Category Archives: Leadership

Three Slides Deep

I had to create a communication package once for the CIO, CEO, and President of HP on difficulties in their “going direct” supply chain process. Perhaps it was my Caltech Science background, or having a lot of raw data, but I came up with what I thought was a wonderful, lucid, though 400-page, presentation. My SC and IT team had been through the HP-Compaq merger, and we had reams of analysis of both companies, and likewise on the four or five attempts by both companies to try to leverage indirect fulfillment supply chains for direct sales (hint: it doesn’t work well). I started walking Bob Napier, CIO at the time of HP (Bob is no longer with us), through the presentation. He was an old Navy guy with a deep voice like dark polished wood, and he filled his office with a booming laugh. “Oh Joe. It’s the first time.” Continue reading

Why report to the CEO – Be the CEO

You know there’s an old expression that goes something like this: Something happening once is an event, twice is a coincidence, and three times a trend. With Wednesday’s announcement (11 December) that Mary Barra was appointed CEO of GM, I thought – that’s an event.

Mary Barra comes from a Supply Chain background – EVP of Procurement and Supply Chain. Then I recalled something similar from two years ago – Tim Cook is announced as the CEO of Apple on a Wednesday (August 24th, 2011). Tim Cook is famous for his Supply Chain background at Apple, which he moved into from Supply Chain at Compaq. Now the Wednesday/CEO/Supply Chain thing – coincidence, or trend? The CEO of Walmart – Mike Duke – was announced back in November 2008 on a Friday, so Wednesday is a coincidence. But is background in Supply Chain isn’t. Also not a coincidence is the Supply Chain background of Alan Wilson – CEO of Multi-Billion Dollar Food Producer McCormick. Alan, in fact, spoke at SCC’s annual event in 2012 on Supply Chain at McCormick.

My question is: how many CEO’s of Fortune-100,-500, or -1000 companies are coming into the role from Supply Chain? Apparently quite a few. Once is an event, twice a coincidence, three times a trend.


As I speak to supply chain audiences, I focus on key messages that are important, but sometimes forget where they came from. One key message I focus on is that the best supply chain organizations are not “managing by project” – they consider that a type of management failure. Continue reading

The Credibility Gap

in the course of work, I frequently meet and talk to supply chain executives, and there’s one simple question I ask frequently to see what people are thinking about: “What prevents you from being successful in your role?” Many times we get the answer, “I’m implementing X”, where X may be S&OP, ERP, some special practice, outsourcing logistics, you name it. Then I clarify: “Isn’t X really just your job? What prevents you from being successful at implementing X?” That’s a showstopper, or at least a pause-inducer. Continue reading

The Supply Chain Management Process

The late Michael Hammer of “Re-engineering the Corporation” fame put it succinctly once in a forum I attended in Philadelphia: “An imperfect process is better than no process, and a good process is best of all.” I’ve looked at many Supply Chain maturity models for companies, and some look at vendor dimension – degree of collaboration – while another may look at resource – degree of rationalization. All are based however on having a supply chain management system which evolves to progressively improve overall supply chain performance. Continue reading

Healthcare SCM

In my role with SCC, I recently had a great discussion with some healthcare research and provider groups in the US, relative to the development of Supply Chain Strategy – segmentation, setting strategy, benchmarking and so forth (see an excellent online CBT on Strategy and benchmarking at The conversation followed the normal course for discussion – the high cost of healthcare in the US, what is appropriate segmentation, where are benchmarks for healthcare in the various areas? Continue reading

Rethinking Resources

There is a gap in thinking about resources at a company level that highlights the mental block about managing supply chain for most managers. If I were to speak to managers about Human Resources, and ask them what they thought of the following situation I would get a strong response: Suppose a company’s payroll is managed independently in each functional unit: Some employees might get paid weekly, some biweekly, some monthly or perhaps twice a month. Continue reading