By Jim Baehr
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” is the wrong answer for any Supply Management organization that’s pondering its future state. There is real risk in not addressing capability and capacity. Having the right skills in the right numbers in right places as Boomers depart the workforce should be a serious concern for Supply Management leadership. The impeding loss of institutional knowledge will translate into higher costs and lower institutional efficiency. Now is the time to develop and implement an explicit plan to transfer knowledge.
There are arguments that today’s Supply Management is more about data management. But, data management isn’t knowledge management. It doesn’t substitute for knowledge transfer because it can’t replace know-how, know-why, know-who, etc. Emerging professionals may be technically savvy but they lack experience. The difference may be mitigated but won’t be made up by technology.
So, what will work? The stereotype is that emerging professionals want to work in teams. Accomplished Supply Management professionals understand the value of stakeholder collaboration. Cross functional initiatives provide an excellent vehicle for knowledge transfer. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, “The reports of the death of strategic sourcing are greatly exaggerated.” Or, at the least, neglected. In either case, now is a good time to bring it back.
Anyone who has been part of a strategic sourcing team recognizes that the cross functional nature of the engagement goes a long way to changing perspectives. Teams focus on results and results are more readily achieved by sharing information and experiences. Isn’t that knowledge transfer?
Okay, it’s an oversimplification to say that reinvigorating your strategic sourcing program will solve your knowledge transfer problems. But, think about this – strategic sourcing is both process driven and facts driven. These are fundamental to knowledge transfer. The more these processes are employed and applied, the better. Regardless if you’re an emerging professional or the departing deep smarts professional, cross-functional teams represent the best opportunity to prepare the next generation to capitalize on all that Supply Management has achieved over the past four decades. It’s time to cross the bridge and accept the reality sourcing process can be a remedy for intergenerational differences, a means for knowledge transfer and the way to accomplish organizational learning.
Michael J. Urick, PhD, St. Vincent College and Jim Baehr, Group Lead, Sourcing Strategies Group LLC will present on Generational Differences in the Workplace: The Realities and Ways to Address Them at ISM2017 in Orlando, FL.
Jim Baehr is the Lead for the Sourcing Strategies Group LLC (SSG) supporting the supply management needs of clients in both the public and private sectors. Prior to forming SSG, he was an independent advisor for several years.
His most recent corporate roles were as Vice President of Global Information Technology Procurement for Reed Elsevier, and Director of Technical and Services Procurement for Bayer Corporation. Baehr has extensive experience in senior management positions and an accomplished career in sales.
Currently, Baehr is the President of the ISM – Pittsburgh Affiliate, a member of the Board of Governors of the Joint Chemical Group of Pittsburgh and a member of the Visionary Council of Coupa Software Incorporated based in San Mateo, Calif.
He is a blogger, a frequent presenter at meetings and conferences and a contributing author to the book Next Level Supply Management Excellence: Your Straight to the Bottom Line® Roadmap.
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