on the spectrum from traditional purchasing to strategic supply management. From there, the process continues using development plans, implementation strategies and measurements.

Organizational analysis may require an organizational design study. The study looks at the organizational structure in today's environment and determines the road map for moving to the strategic supply management structure. Many companies error on the side of structure by allowing the structure of an organization to be the primary and driving force to transition to strategic supply management. It is key to have the organizational structure support the strategic goals and plans of the department, not to define them.

Below is a sample of an organizational analysis with a personal analysis linked to it:

  • Organizational: We must evolve into performance consultants, no longer concerned about training per se, but about the performance of the company and its individual contributors. The performance of the company will be determined by the decrease in total cost of ownership (TCO) and/or by the increase in revenue which results from improved supply management processes.

  • Personal: Consistently use life cycle analysis techniques as an integral part of negotiations and selections, regularly resulting in positive financial results. Develop and integrate knowledge of cost/variable analysis (regarding supplier, industry and market factors) into strategic negotiations and decisions. Share results of analysis and encourage discussion among involved parties to maximize customer value.

Individuals and managers alike must know what the skill sets inventory looks like. A personal analysis helps compare the collective tasks to the desired tasks. At this point, organizations must be willing to raise the performance bar. The "hot skills" and tasks in a strategic supply management inventory include both business and technical expertise and rely heavily on market analysis, cost modeling and a strong business acumen. It is most important to conduct a need's analysis (based on knowledge, skill and ability) to determine how to close any gaps that are identified. The faster this happens the easier the organization will be able to adapt to the new environment.

In most industries, core supply management competencies are very generic. Specifically, these supply management competencies range from computer literacy and project management to supply stream analysis and supplier optimization. A supply stream analysis competency requires skills in the following areas: life-cycle analysis, cost/value analysis, assessing financial data, manufacturing and quality analysis techniques. Supplier optimization includes supply stream knowledge and the development of optimization plans that reflect new opportunities and emerging customer needs. The plans are compared to the business requirements and strategic direction and the supplier based is optimized accordingly.

From Analysis to Plans. Once all analysis is complete, development plans, implementation strategies and measurements must be determined. Development plans may be career affecting, job specific or a combination of both. The plans must align with the strategic goals. Implementation strategies may require interventions or workshops to develop other "hot skills" such as consulting, situational leadership and coaching. Tools to support implementation include a profile of success factors, front end and back end analysis, and just-in-time training. Measurements are defined and determined with the strategic plan goals as the target. Comparing plans to performance, assessing the results and using appropriate feedback mechanisms will determine continuous next steps in the planning process.

If a development plan is career affecting, the individual job's could be in jeopardy. Within many companies, a development plan is a corrective action plan indicating that an employee has serious work deficiencies that must be improved to prevent a change in job status. If a development plan is job specific, it is usually developed early on in the job with ways for growth and ideas to improve performance to higher levels. The success factor tool is not limited to the type of development plan. A success factor tool may look like the following:

Supply Manager Competency Training Intervention Delivery Type Commitment Results
Supply Stream Analysis Supply Chain Management Overview Instructor Led 2 -- 3 days Provides a strategic outlook with linkages to supply manager tasks and skills
  Supply Management Tool Set Self Paced Workbook 8 hours per module Provides step- by-step process for stages of purchasing
  Continuous Improvement Workshop Instructor Led 1 Day Total Cost of Ownership and Value Chain Mapping Techniques

For the tool to be successful, the individual must use at least one of the interventions, have the opportunity to successfully apply the newly learned skill(s) on the job, and obtain feedback regarding their performance. These specific action plans targeted at the deficient or newly acquired skill is the first step to immediate, observable and measurable improvement in performance.

Ways to be Marketable in the Supply Management Profession. Every corporation and organization that wants to seek a competitive advantage will search for, attract, motivate and retain the most talented individuals. Each individual therefore has a responsibility to themselves to determine their niche, what they enjoy doing and do well, and sell that to the organization. Presenting a professional image in selling one's skill sets is the first step in marketing oneself. Image is everything. Presenting an understanding of the business perspective and the link of the supply management department with every other organization within the company is essential.

It is important to assess individual values and compare those values to that of the corporation or organization under consideration. A good match generally results in satisfying experiences. A combination of technical skills, education and experience represents the best profile. With the changing and fluctuating job markets of today, employment for life with the same company is becoming extinct. A focus on employable skills for life will guarantee unlimited success in any profession. Each individual must be held accountable for identifying, assessing and embracing those skills.

Competency Modeling. Competency is defined as a cluster of related skills. For a job competency, these skills must be related to knowledge and attitude and affect a major part of the job. According to one expert in the training field, common core competencies are grouped into four clusters:

  1. Administrative
    • Time management and prioritizing
    • Setting goals and standards
    • Planning and scheduling work
  2. Communication
    • Listening and organizing
    • Giving clear information
    • Getting unbiased information
  3. Supervisory
    • Training, coaching and delegating
    • Appraising people and performance
    • Disciplining and counseling
  4. Cognitive
    • Identifying and solving problems
    • Making decisions, weighing risks
    • Thinking clearly and analytically

Beyond the core competencies, lies the job specific or supply management competencies required to be successful in the supply management profession. The example illustrated earlier shows supply stream analysis as a major competency.

It is important that regardless of the position within the organization, a model of competencies for the position exists. Competency management often refers to development methodologies that enable organizations to establish performance standards, assessments and measures, as well as "gap" closing approaches. Ultimately the process leads to individual and organizational coaching and developing. A competency model makes the difference between outstanding performance and average performance. Models are simple visual representations of the most critical knowledge, skills, behaviors and other human characteristics that underlie and drive superior performance in a job context.

Implementing Development Plans that Work. As a result of designing and using a competency model, feedback mechanisms and inventories must be conducted to determine a development plan to close gaps. Competency assessments are simply feedback inventories on employee perceptions of job-related skills and knowledge requirements. Assessment mechanisms may include paper and pencil, desktop PC or more sophisticated on line systems. Assessment methodologies include information gathered from the individual, supervisor, peers, clients and other full circle or 360° applications. Having a development plan that works must include a variety of assessments and an outline for completion and accomplishments. It must be detailed enough to include expectations of performance and opportunities for application. Development plans are ongoing and must be reviewed on a periodic basis for continuous improvement.

REFERENCES

Parry, Scott, "Just What Is a Competency? (And Why Should You Care?)" Training, June 1998, 58 - 64.

Pye, Carolyn, "A Smorgasbord of Skill Sets." Purchasing Today, March 1996, 40 - 43.

"The Future of Purchasing and Supply: A Five- and Ten- Year Forecast, " NAPM and the Center for Advanced Purchasing Studies (CAPS), 1998

"20 HOT Job Tracks", 1998 Career Guide U.S. News & World Report, October 27, 1997, 104.

Veates, Connie, "Job-Related Tools for Purchasing and Supply Management Professionals" NAPM InfoEdge, May 1998, 8 - 9.


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