Britain’s got (supply chain) talent: Mick Jackson

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One of the things that used to particularly annoy me about the Parkinson chat show was the fact that “world celebrities” appeared on the show, pretended to be his and my best friend and always then plugged their forthcoming autobiography / memoirs / new play / new film and so on.

Well, call me shameless but I’m now about to inflict much the same on readers of this column. Not you’ll be relieved to know my memoirs, but instead a Supply Chain Leadership Skills Workshop on 23rd June, run jointly by Skills for Logistics and the Logistics Directors Forum.

Veteran readers of this column will know that skills gaps across the whole range of the Professional Development Stairway crop up frequently as an issue of concern, but this workshop looks specifically at what is needed for what you might term supply chain management craft skills.

The Professors John Mangan and Martin Christopher have put forward the compelling argument for supply chain managers to be “T” shaped, combining in-depth expertise in one discipline with enough breadth to see connections with other disciplines.

At Skills for Logistics we use a similar approach where the Skills Mix (craft, core and supply chain-specific skills) underpins operative and management zones of the Stairway.

Both approaches have the same basic premise: reverting to the default of generic leadership and management skills does not provide us with effective supply chain leaders. This often goes against the “prevailing wisdom” in the skills arena which is that management is all about the generic stuff.

Big questions then include:

– What constitute supply chain management craft skills?

– Do they need to include detailed knowledge of, or awareness of operational management elements involved in managing for example:

– logistics activity and throughput

– information

– facilities management

– Do they need to include detailed knowledge of or awareness of support functions such as:

– business development

– solutions management

– project management

– procurement

– Do supply chain managers need to be able to carry out solutions and project management themselves or do they need to be “expert procurers” of those services from others, either within their organisation or from outside?

– What impact does the size of the organisation have on the degree to which managers need to practise a hands-on approach?

Another issue is that supply chain management actually spans from supervisors at step six on the Stairway, all the way up to managers with “theatre responsibility” at step 12. Clearly the EMEA supply chain director does not need to know the detailed duty of care in running a team of drivers but what should be their awareness levels for such topics?

The Stairway takes account of career paths that cross different supply chain functions and allows for people entering the profession from completely different functions eg marketing or finance in that it clearly lays out the craft competences that are needed at each level. However, at what level do we set the awareness?

By all means accuse me of having more questions than answers but these topics will be discussed in depth by some senior practitioners from both the third party and own account perspectives at the workshop. The nuggets of gold we are also looking for are what do supply chain leaders need over and above supply chain managers?

If you can make the workshop that’s great (details from me on the email below). If you’re unable to attend but would like to contribute to the debate, please e-mail me on

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