Given the diversity of the challenges in their job, Supply Chain Managers need to be versatile, multi-skilled people, chameleonic in a way. A bit like the decathlon athlete, (s)he needs to perform well on a lot of different disciplines, not necessarily the best at each, but good enough to have a good shot at becoming the overall number 1 in the tournament. Inspired by the concept of the “T-Shaped Supply Chain Manager”, as it has appeared in various publications and was further developed by Inspired-Search, I will in a short series of blogs discuss the main important aspects of the Supply Chain Manager’s peculiar modern-day 21st century Daily Decathlon, as well as some of the main implications for the company. Here goes the first one, let the game begin!

Decathlon – Game 1: “SimCity™”
(A game in which the participants act as the mayor of a city which will have to be developed from scratch, starting with establishing an excellent holistic view on the development to be done, creating a well-functioning infrastructure within the available budget, while supplying a complete set of services to the citizens living in the city. The winner is the one who has the happiest citizens, while staying within budget)

The Supply Chain goes from raw materials to final customer, crossing the whole company and touching all of the supporting functions. The Supply Chain Manager needs to see the links between these functional areas within the company, but also be sensitive to trends and tendencies in society in general and the company’s direct markets and environments in particular. The skilled Supply Chain Manager understands that the show is not about him/her, even though (s)he can play one of the leading parts in it. In the end, Supply Chain Management is always at the support of the company, fulfilling customer requirements and company objectives as well as possible. This requires a sound basis of holistic thinking.

Decathlon – Game 2: “Mighty Materials Monopoly”
(A Supply Chain version of the classic real estate board-game, in which products have to be bought from suppliers and sold to customers, managing revenues, costs, penalties & bonusses. The winner is the one who achieves the best combination of ROI and carbon footprint)

Yes, Supply Chain is of course most of the time focused on buying materials, manufacturing goods and/or moving boxes. But in the end it is of course just as much about creating competitive advantage, supporting the company’s value proposition, playing a role in the sustainable success of the business. And this is normally, in some form or another, expressed in financial terms; whether it be called EBITDA, Return on Investment or shareholder value. In other words, mere holistic thinking as tested in the first game in the Decathlon is not enough: it’s clear that top-notch Supply Chain Managers need solid doses of business sense, sensibility for trading, thinking in financial terms, being able to link operational actions to financial consequences.

To be continued here shortly
We’ve just reached the first turning point and we’ve been handed out some refreshing sponges and some cool water. In the next post, we will continue our Supply Chain Manager’s Daily Decathlon.

(this post was also published on Supply Chain, 06-Mar-2013)