Managing a supply chain is a formidable challenge—keeping them balanced, running fluidly and adaptive to problems is considerably more difficult than simply working within them. Supply chain management is one of the hardest jobs in a given industry, because without their expertise, the engine of commerce comes to a screeching halt. While that's a lot of pressure to put on any one individual, it's also why it's vital to perform well in the position—even small slip ups in the wrong place at the wrong time have the potential to end an entire career.
1. The One Basket: All Eggs Problem
Risk is seldom an insidious plot that creeps up unnoticed. It's a supplier running out of a material; it's an unexpected shipping delay; it's a computer program crashing at the worst possible time. The solution to problems like these is a firm and resounding Plan B—or Plan C—if you want to truly excel at your job. Switching tracks on a runaway train is the difference between a mere inconvenience and a disaster, and if you don't lay another track to swap over to in an emergency, the aftermath and blame will fall squarely on your shoulders. Part of being an effective supply chain manager is recognizing and planning for disruption, not hoping it doesn't show up on your doorstep.
2. The King and Commander Problem
Your job is massively important, but letting it get to your head and shutting out your coworkers is a recipe for disaster. As Mark Graban of Entrepreneur advises, bad managers bark orders, good managers explain their decisions, but great managers involve their employees in those decisions. You need your team's input as much as they need your leadership, if not more, and bringing them in on discussions can contribute valuable points of view that allow you to implement better, faster solutions.
Additionally, no team of employees, supply chain or otherwise, works very well for very long under an unlikable, inflexible manager. Even if you're only tangentially responsible for a high turnover rate, it's still a point of consideration when it comes to your performance reviews—sooner or later, your name is going to come up when higher-ups discuss retention or exodus numbers. How would you like to be framed: as someone that builds teams, or someone with a tendency to divide them?
3. The Narrow Focus Problem
If you aren't sure how your actions influence other business functions down the production line, you don't have the information you need to make good decisions. You may know that if you don't get enough of a certain material or if your shipping is slow a certain person may be irritated, but if you don't know why, you're only getting half the story. Not only is the pursuit of "why" important intra-company, it's a necessary part of holistic supply chain risk mitigation.
Cliff Garrin of WiseCareers encourages managers to go above and beyond by seeking out knowledge like this, noting that being the "king or queen of data" makes you the go-to, and go-tos get retained and promoted.
If you can't say definitively at this moment that you have backup plans, the support of your team and an idea of what you're affecting with your supply chain decisions, it's time to shore up your job approach. Duties at work, from concurrent controls to supply chain risk mitigation plans, shouldn't be defined as strict A-to-B results but rather a spectrum of thinking that acts as a rising tide for all boats. Your career is lifted, your business is lifted, your work environment is lifted, and all at the extremely reasonable cost of a little attention.