e-Leaders Speak: Ron Southard of SafeSourcing on “Creatively Educating our Sourcing Professionals Today for the Challenges of Tomorrow”

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Today’s guest post is from Ron Southard of SafeSourcing.

While economic conditions and cost containment continue to drive top of mind thinking, there are a variety of cost effective educational alternatives available to procurement professionals that don’t require travel, fees or time away from the office that leaders should consider.

I was asked to use the subject of “Sourcing Tomorrow: The Leaders Speak”.While there are any number of subjects this author could cover, what I believe should be top of mind for senior sourcing leaders as the new year approaches at warp speed is the continuing education of our sourcing professionals.

This can be accomplished without attending expensive seminars, solution provider gatherings or even trade shows. All that’s required is a little creativity and everyone on the team can attend.

Today’s World Wide Web, empowered by the Internet, provides a unique opportunity to those seeking education on any subject that one can imagine. As a source of information, the internet actually provides for close to three degrees of separation from just about any subject one chooses to study. Even the human web, which is commonly referred to as having six degrees of separation – which means that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on earth, is not as closely connected as today’s data.

The nice part about the use of the web is that it really is open source intelligence gathering at its best. It is simply the gathering of information from publicly available sources and analyzing it to produce something actionable like a seminar. If you can Google, Ask, or Bing, information is available for your use. The only concern one may have is the quality of the information you are searching. This means you can not trust everything you read. I would not go so far as saying that trusted information networks are required, but you should check out your sources.

Sources of information available to sourcing professionals for information gathering could be blogs, wikis, social networks, professional networks like LinkedIn, provider websites, glossaries and a variety of search engines. So, how should we use these tools to develop high quality educational programs internally?

First and foremost, there has to be commitment from the leadership of the supply chain or sourcing organization. With this commitment in place, you might consider something like the following.

  1. Bring your sourcing / supply chain management team together.
  2. Notify key managers that each will be required to deliver a sourcing subject seminar throughout the year. The sessions will last 2 hours followed by lunch.
  3. All sourcing / supply chain associates will be invited to attend each seminar.
  4. Conduct a whiteboard session to select subjects for each seminar.
  5. Assign seminar subjects to someone that does not have that area of responsibility in order to facilitate management learning.
  6. Insure subject matter selected supports cross functional learning.
  7. Ask your solutions providers to support your user education by sponsoring lunch or breaks.
  8. Be creative in the delivery process. Anything goes. Think props and handouts.
  9. Make the session interactive.
  10. Provide a survey before lunch.

Let’s take a look at the subject of “Supply Chain Stress Points” as an example of a subject that might be selected for a seminar. Now, let’s look at how we might begin to research this subject.

I always like to begin with Google. If we Google “Supply Chain Stress Points”, Google returns approximately 507,000 hits. I’m sure we could begin to build something from here. If I select the 2nd hit, which was “Stress on the Supply Chain: Where is the Weakest Link?” when I searched, I find that the article contains a number of terms that may require further research, such as “Supplier Support Program”. This subject can then be researched using any number of on-line tools, including Wikipedia. It does not take too much effort to build a pretty decent two hour presentation for your seminar. Finally, always remember to credit your sources. They just provided you with an inexpensive education.

Some, but certainly not all, of the benefits of these types of internal seminars or programs are as follows.

  1. Builds a sense of team
  2. Provides cross functional education for the presenter
  3. Provides cross functional education for the entire sourcing / supply chain team
  4. Supports the development of a learning organization
  5. Reduces travel expenses
  6. Allows everyone to attend

In order to be prepared for the challenges that tomorrow’s sourcing will provide, leaders must consider creative ways of educating our procurement professionals today.

Thanks, Ron.