Editor’s Note: Ken Chadwick is a VP Analyst, Gartner Supply Chain Practice
Historically the supply chain has been the engine room of the company, driving the business forward but largely out of sight. All of this has changed with the COVID-19 outbreak. With greater attention being paid to the supply chain amid pandemic-related disruptions and global trade challenges, an opportunity exists for supply chain leaders to recast the role of supply chain with the CEO and board of directors.
To shift how the CEO and board view the strategic importance of supply chain, CSCOs must first build credibility with their peers, the CEO and the board. They must understand what’s most important to the board — and deliver it. To adapt to the board’s shifting priorities, supply chain leaders must focus on driving performance while managing risks and still pursue opportunities to leverage new technologies, products and services for business growth.
Sounds great, but where to start? Build three mindsets into your supply chain leadership practice.
The Performance Mindset: Become the partner of choice
To drive performance, the CSCO must be viewed as a critical partner with whom other leaders work to solve operational and strategic challenges. Currently that is not the case, according to Gartner research. Supply chain is not usually seen as a strategic partner, and senior business executives rank the CSCO role at the bottom of the list when asked to rate key pairings for working on something new.
Delivering performance is job one, and this begins by developing a team that inspires the confidence of executives. Developing deep supply chain expertise, as well as a broad range of knowledge across finance, sales, marketing, engineering, and commercial business enhances personal credibility and the ability to collaborate with peers.
Communication is critical. Target each interaction with the board to an outcome that you are looking to achieve, such as a decision on funding. Also, clearly articulate what you are asking for and how it links to challenges that are important to the CEO or board of directors.
The Risk Mindset: Show resilience in turbulent times
In the face of risk, the board and CEO are looking for both competence and confidence. Supply chain leaders need a clear approach to explain their risk responses and strategies to the board.
As the pandemic has revealed all too well, there are some risks for which nobody has a plan. Showing leadership at the board level means designing a supply chain organization that is resilient enough to respond to disruptions in real time. For instance, many supply chains responded swiftly to the COVID pandemic by collaborating with supply chain partners to absorb additional cost, moving manufacturing operations to alternative countries or switching sourcing to different locations to adjust to supplier disruptions.
The Opportunity Mindset: Influence the future through supply chain
To influence the future CSCOs must think innovatively about how supply chains can leverage new technologies, business models, and products and services to support the growth of the business. Even amidst the pandemic, strategies like digital are important to CEOs and boards, and CSCOs must continue building those capabilities into the supply chain.
Focus on trends that the board has yet to identify and take a lead in the areas that are in your wheelhouse. The environmental footprint of your company is a prime example of an area the CSCO can own. Another is data. CEOs want supply chain leaders who are not only tech-savvy but who can also help determine the data landscape. Build your own technical skills and use them to improve your collaboration with your company’s technology leaders.
Supply chain issues have taken center stage during the pandemic, presenting a new opportunity for CSCOs to showcase the strategic importance of supply chain. It all starts with understanding the priorities of your board of directors and executive team. Then use the three mindsets to connect the dots between their priorities and the work your supply chain does.