Societal Sustentation 44: Education Quality

Supply Management is hard. Real hard. And it’s only getting harder. SI has said it before, and it will say it again … and again — in order to excel at Supply Management a Sourcing or Procurement professional has to be a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-one.

But this is not an easy thing to do. The skill set required by today’s Procurement professional is longer than Santa’s naughty and nice lists put together and is growing by the day. And that’s just the basics. The EQ, IQ, and TQ required for an average Procurement professional to get through the day is enormous. It’s to the point where a person of average intelligence can’t cut it. It used to be that only the best and brightest could do law and medicine and engineering but now only the best can do supply management. And, to make matters worse, just EQ, IQ, and TQ is not enough.

A modern Supply Management Professional needs knowledge — and lots of it. With constantly changing market conditions, new inventions, and new modes of operation, whatever a supply manager knows today is unknown tomorrow. As new methods of production come online, old methods become cost prohibitive. As new products are invented, old products become obsolete. As market conditions change, old plans become irrelevant. And so on. And what you need to know changes by the day.

But where do you get that knowledge. Most universities have a curriculum that is still mired in old-school logistics and operations research. Most professional associations are still teaching you old-school negotiating tactics. Most blogs are mired in the noughts and still preaching the gospel according to Ariba and Emptoris (which no longer exist on their own). And the analysts … well, we’re not too sure just what they are inhaling before they do their preaching, tragic quadrants, and dangerous graves.

And education quality in general in North America is bad, with the US ranked 14th, and getting worse. Only one in seven people can do math. Potheads have a higher IQ than twitterers. And spelling and grammar? The best case is whatever the iPhone autocorrect feature suggests. So what do you do?

1. Find curious people.

Find people who want to learn and get smarter and more efficient on their own. That will seek out the nuggets of knowledge, internalize them, and try their best to incorporate those nuggets into their work.

2. Seek out those that have a higher than average IQ, TQ, or EQ.

Those with a higher IQ will be able to quickly grasp, internalize, and utilize new theories and methodologies. Those with a higher TQ will be able to master new technology faster and find ways to simplify it and train the rest of the organization on the key features. Those with a higher EQ will be able to work better as a team.

3. Make sure you hire people that excel in each area.

Having a mix of high IQ, TQ, and EQ people will create a well balanced team that can work together, adopt and exploit leading technology faster, and learn about new options ahead of your peers.

4. Encourage continual learning … and pay for it.

Bring back the training budget, and pad it well. Even though you’re going to pay more for these well educated, smart, tech savvy, team-oriented, curious people, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay even more for training. In what other organization can a $1 of training take $100 off of the bottom line when the sourceror takes 5% off a category expected to be at rock bottom, gets the supplier to throw in a value-add warranty for free, or finds a new production method that shaves 50% off of overhead cost? Find people that want to learn, and continually educate them. The cost is nothing compared to the ROI you will generate.