|Supply chain professionals have been rising through the corporate level in
the past years, but only a few have reached the CEO title in non-supply
chain service provider organizations and in the largest companies in the
world. Some might say that we are climbing that ladder at a very slow
Maybe because Supply Chain professionals feel more comfortable dealing
with operations and tactical rather than strategic and more intangible
problems. That preference is what makes Supply Chain professionals
exceptionally good dealing with problems and fighting fires. We can assess
a problem and deal with it and solve it or come up with an alternative plan.
We can take very complex solutions on a walk and have a pretty good idea what needs to be done to
solve it. For these qualities we are well respected and appreciated.
Something that people do not tell us very often is that we are perceived as tactical and not strategic.
That perception for a mid-level position supply chain professional is the kiss of death in terms of
reaching the Boardroom. We are good in the trenches but we're not good visionaries or leaders of the
complete organization. The message that we are sending is that we are not C-level material.
Perception is reality and we are not going to get closer to the Boardroom by ignoring perceptions or
Two of the greatest challenges in the past few years, as well as the stages on which we have
demonstrated our capacity to lead, have been global warming and the fuel crisis. Some companies
have made initial progress. Based upon the latest GSCLG Senior Management survey 73% of Supply
Chain management is not doing anything beyond the cost side of the fuel equation and other “green”
If fuel and global warming are not the perfect causes for you as a Supply Chain professional to drive
and show your C-level material, I am at a loss at defining what it will take for us to do it. We can't be
expected to just lower costs and not bring something more to the whole organization. Who better than
Supply Chain personnel to drive these initiatives?
Now, the reality is that very few are recognized for their efforts, but many of us have made and
continue to make significant impacts on these two important issues. We are not telling the story right.
We need to “speak” in terms that will be understood by others in the proper context. Next time you
make you presentations on cost cutting add a slide on carbon reduction. Every time you come up with
a better packing, optimize routing, eliminate waste, or reduce unnecessary moves of materials, reduce
wait time, improve usage of the equipment, and so forth, make sure that you measure the tangible
benefits to the environment and the impact of greenhouse gases and global warming.
If you do that, it reinforces the message that global warming and fuel consumption is important. If you
track it, it is important, but you will also send the message that you are a holistic professional. We are
taking the two most significant issues of our professional careers (some might say more) and you are
dealing with them. Once you start, others will follow; and if others follow, guess what? You are a leader.
C-level material is that simple; it is being able to deal with the whole organization while having the
capacity to execute. No matter how good we are at executing if we can't lead the whole organization,
we shouldn't be on the Board.
I know that we can and we just need to drive and communicate to change that perception. People's
perceptions of global warming and the fuel crisis are changing. Perceptions of the supply chain
professional can also change.