Supply Chain Skills — What Matters Most?

Michel Higgs, a blogger who writes on Purchasing's Blogs, recently penned a post that suggests that certain skill-sets matter over others when it comes the managing a supply chain. According to Michael, "There are only two skills that I see that are really hard to train, so the candidate should possess them upon hire: leadership (some have it and others don't), and tenacity ... Most other skills can be trained or learned (in my opinion). People with these two skills and with the right mentorship have a really high probability to grow in to a really valuable employee. If no one shows up that matches my ideal candidate, I am willing to coach the rest."

To this list I would add "analytical skill" and "intellectual curiosity" in addition to leadership and tenacity (and in fact I would argue, based on one year in ROTC, that leadership can be taught). When it comes to analytical skills, maturation occurs typically in the high school and college level -- after that, if a candidate does not have it, they probably won't develop it. As to intellectual curiosity, this is something a candidate is born with or not. Those who are intellectual curious will not only challenge authority when it needs to be, but will also bring in the world outside to their roles. For example, rather than just pursue an overseas supplier development initiative in a vacuum, they will study the local political and social culture to get the most from their efforts and build bridges with potential suppliers.

As I've argued in these pages many times before, raw analytical horsepower and generalist skills matter far more than domain or industry knowledge in developing the next generation procurement leaders -- not to mention getting the most from analyst and manager-types today. I believe that everything else -- leadership included -- can and should be reinforced and fostered through training and other on-the-job development programs. Am I off-base here? What do you think?

- Jason Busch

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