Saturday, 18 February 2017

Converging Disruptors- Tsunami of Opportunity

Supply Chain Management Unusual in the 21st Century

The Supply Chain Management industry has become unrecognisable from just a few years ago, opening many opportunities. At the same time we acquire new and exciting tools to equip our people for these seismic disruptions.  

This article explores these opportunities.

Firstly, a couple of considerations and quotes in context:

“According to research done by Stanford University, the amount of knowledge generated in the last 30 years is equivalent to the amount of knowledge generated in the rest of human history.

“Textbooks are becoming outdated by the time they are printed. Curricula are no longer reliable records of what we know. Predictable career paths and stable worldviews are things of the past.

“In this constantly shifting knowledge landscape, learning how to think is becoming far more important than learning what  to think. 

This is a shift away from subject content towards a focus on thinking skills.”

André Croucamp- Totem Media.

Growing e-commerce, EDI communication, emergence of drone technology, cloud storage and big data, omnichannel operations and robotics, dark warehouses – the list goes on.

“Experts now believe that almost 50 per cent of occupations existing today will be completely redundant by 2025 as the skills and knowledge needed by employers changes more quickly than ever.Employees and organisations need to adapt or die.”

Carl Dawson, Managing Director, Proversity

What these quotes and considerations illustrate is that we have two converging disruptors- one in which our current competencies are becoming redundant due to technological innovation and the other in which our methods of equipping people to deal with these changes are becoming outdated. At the convergence of these disruptors is a tsunami of opportunity for those who have the courage to ride it.

How do we ride this tsunami?

“If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done.”
Thomas Jefferson
Further thoughts to guide the tsunami ride:

1. Start by challenging our own organisation's “story” and disrupting long-standing (and sometimes implicit) beliefs about how to make money in our given field through the adoption of methods of working and company structures which are infinitely flexible.
Conventional, top down management practices do not bring about these changes- what do, are:
  • Devolvement of the highest levels of responsibility to the lowest organisational levels possible. Put another way, empowering people to make and take responsibility for their mistakes- that’s the only way they really learn. This will also include the inclusion of youth and youthful ideas in the highest levels of strategy formation.
  • Listening, seriously listening, to the lessons learnt by those on the ground and using that information to implement changes which will bring about a more flexible and agile organisation
  • Making the workplace environment a fun place to be
  • Creating facilities to see the organisation as others see it on an ongoing basis and to harness what is learnt to enhance customer centricity 
2.  Exploit the changes in education and training technology. Those involved in training have tools available to them which were unimaginable a short while ago. Virtual reality is seen to be playing an increasing role in training- gamification is proving to be a powerful tool in enhanced learner engagement especially in practical fields like Supply Chain Management.

Interconnectivity and the Internet of Things are key factors in changing education delivery whereby formal and informal training via classrooms, tablets, iPhones, company intranets and all those other media are integrated through a single learner management system to create a powerful tool for achieving world class competence.

Sound impossible? Watch this space.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Corporate Flexibility - How to bring it on

Image Source: Savour the Success
Any business award or achievement in the current environment represents the highest recognition of the ability to take advantage of change in an extremely disruptive environment. The question is, how to inculcate this flexibility into a corporate culture?

Flexibility must be pervasive

Successful companies are those which embrace change, not those which employ a few flexible people.

A fundamental requirement of corporate agility is that decision making needs to be devolved to the lowest level possible. Only companies that have a dynamic workforce can hope to keep up. This suggests that those who directly interface with the client need to have both the skills and the authority necessary to make decisions which satisfy both the client and the company – not easy.

If flexibility decreases with age, then we live in times where we must bring younger people into leadership positions.

In Africa we have an advantage -- over 500 million people under the age of 35-- sponges of knowledge, vibrant, interconnected, tech savvy, family-centric, team oriented, and attention craving.
Successful transformation is therefore less about handing over to the previously disadvantaged than it is about handing over to the younger generation, the Gen Ys.

Gen Ys in the Workplace

There has never been a larger disconnect between two generations than that which exists between Gen Ys and their parents.

A strong characteristic of Gen Y’s is their sense of immediacy, that “want it now” attitude. They woke up to a world that was filled with a succession of events that was completely life changing- Africa is nothing if not a continent in transition. As a result, many of them have made a decision that they need to live life now. They need to get on with the most important parts of their life. And that sense of immediacy, of living life in the current, is something that is very pervasive throughout Gen Y.

It’s not surprising that, in a recent survey, Gen Y’s put career advancement and salary at the top of their list when it comes to factors that influence where they decide to work.

Interestingly enough Gen Y’s ranked training and mentorship in the top three things that will influence where they decide to work in the same survey

The “want it now” attitude goes directly to Gen Y’s eagerness to engage with their employer, drive immediate results and advance in their careers.

It therefore should not be unexpected that, in the workplace, those responsible for mentoring Gen Y’s often have the feeling that they are sitting in a tornado.

Harnessing the tornado

Strong communication and leadership within an organisation are factors that will positively impact Gen Y’s engagement in the workplace

Gen y’s have grown up in a peer-to-peer world, meaning that communication is hugely important to them. So they are used to sending information to peers based on their perception of who could use the information, where it would provide the most value.

These young people come into a corporate environment with that same set of assumptions. So if they have an idea that they think could benefit you, it doesn’t matter who you are, CEO, head of marketing– they’ve got an idea, chances are they’re going to share it with you. That’s the way they’ve always operated and there’s no sign that this will change the corporate world.

This creates huge opportunities to harness these energies. What is needed is a corporate learning culture which leverages technologies that have disrupted the market. Such a culture has stands on three pillars:
  •     Harnessing the power of video learning;
  •     Creating a collaborative environment in which the Gen Ys assist in generating     content; 
  •     Driving engagement with targeted content based on objectively identified skills gaps.

What has your experience been in harnessing the Gen Y tornado?

Are Gen Y’s worth expending the extra effort needed to change them from good ideas and noble aspirations to value adding assets?

What specific mentoring programmes have you introduced for Gen Y’s?

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Exploding Myths and Exploring Resonances to Exploit Opportunities

Those myths and uncanny resonances

                                                  Image source:

Some myths around learning in the workplace and uncannily significant resonances between overseas and local research uncover significant opportunities for both the people and the organisations involved in Supply Chain Management. 

3 Preconceptions About Workplace Learning
According to Taub, three preconceptions which need to be managed in order to remove constraints in the path of successful training implementation are:

1.          People don’t have time for learning

People will make time, given the right motivation. As adults we are willing to invest in our learning and development — but only if convinced that it will improve our work performance, advance our careers and/ or enrich our lives. So, if it is clear that the training on which we are embarking will help us grow, evolve and stay marketable, the time will be available.

2.          Traditional training methods, like classroom training and even online courses no longer work

Whilst it is true that people, especially Gen Y’s, learn from a great deal more sources than previous generations, formally based training is very necessary:
  •       Where courses are based on registered qualifications delivered by accredited providers, the qualifications acquired are becoming increasingly important to the marketability not only of the individuals concerned but also the institutions which employ them.
  •       Formal courses which are structured in accordance with sound learning principles promote strategic thinking and impart problem solving abilities which are key in the Supply Chain Management environment.

It is however important to keep in mind that speed, simplicity and easy access are key to the success to any form of learning and it is here perhaps that academia has much to gain from studying these characteristics of less formal learning.

3.          The HR/ learning function owns responsibility for employee development

Once responsibility for learning is shared between the learning function, managers and individuals by building and managing a mentoring culture that empowers those in the workplace to discover and connect with the right people, experiences and resources, this is where effective training begins.
(Taub, 2016).

Where Should Our Training be focused?
Having established what works for workplace training, we find that there is an uncanny resonance between research carried out in the USA and the Barloworld Logistics supplychainforesight survey.

In the USA the leadership and professional competency requirements for future Supply Chain managers were found to be as follows:
  • Ability to negotiate and collaborate with value chain partners
  • Ability to collaborate across functions
  • Ability to drive or support diversity and inclusion
  • Strategic thinking and problem solving
  • Ability to manage global/ virtual teams
  • Ability to persuade and communicate effectively
  • Leading and developing others
(Melnyk, S. and Seftel, C.M., 2016: Quoting Deloitte’s Third Annual Supply Chain Survey 2015)

Looking at the 2015 supplychainforesight survey we find that, in order to achieve the key strategic Supply Chain objectives which were identified below, very similar competencies are needed:
  • Identifying and managing change
  • Growth and expansion into new markets
  • Increasing flexibility, agility and responsiveness
  • Sustaining existing areas of financial returns
  • Introducing new products and services
  • Using supply chain as more of a competitive advantage
  • Investment in business intelligence

(Frost & Sullivan. 2015: 17)

We can see that the role of Supply Chain Manager is moving from tactician to strategist. This represents huge opportunities for organisations which, in order to take full advantage of them, need to position themselves through effective, focussed training.

How do you promote learner engagement in your workplace training?

How is your workplace training aligned to or company strategy?

What competencies are needed to make your organisation more really fly?

Melnyk, S. and Seftel, C.M., 2016. The Emergence of the Supply Chain Leader: The Metamorphosis From Tactical To Strategic. Accessed 16 August 2016

Frost & Sullivan. 2015: supplychainforesight 2015: Embracing change for a sustainable future. Barloworld Logistics, Johannesburg