I interviewed Edwin Tuyn who discussed What are the Essential Skills that Supply Chain Professionals Need which are Outside of their Skills.
Could you first provide a brief background of yourself?
Thank you. And good day, good afternoon, or good evening to everybody that's listening. My name is Edwin Tuyn. I'm one of the managing directors of Inspired Search. It's a global, operating executive search company, a small one, but we are quite active in the supply chain industry.
My background traditionally is in supply chain, so I know, roughly, what I'm talking about when I talk to supply chain professionals. We are based in The Netherlands, but we operate throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
What are the Essential Skills that Supply Chain Professionals Need which are Outside of their Hard Skills?
One of the things that we have been pushing for the last year since we started up exactly 10 years ago is that supply chain more and more is a job that is linking various activities in the organization. So besides the hard skills that is required in the understanding of supply chain planning and logistics, more and more, supply chain professionals that really want to go to the top have to have good communication skills and be able to link various groups of people into global activities.
So I've been writing about that for some time, and some of the activities we described in a model that we published several years ago which is called the T-Shaped Supply Chain Manager, where activities like change management and people skills are stressed.
So we select not only on the hard skills but also on the social skills more and more and on the cultural fit.
Can you talk a little bit more about why these are important?
Like I said already, some of them, the way you are a senior supply chain professional, you deal with your peers in marketing, you deal with your peers in sales, in finance. And they don't... I don't say they don't care so much, but they're interest in hard supply chain activities is not that big. So while supply chain often is focused on cost reduction on the finance side, or differently, on the sales side, they're not so much interested in reducing cost but more in increasing sales or increasing margin. So it's just a different set of verbs and language that you need to use to come across with your ideas. And therefore you need to be, as a supply chain professional, more adaptable to that kind of activities. So an open mind and a good understanding of different activities in the organization and keeping people on board and bringing them on board for supply chain ideas is quite important.
Sales, generally, is still a more important activity in an organization than supply chain, although supply chain link all those activities together to make it a success. So that's one of the things that we have been looking for in supply chain professionals is how easy they are communicating, how easy they can communicate with different people in the organization and how easy they can understand the different activities in the organization and also outside the organize because often supply chain is also liked to your client and to your provider of product or services.
So being a hard-core supply chain profession, knowing all the ins and outs of supply chain planning is interesting and very necessary, but more important is that you can liaise all different entities in the organization, and it requires, like I said already, skills like people skills, openness, change management, being aware of what happens around the world, more or less. The good ones have those abilities.
How are these skills developed?
Sometimes it's a certain attitude that you have to have. Let's say you developed it probably around from... That's a good question. I'm thinking about it straight away. But I think some people have it; some people don't. And the people that have that kind of ability, they're able to develop it over years. And one way to develop that more professionally is to be curious about what happens around your organization.
And the other thing that is very important to develop it also is to know who you are as a person.So being aware of where your strengths are or where your weaknesses are, that way you can add value to the organization. It's a key essential attitude to be able to fulfill this role. So if you don't know the effects of your own actions, you also cannot not react corporately on the activities of other people.
So you have to be fairly like the [inaudible 00:05:40] model, which I wrote about some time ago, says you have to very [inaudible 00:05:45] aware of what you're actions are, not only to your peers or to clients or customers but also to people in your organization that would for you. So if you know how to deal with them in a proper way, that's the way to go forward. So to develop them, it's a continuous process, I think, and continuously taking a step back from where you are and reflect on the activities that you did and listen to other people to see, okay, if I go this way, what should I do. If I go another way, what should be the effect of that one?
So it's not, let's say, the university of whatever kind of subject that teaches you that, but it's a continuous process of developing yourself.
Do you have any recommendations for if someone doesn't have these skills, what should they do?
I think one of the best recommendations is to hire a coach or a mentor. So if you see a management to any programs, the high potential, they get a mentor, or they get an external coach.And those people can help you develop the skills better, besides having certain trainings that are available on leadership. But the coach that you can [inaudible 00:07:09] with on a regular basis, that definitely will help. And the coach does not necessarily have to be a supply chain professional. It can be somebody from a completely other department.
Another way to develop that further is to not stick within the supply chain column in the industry. So move outside. The really good guys, sometimes you see that they have been working for several years in the marketing environment, or even sometimes in the finance environment, and then they move back into supply chain. So they've broadened their scope by doing different activities in the organization. And also, traveling internationally, so you don't stay working within, for instance, The Netherlands or Germany or the US, but also go abroad to other countries and other cultures which open your mind as well and see how your actions affect other people.
So it's a combination of several factors, and that probably is the work that we do is we try to evaluate all those kind of activities in an assessment, talking to people to see, this might be a good fit because he did several things or she did several things that add value to the company that we're looking for.
How can people contact you if they want to ask you questions?
The easiest one is to go to our website where it's more information [inaudible 00:08:56] like yourself, but on [inaudible 00:08:58] with supply chain professionals — www.inspired-search.com, or send me an email, which is the same url with Edwin@inspired-search.com.
About Edwin Tuyn
Executive Search Supply Chain Logistics Manufacturing - Heart & Head Hunter - Founder of Inspired-Search