ISM’s Mastery Model and Musings on Supply Management Associations

Last night at ISM 2015, I sat in on a presentation with ISM’s CEO Tom Derry, who was discussing the official launch of ISM’s Mastery Model – a new competency-based assessment and training model. It’s always good to see a CEO formally taking responsibility for communicating the rollout of a new product – sort of like the Apple launches by Steve Jobs and now Tim Cook. But, the Mastery Model is not really a “product” per se, and as Tom said, “We think this is a career standard for the industry… Our goal is make ISM Mastery Model a recognized brand.”

To make something a standard though, it has to be completely open (unlike, say, how NIGP licenses its NIGP Codes), and the good news here is that it is! ISM has made the model available to anyone who registers on the ISM website, which is moving to (phew – that’s a lot of letters!). The model has 85 sub-competencies organized into the 16 many competency categories below.

1. Business Acumen
2. Category Management (Commodity Management)
3. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Ethics
4. Cost and Price Management
5. Financial Analysis
6. Legal
7. Logistics Management
8. Negotiation
9. Project Management
10. Quality Management
11. Risk
12. Sales and Operations Planning
13. Sourcing
14. Supplier Relationship Management
15. Supply Chain Planning
16. Systems Capability and Technology

I haven’t had too much time to dive into the 85 sub-competencies, but at first glance, the model looks pretty strong. I didn’t, however, see anything related to P2P, and while it can seem transactional/tactical, it is important to deal with as an explicit competency given how much time/effort/waste is endemic to it, and the opportunity cost of spending too much time on it. It also touches a huge numbers of stakeholders, and has many touch points to sourcing, risk, supplier management, working capital, etc.

Still, the model is really signaling ISMs desire to move more strongly out into the supply chain (e.g., S&OP, supply network design, etc.) as the new model has areas beyond the typical ISM purview. Procurement’s “source” versus supply chain planning “source” should be connected, but often haven’t been as our previous research with ISM suggests. We would, of course, love it if ISM branched out even further and maybe partnered or merged with a “pure-play” SCM association like CSCMP to take on APICS/SCC. And even just within procurement, we think that a common global competency framework would be welcomed, and it’d be terrific to see The Mastery Model get synched with CIPS’ framework and IIAPS’ model (who seemed inclined to partner, as my colleague Peter Smith wrote about here) so that a more global standard could be established.

Even so, regardless of all the players, ISM is obviously a longstanding recognized brand (and a 100-year-old brand at that!) – be it good or bad – and 40 years of that has dealt with doing competency-focused methods for training and certification. But, to stay relevant, it’s going through a renewal process that has been at times very difficult financially and organizationally. To do this requires building for the future and the talent of tomorrow rather than just today. For example, Tom mentioned that only 2% of millennials feel truly engaged and taken care of by their employers. So, Tom said the focus has to be on the next 100 years, and the ISM Richter awards and now the “30 under 30” awards are part of that.

But to make such skills assessment models relevant to both the employers and the employees, the model must not just be a front-end to the same old training and certifications, but also be flexible and plugged into modern talent management processes. In other words, rather than just “turning the crank” and getting employees credentialed in hope for better results, firms are trying to get more targeted with their talent management processes, and part of that process is a rigorous skills/competency assessment that is used to guide targeted training/certification (and hiring and recruiting) efforts. There is actually a lot more to this topic that we’ll save for a future post.

If ISM can embrace not just its corporate members and its services group to really develop out the framework (e.g., to tie to standard roles, related salary surveys, process taxonomies, metrics/benchmarks, etc.) and if it can do that openly and formally with a set of channel partners like consultants, academia (beyond just ASU and MSU), ISM affiliates, solution providers, adjacent industry associations and so on, it’ll really set itself up for the turnaround its undertaking.

As a side note, we detect the change is starting to take hold. We do get a much more professional vibe from ISM this year, including not just what it’s doing with its website and its brand positioning, but also here at the event. There seems to be less tchotchke bag stuffing and vendors setting up booths that just don’t seem to be a good fit in terms of brand relevance/respect. The consensus, too, from the providers on the exhibit floor echoes this. Perhaps mojo never disappears, but rather gets transferred, and it seems like the mojo that Ariba has been losing with AribaLive needs to flow somewhere, and ISM seems as good as place as any to get that new supply chain mojo working.

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