Prepare to win

Are You In It to Win It?

Don’t be afraid to make a decision. Making no decision could be the worst decision of all.

Legendary coach Vince Lombardi once said, “The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.” That’s as true in football as it is in business, and certainly on the supply chain side of business. Today, with the pace of the digital economy constantly gaining speed—nothing, not even global recessions and natural disasters seem to have slowed down the growth of e-commerce—there’s no competitive advantage to merely believing your company has the right to win, as the strategic thinkers used to preach; preparation is key. Paraphrasing Lombardi, Suzanne Richer, a global trade specialist with Amber Road, challenges companies by asking them, “How well prepared are you to win in the e-commerce game?”

As a speaker at last month’s CSCMP Edge 2017 conference in Atlanta, Richer was channeling an imperative that echoes  frequently throughout supply chain circles today: Are you in it to win it? In other words, are you committed to the prep work it’ll take to establish and then support the best supply chain possible, or is “good enough” a more apt description of your efforts?

“I see a lot of people in the workplace who are RIP—retired in place,” says Mike Regan, chief of relationship development with TranzAct Technologies Inc., a provider of transportation spend management solutions. I’m sure you can think of people in your company or colleagues at other companies who have reached a certain level of competence and then plateaued. The fire-in-the-belly that got them to a position of authority has dwindled down to mere embers… or just the memory of embers.

“Being a leader takes a completely different mindset than being a manager,” Regan points out. There’s a reason, he says, why a rearview mirror is a lot smaller than a windshield. “Don’t concentrate on looking behind you and second-guessing things that have already happened. A leader has to be looking forward.”

Neil Collins, a partner for executive search and recruiting firm Korn Ferry, lays out his definition of an industry leader: “A supply chain/logistics leader must now be agile, a strategist, a visionary and a collaborator.” It’s no surprise, Collins says, that “technology continues to unlock unforeseen value across the global supply chain in a variety of ways. The entire supply chain organization must now compete with technology, and the winners will be those that elevate their people using technology, rather than replacing them with it.”

Ask yourself this question: If I wasn’t already in this position, would my company be likely to hire me?

Andrew R. Thomas, co-author of Defining the Really Great Boss and a professor at the University of Akron, says that “the easiest way for a boss to gain the respect of their subordinates is to make a decision and act on it.” While doing research for his book, Thomas heard that even if employees didn’t particularly like their boss or were unsure about their motives, they still were favorable towards their boss if they thought of him or her as a decider.

In fact, Thomas adds, “we discovered the outcomes of decisions are far less important than the fact that the decisions were made in the first place.”

Speaking for the Millennial generation, Sana Raheem, senior manager of supply chain and logistics with meal kit service provider Blue Apron, observes that young people are no longer likely to remain with a company if they don’t feel valued. “Work is such a big part of your life, and if you don’t believe in your boss or your company’s mission, it’s not worth it to you to work there,” she says.

Too many managers (as opposed to leaders) are stricken by an often fatal disease known as paralysis by analysis: the condition of over-thinking a situation to the point where you don’t do anything at all. And being known as indecisive, Thomas says, is the quickest way for a boss to lose credibility.

Whether you like the feeling or not, you’re under a microscope, and your employees are watching every move and every decision you make—or don’t make… especially the ones you don’t make. In the words of Nancy Nix, executive director of AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education) and CSCMP’s 2017 Distinguished Service Award winner, “When I’m asked for career advice, my suggestion is to say yes to any opportunities that come your way. Just say yes.”

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