Step 1 To Building a World Class Supply Management Organization

Adopt a start-up mentality.

Yes, it’s that simple. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears will still be required, but, getting it right really is that simple. And a big thank you to Mark Suster, regular TechCrunch contributor, who wrote a great article on Whom You Should Hire at a Startup that allowed me to realize this.

As you may have noticed, a number of issues have been on my mind of late. In addition to Next Generation Sourcing and Supply Chain Education (or lack thereof), I’ve been trying to figure out how an organization without any modern supply management capabilities, a follower if you will, can go about laying the foundations of a world class supply management organization to become tomorrow’s leader. Obviously if next generation sourcing is the goal, it can’t be the starting point, and education, while critical, requires a foundation. And, more importantly, you can’t turn a “B”-Team into an “A”-Team if there is no raw talent waiting to be released, molded, and shaped under the leadership of the right Colonel.

But if you want to build a new capability, you’re essentially building a new organization, and how do you build a new organization? You create a new start-up, and since, as an organization, you have the one thing that most start-ups don’t — money (and lack of adequate funding is the biggest reason most start-ups fail), you’re almost guaranteed to succeed if you follow successful start best-practices. And since there’s really only three best-practices that you need to remember, this isn’t hard to do.

So what are these best practices?

  1. Hire a talented team
  2. Give them a goal
  3. Get out of their way

Taking these points in reverse order, the biggest mistake many first-time entrepreneurs make is that they overvalue their importance in the start-up success equation. They think that no one gets it like they do or that it won’t succeed if they don’t champion it 24/7 or that the team will lose momentum if they’re not constantly preaching the doctrine, when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, entrepreneur ego is the second biggest reason most start-ups fail. An entrepreneur who believes the start-up can’t succeed without him or her tends to make multiple, deadly, mistakes which include micro-managing top-talent who get frustrated at the inability to do their job and the lack of forward progress (because the CEO isn’t an expert in finance, technology, marketing, or other critical functions that the top-talent is supposed to be leading); overchampioning the cause 24/7 to the point where the talent gets sick of all the cheering and actually loses excitement and drive to succeed; refusing to step to the side and play nice when new leadership is required to take the company to the next level; and overvaluing the company and turning away reasonable investment offers, which drives away any future investment when the rumour gets out the founders are too greedy.

A good entrepreneur realizes that they are the enabler, not the doer, and after giving the talent they hire a goal, gets out of the way of the team and, moreover, does everything they can to remove distractions and barriers to team success because a good team wants to excel and will do whatever they can to shine if allowed. Because, as Suster’s great article on Whom You Should Hire at a Startup points out, an A-Team

  • punches above their weight class,
  • doesn’t care above roles and stretches their job description to do what has to be done,
  • has the right attitude, and
  • gets the job done.

So if you want to build that world-class supply management organization, adopt a start-up mentality, hire an A-Team, give them a goal, provide them with whatever they need (including the right training and technology, which they will help you identify), stand back, and don’t be surprised if miracles happen.