Part 2: Developing Skills to Support Bottom-up Ownership of Supply Chain Risk


In my last post, I stated that strengthening behavioral skills is a necessary area of focus for successful supply chain risk management practitioners. Without capable professionals at multiple levels of multiple organizations who have developed the skills to make informed and independent decisions, the overall network slows, often responding too late to stave off damage or to meet market demands. Here are a few examples of these skills, and why they are effective tools to support these professionals:

  • Root cause analysis: People frequently speak of this, but often focus on the techniques, as opposed to the mindset. At its core, root cause analysis requires intellectual curiosity – a genuine desire to understand how things work. In addition, individuals who actually like their organization are also more likely to sincerely want to support improvements. Those qualities can never be truly unleashed if there isn’t a tone set from leadership to create an environment of honest self-reflection. If leadership doesn’t create an environment where people are allowed to identify imperfections, this type of organizational curiosity that I describe can never flourish. Self-awareness and openness to critique may be the most difficult things to cultivate in most organizations, especially in many cultures that may be more hierarchical than others. 


  • Understanding of how to leverage management systems: ‘Management systems’ is another term that is often used, yet not always understood. A management system is simply a framework that enables consistent, repeatable practices that support effective organizational performance. That framework consists of elements such as policies, work instructions, measurements, and systematic means of communication, and information management, skills development, and governance. A well-designed management system does more than enable effective performance; it identifies when and where that is not occurring, and feeds that back into the organization as part of a self-aware learning organization.


  • Empathy: This may feel a bit too squishy for some people reading this, but empathy is absolutely necessary for designing any effective service, product or solution. If you do not understand your ‘customer’ (internal or external), you will never understand their needs well enough to design the optimal way to serve those needs. This sidles up alongside the same intellectual curiosity required for effective root cause analysis, but acknowledges the complexity, unpredictability and humanity of people operating those coldly-engineered processes and machinery.


  • Influence and change management: Unfortunately, the best-designed solution to the most intractable problem often whimpers to a silent death if a key contributor or sponsor wills it so. The sense of empathy that felt so squishy a few moments ago will serve a practitioner well when assessing stakeholders, their needs, and their roles in supporting the success of any improvement initiative. Those stakeholders often bring necessary technical expertise, capital funding, or simply the buy-in of other key stakeholders. Practitioners who possess the skills to get a key project off of the ground, and who understand how to guide others through the subsequent changes, gain the increasing trust and support of peers and organizational leaders – resulting in buy-in to future initiatives.    

Technical skills are necessary, and are like the bricks that hold up the building. When people see the walls, they see the bricks. Less noticeable, but just as important, are the mortar, tools and craftsmanship of the mason that bind those bricks to one another. Organizations that invest in oft-neglected behavioral skills realize that enabling people to think independently ironically increases their likelihood that they will act in a way that is significantly more consistent with shared organizational values.

To learn more about teaching behavioral skills to your employees and suppliers, and the benefits, contact me using link below.