Business in the next 20 years is likely to be far more tumultuous and challenging than in the prior 20 years, says Fawcett. Winning organizations will be those that can innovate and create value with their supply chains faster than their competitors, he says, "but there are not many managers who have the skill set to get that edge on the competition." Managers that are able to help companies drive innovation and create value will become indispensable, he says.
Fawcett has identified five core qualities that indispensable leaders possess. "First, they are incessant scanners," he says. "They keep their heads up and their eyes open. They always are looking down the road and around the corner to identify trends, inflection points and new rules before their rivals." If a company knows how the field is changing, it can design a supply chain to win at the new game, he says.
Second, these leaders are "collaborative cross-functionalists," Fawcett says. Universities and companies train people to be deep functionalists with a specific set of skills, he says. While those skill sets are important, "to become indispensable employees need to speak the language of many different functional areas and know key individuals and decision makers within the organization that can help foster collaboration."
The third quality is choreography. "These are the people who choreograph value creation," Fawcett says. "They use left-brain, linear skills to select the right people for a team and then use very different right-brain skills to get those people to work together, with flexibility and adaptability, toward a common goal." Choreographers are very rare, he says, because people typically are not wired to excel at both left- and right-brain skills.
The fourth quality is that of coach. "We know that coaches teach and motivate, but there is a third quality that often is missed - the ability to correct without demoralizing," Fawcett says. "Coaches have to be teachers, motivators and correctors." The ability to inspire people to bring their very best to the table will be increasingly critical to success, he adds.
The final element of indispensability is that of catalyst. "If you think back to high-school chemistry class, you could put reactive agents together and nothing would happen until you added the catalyst," Fawcett says. "The catalytic manager accelerates processes and drives operations to the desired end state."
Traditional recruiting has not focused on these characteristics, putting more emphasis on IQ than on the Emotional Quotient, or EQ, that is fundamental to many of these characteristics, Fawcett says. "The challenge is how to get both - deep skills or IQ combined with EQ."
Fawcett says that some leading companies are starting to revamp their hiring processes to explicitly evaluate EQ. "Once they hire someone, they must continue to invest in this set of skills because it is really important long term," he says. Fawcett stresses that this is still a new area, "but knowing these core characteristics gives us a bit of a road map and something to drive toward, even if we don't yet have turn-by-turn directions."
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, supply management, inventory management, transportation management, logistics management
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