Who performs best in Supply Chain Management? Who can be great logistics manager? As part of my management training, I took some time ago the Meyers-Briggs test. My personality type (ISTJ-A) was identified as ‘Logistician’.
First with amusement and then with puzzlement I accepted the results of this test. I looked at myself again. It inspired me to think about what qualities and skills leaders in Logistics really need.
If you manage any function in a company, you must first be able to manage yourself. You need to know what you are good at, how you communicate, how you can motivate yourself.
Apart from self-awareness, which every manager should have, does supply chain management require any specific personality traits?
Below you will find information allowing you to answer one of the questions posed in the text 6 Things CEO Should Know About Supply Chain – Do We Have Supply Chain Talent?
GREAT LOGISTICS MANAGER – THE ROCK STAR
To answer this question, one must first realize that today managing both Logistics and more broadly the entire Supply Chain requires a variety of skills. Being great logistics manager is almost as playing on the rock stage.
To successfully manage a Supply Chain you need to understand both its technical and human sides. On the one hand, you can’t rely solely on human-dependent processes these days. On the other hand, you can’t be ignorant about the technology and methodologies used.
I have already written about the difficulties related to people management in the article – Supply Chain Manager Survival Guide. I will write also about the challenges of managing IT systems one day.
In the meantime I would like to emphasize that even in the most simplified form logistics management always means working on at least three sets of key indicators related to quality, customer service, and costs.
Quality management requires a systematic approach and continuous commitment. It involves the continual improvement of processes within the company as well as building a culture. Continuous leadership by example.
Customer service, on the other hand, requires the ability to cooperate with people from outside your own team. Communicating in a way that is adjusted to the specific person. Focus on building lasting relationships. Those so called interpersonal skills.
Finally, the issue of cost management does not only include direct operating costs. Strategic Supply Chain Management also requires an understanding of the concept of financial costs and at least the basics of controlling. In other words an analytical approach.
If you’re wondering how much Logistics costs, and how to analyze Supply Chain costs, I recommend another article that will appear on the blog soon – What should Logistics costs be?
With the perspective described there, you will understand that being great logistics manager is a bit like juggling. At all times you need to be focused and know which of the priorities to ‘grab’ while not losing sight of the others.
GREAT LOGISTICS MANAGER STRENGTHS
The person responsible for the Supply Chain, in addition to knowledge in his/her field, should demonstrate a number of skills. The most important characteristics of a good logistician are:
- resistance to stress
- flexibility of thought
- emotional intelligence
To be effective you must have them all. Otherwise, given the complex responsibilities described earlier, you may not meet the business needs of the other functions in your company.
A confirmation of such expectations can be found by analyzing job advertisements at the level of Supply Chain Director, Logistics Director or Operations Director in significant international organizations.
Below are just a few screens showing what kind of characteristics should characterize a candidate for this type of positions. You can enlarge the picture from each add just by clicking on it.
Source: Online recruitment add published on Linked In and Pracuj.pl
Paradoxically, the strengths of a Supply Chain leader should be soft skills…
According to research in the field of personality development psychology, some of these skills (e.g. communication) can be trained. However, some (e.g. discipline and resistance to stress) are not trainable.
Rather, they result from personality traits that are shaped by experiences and contacts with people who are very important for a given individual. They depend on our upbringing and the relationships we establish during our first years of life.
I’M LOOKING AND LOOKING AND I CAN’T FIND…
Therefore, the search for great Logistics Manager, a true Supply Chain leader is not an easy task. Much more often ends in a compromise than in a perfect fit between the candidate and the organization’s needs.
The need for strong “T personalities” i.e. people with both the ability to take a broad view, understand different viewpoints, and have deep functional knowledge in their own area combined with certain personality traits.
The more complex the role in Supply Chain, the harder it is to find a candidate who meets the requirements. According to Supply Chain Institute’s research, S&OP managers are the most difficult to find.
Note: On the topic of why S&OP is an important process in every organization I wrote an article for ‘Puls Biznesu’. It will be also available on the blog as an entry – How to increase profits with Sales & Operations Planning? Watch out till I have time put it here.
In the top three of difficult roles were also positions of distribution network planner and demand planner. And just behind the podium, respondents ranked the roles of Vice President of Supply Chain and Director of Supply Planning.
The research presented by Supply Chain Institute should of course be viewed from the perspective of the USA where it was conducted. However, my own observations in Poland & CEE confirm the same trends.
Features of a great logistics manager cross cultural boundaries. Both over the ocean and in Western Europe it is equally difficult to find good leaders in the field of Supply Chain.
I was recently asked to recommend a person who could effectively lead an S&OP in a retail company. Despite a large network of contacts in the industry it was not easy to suggest such candidates.
Eventually I recommended three people. As I was writing this version of this article, the recruitment was still going on. Now I can tell that result of this recruitment confirm the research findings. Eventually company was able to fill in the position. However, it took few months more than expected.
WORKNG ON GREAT LOGISTICS MANAGER
Another question to answer is what direction should you work on to increase your chances for success in Supply Chain Management?
Taking into account the mentioned difficulties in training most of the personality traits, I suggest making development plans in the areas we have more influence on. Focus on some of the trainable soft and cognitive skills.
Personally, I believe that in addition to functional knowledge and hard competencies, the following group of skills is the most important in Supply Chain today:
Arranging the indicated skills in such a precise order, we obtain the HANAP! Contrary to its impulsive and not very serious name, as in Polish translation it means ‘HURRAY’. The proposed model is a reasonable basis for planning competence development in Logistics or Supply Chain.
By focusing on training in this direction, you can significantly increase the effectiveness of Supply Chain operations and, by extension, other functions in your organization. As the old saying goes, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
I will write more about how to develop a team in another planned article – 7 best ways to develop a Supply Chain team. I encourage you to read it. But before you do…
FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE
However, in order to create a plan for your development, you need to know not only the target set of competencies. You should also analyze your current skills and personality traits.
The Mayer Briggs personality traits test mentioned in the introduction is available online for free. I personally recommend the version available at 16 Personalities.
If you want to better understand your personality and thus prepare yourself for Supply Chain Management, I encourage you to take this test. It is available in both English and Polish.
If, after reading this text or checking your personality type, you’d like to share your experience – what qualities of a good logistician do you consider the most important and how to look for a leader of a supply chain team – leave a comment. I will be glad to hear your opinion.
I also encourage you to sign up for ‘Logistics Simply’ newsletter. Once a month you will receive logistics news & tips helping you to create supply chain really serving your business needs.