The traditional organization in supply chain management was characterized by parallel silos of subject matter experts in procurement, inventory, logistics, transportation and manufacturing. More recently SCM structures focused on a collection of generalists with several months of experience in a number of functions but no expertise in any one area. The McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin has a Supply Chain Management Center of Excellence (SCMC) that brings together the three primary constituencies of our SCM program: corporate sponsors, faculty and students. Over the past few years, the semi-annual programs of the SCMC have focused on development in the SCM organizations of our sponsors. These corporate sponsor enterprises are leaders in semiconductors, personal computers, consumer packaged goods, aerospace and defense, consulting, retailing and energy.
Using the model recently developed by Gartner Research, the SCMC sponsors and UT faculty have discussed the talent development challenges inherent with the increased importance of SCM on the success of their respective enterprises. In the Gartner model the key to excellence in supply chain leadership is a balance between operational and innovation excellence. Operational excellence is represented by deep knowledge and understanding of the various operational components of the enterprise: sales and operations planning (plan); procurement (source); manufacturing (make); logistics, inventory, warehouse, and transportation management (deliver); customer management, post sales support, and new-product development. On the other end of the spectrum is excellence in innovation; represented by a more cross-functional business approach that requires individuals with a wide range of experiences, contacts, and skills that bridge the various activities and disciplines with the organization. In the Gartner model these two approaches are described respectively as Mastery of Discipline and Mastery of Orchestration. The corporate sponsors have noted consistently that they currently value the Orchestrator role very highly in their respective organizations. While they (sponsors) all recognize the important role of the subject matter experts (or Masters of Discipline) for ensuring best practices and functional best practices, they were virtually unanimous in their frustration in finding individuals with the requisite skills to function effectively as Masters of Orchestration.
The SCM program of the McCombs School of Business is using a number of the concepts introduced by Gartner to focus the curricula of both the undergraduate and graduate SCM programs to develop individuals who have the skills and perspective to function effectively as Masters of Orchestration. While there is no specific course that addresses the concept of Orchestration, the overall curriculum is designed with an eye to cross-functional collaboration, global perspective, risk management, and firm grounding in the fundamental supply chain principles. This curriculum (and the performance of program graduates) is reviewed at least semi-annually with the corporate sponsors of the SCMC to ensure continuous improvement.
Most corporate operations have experienced the growing strategic importance of their supply chain management activities, including the need for increasing numbers of trained professionals with the necessary skills to support that significance. Gartner's research on the appropriate balance between functional specialization and cross-functional flexibility gives both corporate SCM operations and university programs a model for developing talent. Both corporations and universities will need to participate in defining the skills, classroom experiences, practical applications, and work experiences that are necessary to develop the balance of functional specialists and cross-functional generalists required for successful SCM performance.
Keywords: HR & Labor Management, Business Strategy Alignment, Global Supply Chain Management, McCombs School of Business, Talent Development, Operational Excellence, Innovation Excellence, Mastery of Discipline, Mastery of Orchestration
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