Bernhard Raschke of Korn Ferry – Talent in the Digital Supply Chain Age (Part 2)

In Part 1 we featured our interview with Bernhard Raschke, who leads the procurement and supply chain practice in London for top recruiters and talent managers Korn Ferry.  We talked about the firm’s recent report The Supply Chain Digital Disruption - Its impact on executive talent which we wrote about here.  So let’s continue with the interview, and I asked Raschke what he looked for when recruiting for senior positions with a major ‘digital supply chain’ component?

“As well as those personality traits – the curiosity and openness to learning – we look for people who can cope with a ‘fast fail culture’ – that is very important in the digital world.”

What does this mean?

“People who are willing to try things and not be dispirited if they don’t work! ‘What is your biggest failure and what did you learn from it’ – that is a question we ask a lot in interviews these days. We want people who can talk openly and show they have learnt from their biggest mistakes - because of the rapid pace of change, mental agility is key. Now, perhaps in 10 years’ time maybe there will be less of a difference between the two worlds and everyone will have this. But currently our assessment models show that agility is the best predictor of success for new roles in the digital world. Agility has many facets: learning agility, results agility, cultural agility to name a few.”

What about age - is there a correlation there? Do oldies like me struggle more to adapt to the digital world?

“It appears to be less of an issue than you might think. It is more about attitude and curiosity combined with those soft skill sets. But the Millennials do have a different experience and attitude towards technology and they tend to be very clear about what they expect. They just assume that ‘of course this is the way to do it!’  For example, they just naturally expect to collaborate with others leveraging technology, it is very natural for them to use technology in that way because they grew up with social media. I can see it with kids preparing for their GCSC and A level exams using Skype, Snapchat and Facebook all at the same time.”

So going back to your report, which has very much a supply chain focus, do people who consider themselves pure procurement people need to take note too?

“Yes, absolutely! This is about looking holistically, all the way from supply and suppliers to customers. The aim is to extract the maximum value from suppliers that can be passed on to customers. So for instance, capturing innovation from suppliers is going to be wrapped up in digital issues. Or supply chain risk management, hedging strategies, supplier information management - that is all becoming heavily data-driven.  And of course all this links to the customer value proposition, and digitisation is a key enabler at every step.

In the logistics area, we have tracking and traceability, the growth of drop shipping … it's just essential to understand the digital supply chain. You need to be talking ‘source to value,’ becoming a customer-centric organisation – and yes, that has many implications for anyone in procurement!”

So, readers may feel that this is a much wider agenda than they would expect from a traditional ‘head-hunter.’ Why are you personally and Korn Ferry so interested in this digital transformation agenda?

“Transformation and digitisation are really top of the CXO agenda in so many cases. And we have decided to become the transformation partner on the talent side, which does go beyond recruitment into leadership and development issues as well as starting with business strategy and strategic workforce planning. And of course as we recruit senior procurement and supply chain leaders, increasingly the fit with, and an understanding of, the digital agenda is more and more critical. So at Korn Ferry we have to show we understand it too!

CSCOs and CPOs need to adopt digital technologies such as Cloud, Mobile, IOT, or AI/ML not because they are cool and new, but because it can significantly impact the business outcomes in the supply chain. Some example business outcomes may be: reducing the manufacturing cost, reducing the time to produce a product, the ability to integrate supply chains with the suppliers to reduce inventory, and improving the quality/reducing defects of your products, and the ability to track and trace root causes early as soon as defects are identified.

As a leader, you should not try to boil the ocean and try to embrace all digital technologies and solve all business outcomes at the same time, but instead:

1) Test Simple Things. Get early wins to win the support of your stakeholders, and the morale of your team.

2) Evaluate the talent of your supply chain workforce in the new digital world. Your team members must have the talent and skills to embrace this digital technology and get the maximum out of it. Your people right now may not have those skills. The people, in general, need to be more agile.

3) As a leader, always be curious and agile in your mindset. Empower your team to take risks, try new ideas, fail fast and fail often, but learn quickly from these failures, and adapt your approach in the new digital world.

Overall, there is no doubt that the role of the CPO is shifting. In addition to their traditional roles, the procurement function needs to take advantage of technologies and data to create more value. A supply chain leader who cannot get the CEO’s ear, however technically savvy, has little chance of meeting the challenges ahead. This calls for a new type of supply chain leader, the digitally savvy CSCO who is both a trend spotter and resource provider.”

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