Violinists have a different skill set and profile than the violin makers. Sports equipment makers have a different profile than the sportsmen. Race car designers (or yacht designers) may not necessarily be successful in racing cars (yachts).
One is not necessarily better than the other. One does not necessarily earn more than the other, or add more value, or is more popular or desirable. They are just different.
Let us make use these analogies to delineate the differences between business transformation (BT) jobs, and business-as-usual (BAU) jobs as they apply to supply chain.
Most of these distinctions will also likely apply to the other BT jobs and BAU jobs in the corporeate world, though I do not make any attempt to do so.
What are typical BAU jobs in supply chain?
Look at the figure below:
In a typical business unit multiple supply chain BAU jobs exist. Depending on the organisational design within the company, a business unit might encompass all the product families and geographies in a company, or a subset of these. We will discuss the skill sets for BAU jobs later in this piece, but before that let us discuss the BT jobs briefly.
In BT teams the jobs carry titles such as partner, engagement manager, project manager, consultant, associate an analyst. Again, the skill sets are discussed later in this piece, after we look at the psychographic profiles of the two categories of supply chain experts:
Do you enjoy tinkering with your game, or with your gaming equipment?
Almost every good violinist can do minor tune-ups for his violin. Similarly, every golfer, yachtsperson or racing car driver can do minor tune-ups (or even major modifications) in his or her equipment.
Yet, that is not their primary focus or source of enjoyment for them. Tiger Woods enjoys playing golf much more than tinkering with his golf clubs. Almost every player enjoys the game, more than tinkering with the gaming equipment.
There comes a point where you can start enjoying the creative process of tinkering with the equipment more than the experimenting with your game. If you are a BAU person cross that barrier, and stay past that threshold you have entered the world of BT.
Beyond attitude, lies the world of skills
BT personnel carry no authority or power in the companies they work for. Almost every result they achieve is on the basis of their personality, subject matter expertise and influencing skills.
I have seen hundreds of executives try and transition into consulting roles and fail because they forget that now they have no authority in the company. I have seen the opposite too. That is why I have written an entire article on Why Good Business Executives Make Bad Business Consultants and Vice Versa.
Let us unpack the skill set for supply chain leaders in a bit more detail. I have written extensive about the skills in many articles so I will keep this discussion brief:
Look at the figure above. Technical supply chain skills are only 25% of the overall skills matrix - albeit an important one.
They are important because none else in the company are likely to have these technical supply chain skills. It is either the BAU supply chain team, or not there in the company at all. You cannot make up with this deficiency even with BT supplementation.
You might be able to upskill your BAU team by bringing in the external trainers or mentors temporarily, but those trainers or mentors are not going to be able to do that job on a day-to-day basis for a long term.
And, these technical supply chain skills being in perpetual deficiency in most organisations, as BT team, you cannot do without them - no matter whether you are consulting to the CEOs or at the shop-floor level.
And, frequently, you will be called upon to consult at multiple levels - so you will need personal leadership attributes and EQ to relate your technical knowledge at every level in the company. That is the reason I have also written extensively on Are Good Business Transformation People Worth Their Weight in Gold?
Now a question arises - why do we need the other two skill sets - Business nous & Commercial awareness, Relationship skills & EQ?
Real life supply chain persons - whether in BAU team, or in BT team do not work in a vacuum. As you will read many times in these pages - all the supply chain integration and optimisation work is carried out working closely with sales, marketing, production, logistics, finance, product development, suppliers and customers. If you really want to get the best out of them you will need these two skill sets in abundance.
Again, I am not going to explain each and every part of the skill set, and how it applies to each level of supply chain for BAU team, or BT team in this article because that job has already been done elsewhere in these pages.
Do you enjoy politics, or projects?
Some people are tasks oriented - they enjoy projects. They get immense sense of accomplishment from finishing difficult pieces of work. They sharpen their skill sets accordingly and keep them readily up to date. They get bored easily when they do not get a challenge to exercise their minds and skills.
Other people are people oriented - they enjoy being part of coteries. They get an immense kick out of camaraderie with their peers. They get bored without a constant banter. They keep their rolodexes up to date, and keep developing a network of people to call for anything they could possibly face. They love the rough and tumble of the politics.
While both sides with have some attributes of the two, generally, the former tend to congregate towards the BT teams and the latter towards the BAU team.
In Summary, It does not matter where you play, what matter is how well you play Your game
You will have noticed, I have worked hard to make sure you do not get an impression above that one side is any better than the other. Both sides have a job to do, and if the fit is right they do it very well. Both sides get paid well for a well played game.
The problem arises when the fit is not right. That is when the players give the game of supply chain a bad name. If you know someone who is not a good fit - do yourself a favour and pass them this article so they can reflect and re-adjust.