So, you really enjoy being a supply chain professional?

Let’s face it, supply chain is a fascinating and pressure-filled field. Supply chains exist to deliver goods and services to customers to allow their company to make money. Albeit, they are last on line, which means that all the fun begins and ends when supply enters the fray. It’s a great profession that spans myriad disciplines – procurement, manufacturing, supply/demand planning, logistics, and much more. There’s excitement in every corner waiting for you! Don’t you wonder sometimes how and why you got into this field?

Through a series of articles and musings, I will shed some thoughts through adages, quips, and comics that will look at supply chain with a tongue-in-cheek perspective. I look forward to comments and other perspectives.

This first article will look at supply chain itself. Future story lines will include supply and demand, supplier management, inventory, supply chain risk, logistics, and managing numbers

 

No matter how the problem starts, it always ends up as a supply issue.

the_broken_chain1

Remember the game we used to play as kids where we’d all line up and the leader would tell the first person something who in turn would tell the next person in line until it reached you at the end? How many times did the message you heard ever survive that journey?

Managing the supply chain is quite similar. No matter how or why a problem starts off, a demand error, a design error, a change in customer’s mind, an unforeseen holiday, a weather event, or a quality issue, it always becomes the job of the supply chain to deal with. Immediately.

I’ve lived through this type of hell before during a launch of a brand new product in a brand new technology that was a disaster. The company and customers were clamoring to get this highly innovative, disruptive device. It turned into 17 weeks of stress and being under a very bright and hot spotlight trying to get enough supply to meet the demand.The demand seemed to grow every day we said the supply was still in trouble. I saw my CEO, CFO and CSO more times in 17 weeks than all of the previous years in my career. Ugh.

It takes some backbone and a lot of mental fortitude to resolve issues, especially those that affect multiple customers, which means YOUR bottom line. Owning the issue, maintaining accountability, but working with a sense of urgency across all the organizations needed to fix the issue is essential for success.

You never know when the opportunity (right!) will prevent itself to the supply chain to deal with. Hold on tightly or you’ll be taken for a ride instead of driving it yourself.

unpopular_logo

Supply Chain people are only popular during their highest state of unpopularity.

How many times have you gotten that blank stare when you tell an inquirer that you are in supply chain as a field? Huh? And then you try to explain it. Not worth it. They just won’t get it.

Most of the time, that’s how everyone in the business world feels and thinks about supply chain. Who? What? Oh, those guys.

Until it hits the fan. And, it always seems to hit the fan. Suddenly, without notice, you are amazingly popular. Instantaneous infamy. What a pleasure!

Then all the help starts to come. Everyone’s an expert. “That is an easy problem to solve, just tell the supplier to fix it.” “How come you didn’t anticipate that the typhoon would hit when the shipments were due?” “Just expedite the manufacturing.” When you try to explain the few laws of physics that come to mind, that “deer in the headlights” look resurfaces. “Tomorrow?” they ask. Back to work, time to move on.

The redeeming value is that we get to be heroes. Hopefully, we weren’t the arsonists. Putting out a blazing fire is exhilarating but not what we aim to do on a daily basis. That is way too exhausting.

Once the problem is cleared, normalcy returns to the supply chain folks. Who?

build it and they will come

In “The Field of Dreams Kevin Costner was told “build it and they will come. In supply chain and manufacturing, if we build it they will order something different.

In the next article we’ll talk more about supply, demand, and the elusive balance of the two.

For now, we all know the supply chain financial drill. Drive to lower cost of manufacturing, increase asset utilization, improve cash flow, and the world will be great. Sufficient inventory to handle upside demand. The CFO will smile and the supply chain team can remain out of the limelight.

Right …

The build plan was vetted with marketing, with the business unit, with sales, with everyone during S&OP. Manufacturing is told to get the inventory in place – lead times are real, so you have to build in advance. Then the orders come in.

“I know we ordered that SKU but we need the other SKU now. How come you can’t give us the other SKU instead?” We hear it all the time. Other times you blow through all of the buffer inventory, expedite the new parts to replace the stock, and the order changes again.

Chasing demand is the never-ending story of supply chain. How much do you need? By when? OK, we’re on it.

ciao…mam

Michael Massetti is a global high-tech supply chain executive who really does enjoy being a supply chain professional! Seriously.

Michael Massetti LinkedIn Profile

Advertisements

Your Next Career Step – Anticipate or Fear the “Fork in the Road”?

fork-in-the-road1

Searching for a new job these days can strike fear into anyone and test the confidence they’ve developed. Myriad applicants for on-line positions, lack of responses from inquiries, and the litany of requirements for each position pose a challenge to potential applicants. “Am I the ideal candidate they want? Will I be instantaneously disqualified for missing one or two of the requisite skills?” Jobs that appear to be great to the prospective employee may seem like a distant dream, an oasis in the desert of your career path. Is it really possible to take a fork in the road of your career?

Ideal Candidate

It was May of 2001 when I was laid off from my current employer. This was not the greatest time to be on the job market: post-Y2K economic woes in the world, the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the subsequent stock market crash, and the war on terror. Then the phone rang. I was rather undeveloped in my networking at the time as social media tools like LinkedIn were nowhere to be found and cold-calling people was not a practiced skill. Regardless, I continued to contact colleagues and friends to find that next job. I only wish I had been a bit less cavalier about my career when executive recruiters called when I was working, I really needed them now. Then the phone rang.

A colleague of mine told me about a position that he thought was right up my alley. He heard about it from a fellow employee at our last company. At this point in my career, I was a high-tech engineer/program manager looking to do something similar at my current director level or higher. The position recommended to me was Semiconductor Procurement. The second question I posed to the person who became my VP a few days later was “Why me? I have absolutely no procurement experience!” What would interest them in me taking such a new role with no apparent relevant experience?

Perfect Fit

Like many, my search had been focused on the functional roles I had experience in – engineering management, program management, and product management. It never dawned on me to try such a different profession. Why would anyone consider me even if I tried? I asked the question of my relevance for the position out of genuine interest – how could I possibly be of value to them with no purchasing skills? Two things coalesced to send me down the other fork in the career journey. One, the company and the VP were trying to solve a specific problem for their organization. Two, they decided that procurement skills were secondary to the technology experience. This is where I came in.

Despite some of the difficulties in the job search world cited earlier, it is critically important to keep your mind and eyes wide open. Examine all of your skills and experiences thoroughly. While it may seem that they all converge into one entity – you – there are really multiple possibilities for that same you. As many excellent career coaches implore us all to do, look at what you have accomplished and what problems you have solved. Do not sell yourself short. Then cast a reasonably wide net for your search criteria – you never know when that call will come or a new door will open!

A green freeway sign with the words Stay the Course, and an attached yellow sign with the words Take a Risk

It’s now 13 years since that call came for me. My career in supply chain has been tremendously rewarding and has created opportunities that I did not know existed prior to the new career trajectory. As an executive who has both recruited and been recruited I know that not every company or hiring manager is as flexible as I experienced. However, that should never hold you back. The type of company that is not interested in alternative candidates may very well not be the type of place you want to work anyway.

Stay nimble and keep an open mind so that you can position yourself to anticipate, not fear, a potential fork in the road!

Career Success

ciao…mam

Michael A. Massetti is a supply chain executive who has led, coached, mentored and developed many talented individuals. He was AMD’s executive sponsor for the University of Texas Supply Chain Management Consortium and interacted with students for 5 years. Michael recruited and mentored many graduates into AMD’s organization.

Michael’s LinkedIn Profile

Trailblazing & The Danger Zone – Musings of a Mentor

Leaders are almost always in a position to coach and mentor. Rarely a day goes by when an opportunity to mentor others is not available. The chance to formally mentor an individual is something to cherish. It is so exciting to help a person who wants to grow and who looks for your guidance.

What follows are a couple of short stories about two individuals I had the privilege of coaching and mentoring. The stories will highlight the critical junctures in their careers that I was involved in. They will go by their pseudonyms Jobs (the trailblazer) and Maverick (the danger zone).

trailblazer

Blaze the trail or follow the beaten path?

I met Jobs at the local university. We developed a relationship over a 3-year period and met regularly to discuss his projects and progress. He was a member of the leadership development program and formal mentorship was expected.

By the end of the second year, the participants were ready to leave the rotation program and begin a “real” career in the organization of their choice. Jobs was the third person I worked with to make the decision.

“Michael, which position do you think I should take?” Clearly, my role as the mentor was not to answer this question directly.

“So, tell me about each role, Jobs. How do you describe what you are choosing between?”

The first one would insert Jobs into a role that had been played by another person. He would pick up where that employee left off and follow the trail that was in place – well defined and smooth.

The second one was to join a brand new team that was part of the company’s transformation driven by the new CEO. It was not fully defined. It was definitely like going out to ski on a fresh, pure, uninterrupted field of snow – the trail was yours to carve out anew.

“So, Jobs, do you want to reap what others have sewn or do you want to blaze a new trail? If you can answer that question, then the position that you should take will be abundantly clear.”

As a sales person would look at it, do you want to hunt for new customers or harvest existing ones?

Jobs eventually decided to be a trailblazer. With the choice framed differently for him, Jobs was able to look at where he was in his career and make the best choice himself.

As the mentor, it was not my role to decide, but to help elucidate the facets of the choice in front of him.

 Danger Zone

Fly into the danger zone?

Maverick had been with the company for almost 10 years. His roles had evolved from engineering into supply chain. He performed well in all of them. He reported to me directly and led a key part of our global inventory and supply team.

By our third year together, we were starting to discuss the next steps. As a well-established contributor and manager, Maverick wanted something different. He had just finished leading a very innovative supply chain project that drove major improvements in our metrics. He needed something different!

We discussed alternatives and agreed that we’d both work to find something that would accentuate skills he had not yet tried or developed. It was imperative to break Maverick out of his comfort zone and try something more risky.

The first opportunity appeared. It would definitely take him out of the group he had worked in seemingly forever, in technology years, and into a position that would reach out into demand and finance. We discussed how it would push him and the growth it would foster.

Much to my chagrin, Maverick decided the comfort zone was better. Thankfully, he acknowledged that he felt disappointed in the choice, but was not ready for Top Gun exhilaration yet.

Less than a year later, another opportunity surfaced in demand planning for one of the business units. This time there was no need to coach or mentor. Maverick came up to me with a lot of excitement and explained the new role. After four years of working closely together, I was elated for him.

Ultimately, this role was even more of a stretch that the initial one he rejected. He was clearly ready to fly into the “danger zone!”

 

And, in the end

Jobs and I caught up in late 2014 for coffee. He was much more focused on the next position he needed for his career path. He recalled the entire decision process we went through with a positive glow on his face. Apparently, he’s told the story a few times to others.

Maverick grew well in his new role and became a critical part of the new team he joined. He now laughs at his initial reticence to move out of his comfort zone. For my part, I continue to send LinkedIn and Facebook posts to him about growth and breaking out of the comfort zone as a friendly reminder.

ciao…mam

Michael Massetti is a supply chain executive who has led, coached, mentored and developed many talented individuals. He was AMD’s executive sponsor for the University of Texas Supply Chain Management Consortium and interacted with undergraduate and graduate students for 5 years. Michael recruited and mentored many graduates into AMD’s organization.

How centerfield made me the leader I am today!

This article is dedicated to a long-time friend, mentor and leader, David Lavalette of Vermont.

  Yankee Stadium Centerfield

Leadership Lessons Learned on the Field of Play

There are myriad stories and metaphors that draw comparisons and contrasts between sports, leadership, and performance. I will add another one to that hefty list.

I played baseball and softball until my mid 40s. I loved roaming the outfield, usually centerfield. My teams won a lot of games and competed at a pretty high level. This is a story from very early in my career when the wisdom of leadership and self-awareness were completely undeveloped.

Some Thoughts About Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence surfaced in management lexicon in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee are three prominent authors and thought leaders in this area of study. Their research has shown that high-performing, financially successful organizations are highly linked to the emotional maturity of the leader. “Exemplified by such capabilities as self-awareness and empathy.”

For many years, the softer side of leadership success was discounted or ignored. Strong, intense military leaders, such as George Patton, were often used as examples of what a successful leader should be like. And, more recently, no one ever accused the legendary Steve Jobs of having a soft side.

Leaders set the tone for the organization. Their mood, approach, personality, and style flow through the organization, whether positive or negative, loud or quiet, or collaborative or confrontational. “The leader’s mood is quite literally contagious, spreading quickly and inexorably throughout the business.”

So, what should a leader focus on – the business, the data, the customers? Given the research by Goleman, et al, the answer is “A leader needs to make sure that not only is he regularly in an optimistic, authentic, high-energy mood, but also that his followers feel and act that way, too.” Goleman calls it “primal leadership.”

 

Just Another Day

It began innocuously. Our team had played together for three years, my first years with them. We were a solid, competitive team, battling for first place each year. Anyone who has ever played competitive sports, whether as part of a team or solo, knows that performance on any given day can be a personal best or a disaster. For me, this night was the latter.

By the middle of the game I was hitting poorly and we were losing. I lost it after I made an out at a critical point in the game. I came back to the team on the bench angry, yelling, and out of control. I was not mad at anyone but myself. I was completely oblivious to the adverse affect it had on my teammates.

At the end of the game, my coach (and co-player and co-worker) Dave came up to me. He said that I had been a very influential and positive force on the team. My energy and passion rubbed off on the team and made us better. But, he highlighted, the reverse was true when I ventured into anger and tantrums.

I had absolutely no idea. I never paid attention to the others while I was lost in my selfish world of no self-awareness, much less self-management. He delivered the message so well (wisdom of experience) that the impression was tremendous. He put his arm around me and told me to stay positive and to keep the others up, too. I was very thankful for the feedback.

I had to change. I was now aware, albeit only at the surface, of the impact one individual could have on the mood and performance of a team or group of people. The journey began.

Time Heals All Wounds

Rarely is a personal style change immediate. It was time to pay attention to myself, others around me, and be aware of my affect on others. As my career was progressing, more and more people were directly impacted by my approach and style. Thankfully, the company’s management development program was fantastic and thorough. There was a lot to learn, absorb, and practice.

At the same time, I joined softball teams that were excellent. I was able to channel the positive instead of the negative much better and winning started to come easier. Of course, there were always bad days, but I learned how to keep it inside and positive – no one play, or game, would distract me from the new course of self-management.

Everything came together in the subsequent years. My leadership roles increased. I paid very close attention to the most successful leaders around me. Certain effective leadership attributes started to surface and they had nothing to do with their technical or professional skills. It was clearly their self-awareness and how they managed their teams that made them excel.

As I practiced and employed the skills of awareness and empathy, the 360 feedback messages I received consistently improved. They accentuated the positive, inspirational, and engaged leadership impact I had developed. The journey is never over, but the influence of that night nearly 30 years ago continues to persist.

Passing It Along

There are myriad resources out there for leadership development and improving performance. I have applied the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) in multiple organizations to start the conversation about style differences and to encourage the dialog for all of my leaders to be aware of themselves and the impact they have on others. Personally, I had to learn how to take my ENTJ type (with the emphasis on the “E”) and effectively lead an organization.

Another set of great resources come from Patrick Lencioni and his consultancy The Table Group. His books, especially “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and “The Advantage,” are great tools for organizations to improve the overall leadership environment.

While no one is perfect, the process of self-awareness and self-management takes time, effort, and help. It is important to reach out to others to get feedback and support to work on improving one’s leadership skills. Enjoy the journey!

ciao…mam

All references and quotes are from “Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance,” Harvard Business Review, Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, and Annie McKee, December, 2001.

 

Michael Massetti is an executive who really does enjoy being a supply chain professional and a leader! While my playing days are over, I never stop learning from what goes on in the world of sports and business.