GOOD QUESTION: What’s One Underrated Skill in Supply Chain Management?

GOOD QUESTION: What’s One Underrated Skill in Supply Chain Management?

From composure to the ability to handle objections, these skills may not be part of curriculums but they make for great supply chain managers.

Intrinsic motivation, the desire to continuously improve for self-fulfillment. This creates a continuous improvement mindset. A result of intrinsic motivation is curiosity, which is insanely important. Ask questions about everything; just because your organization has done something the same way for 20 years does not mean it’s the best way to do things now.

–Evan Rago
Sales Director
Gather AI

Empathy. Seeing and listening through the eyes and ears of your supply chain partners speeds the pace of negotiations, trust building, and handling crises. And if empathy isn’t reciprocated, it’s a good signal it’s time to consider looking for a new partner.

–Dr. Darren Prokop
Professor Emeritus, Logistics, College of Business & Public Policy
University of Alaska Anchorage

Composure. Circumstances can turn on a dime and require not only quick, but also clear, thinking when it feels like all options are lost. Those with composure—who can collect themselves, stay calm, and rely on the processes and tools they’ve put into place to handle the unexpected—will excel in managing their supply chain.

–Tony Harris
SVP & Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer
SAP Business Network

Resilience. Changes and setbacks are inevitable. It’s important to know how to anticipate, deal with, and recover from those challenges. Resilience requires the commitment to stay the course, keep a positive attitude, and forge a path even when the future is uncertain.

–Heidi Ratti
Chief Human Resources Officer

The skill of patient listening. A wise person said, “I never learned anything while talking.” Listening to the needs of the entire supply chain ecosystem and comprehending the issues before reacting improves the decision making process. Communication is improved and solving problems becomes inclusive, allowing for intelligent solutions.

–Steve Dombroski
Director, Consumer Markets

Customer service skills are underrated. Those include empathy, clear communication, problem solving, patience, active listening, and adaptability, and allow people to excel in supply chain management.

–Anar Mammadov
Senpex Technologies

Perspective. When I can shift my perspective to the point of view of my customers, stakeholders, or employees, that is how I can understand and meet their expectations. And that helps to build trusted and sustainable relationships.

–David Anderson
Quality Systems Engineer
TA Services

Check and Doublecheck

Checking to see what shutdowns are going on all over your destination cities and countries is the most underrated thing. Although the pandemic has all but gone in the United States, it’s not the same around the world. To be able to re-route a transshipment or notify the customer of a possible delay is crucial in the oil field business.

As a shipper, I constantly have equipment on the water. Many of my shipments are time sensitive to meet launch dates of platforms. Keeping my customer abreast of what is happening in transit is vital. I also make sure my company is always listed as a “notify” party on all bills of lading (BOLs).

With all the vessel sharing there could be multiple BOLs: an in-house BOL with the freight forwarder, a BOL with the ship line they booked with, and the vessel it is being carried on. If you are not listed with all of them as a “notify” party, you would not be able to communicate directly with the ship line.

–Ronnie T. Evans
International Logistics Coordinator
Oil States Industries

The ability to forecast strategically. With the daily obstacles that one will face in the management of supply chain functions, it can be difficult to see 3 to 6 to 9 months down the line. But being able to solve for future problems with solutions that also impact today’s business is imperative to success.

–Joe Parisi
Strategic Account Executive

Creativity. People think managing a supply chain is analytical and focused on managing the minutiae. And it is, at times. But when problems occur, the individual who can think outside the box and devise innovative solutions will be the unsung hero.

–Joe Adamski
Senior Director

Understanding the seasonality of each customer’s business. Depending on factors that include time of year and business climate, demand may ebb and flow. By becoming more attuned to this, we can do a better job of filling gaps and meeting customer needs.

–Diron Bell
Regional Account Manager
iGPS Logistics

The ability to quickly analyze short- and long-term impacts. Overanalyzing wastes time and money. In operational excellence models, it’s called overprocessing. To analyze quickly, use data, your inner experience circle, ask for full opinions and full judgment, then go. Stop wasting time.

–Ann Marie Jonkman
PMP, Senior Director, Global Industry Strategies
Blue Yonder

The capacity for product innovation. This involves channeling relentless curiosity into problems, having meaningful dialogues with users—warehouse managers, last-mile delivery folks, or suppliers across the globe—and implementing hardware and/or software solutions that solve those problems.

–Jason Hehman
Client Partner and Industry 4.0 Vertical Lead

Resourcefulness, the ability to find creative solutions and make the most of available resources to overcome challenges and optimize supply chain processes. It fosters problem-solving, adaptability, and collaboration, helping you thrive during disruptions and difficult market cycles.

–Melissa Jordan
SVP, Enterprise Operations
Coyote Logistics

Being comfortable with discomfort. Being able to ride the ups and downs without hitting the panic button is a common trait of those who love and thrive in this industry.

–Lisa Aurichio
President, BSYA
Executive Director, Containerization and Intermodal Institute (CII)

Taking a long view of your organizational strategy and grounding your decision-making in data. Too often, organizations make emotional or anecdotal decisions and respond reactively to short-term shifts in the supply chain, losing sight of their long-term goals.

–Ryan McMartin
Product Marketing Manager
Parsec Automation

Risk management. This skill turns uncertainty into an asset and optimizes resource allocation, in turn improving efficiency and maximizing output. Elevated efficiency inherently creates a more resilient supply chain.

–Spencer Steliga
Founder and CEO

Resilience. The changing post-COVID-19 supply chain landscape has no playbook and, to a certain extent, defies conventional wisdom surrounding trends and markets. Resilience is the ability to continuously bounce back in the face of unknown and changing conditions, viewing failures as learning opportunities instead of calamities.

Shannon Leffler
GEODIS in Americas

Adapt or Be Trapped

The ability to take charge of a problem and make it a business enabler. Be adaptable, open to change, and able to influence cross-functional activities.

–Bill Thayer
Founder and CEO

Adaptability is crucial. In the face of unforeseen challenges, the ability to creatively and pragmatically adjust networks and processes is paramount. Being innovative and flexible ensures goods keep flowing despite changing circumstances, securing a resilient supply chain.

–Helen Scurfield
Innovation and Development Director

Supply chain management requires constant adjustments and flexibility to accommodate changing circumstances. Those who can quickly adapt to new technologies, market trends, and unforeseen challenges can pivot their strategies as well as optimize their operations.

–Nilay Parikh

Change management. While we can have the best analytics in the world, if we don’t have the ability to implement change, it’s all for nothing.

–Melissa Somsen
Chief Commercial Officer
AFS Logistics

Relationship building. People skills are paramount to success in supply chain management. Nurturing strong relationships with stakeholders is essential, even more so when things don’t go to plan. Clear and honest communication fosters trust and collaboration, making it easier to navigate challenges and achieve common goals.

–Nomar Ramis
Chief Customer Officer

Effective communication. While it may seem basic, clear and timely communication is essential for coordinating with suppliers, logistics partners, and internal teams. It ensures everyone involved is on the same page, reducing the risk of errors, delays, and misunderstandings.

–George Maksimenko

Work hard and hustle. This work ethic motivates us to take action when we have big ideas and maintain our tenacity in the face of adversity. Together, we do what we set our minds to until we reach our goals.

–Paula Frey
Chief Human Resources Officer
Echo Global Logistics

Quick and effective decision making for your customers is vital for modern logistics service providers. Having people and expertise permeate throughout your business, from management to warehousing experts, that are able to make informed decisions on behalf of customers will take supply chains to the next level.

–Gaurika Gurugamage
Operations Manager
GAC North America – Logistics

The ability to understand and utilize data effectively in managing supply chains is critical. Procurement relies on data more than ever and unreliable and inconsistent data can lead to inefficiencies and poor decision making. Being able to align that data is a vital skill for those in today’s supply chain.

–Carsten Schmidt
VP of Sales

The ability to define and enforce governance structures. We see programs that fail due to lack of oversight and structure—not necessarily within the program itself, but where that program intertwines with other corporate business groups and functions. High performers and leaders of governance structures enable successful management that is proactive and scalable.

–Rusty Coleman
VP of Digital Transformation

The ability to handle objections with poise and confidence, to not take things too personally.

–Jon Mindelli
VP of Business Development
TA Services

The ability and willingness to effectively share your knowledge is a vital skill not only to your business but the supply chain industry as a whole. What sets the supply chain industry apart is its inherent uniqueness—no two experiences are identical. By actively sharing insights gained from our diverse experiences, we empower each other to extract greater value from the products we invest in, make better operational decisions, and innovate existing solutions.

–Brandon Black
SVP and General Manager
Ivanti Wavelink

Being proactive. This skill is often overlooked and underrated but critical to excelling in any area of supply chain management especially for brokers. From helping shippers prepare for peak seasons and major market shifts to adding new carriers to our network, being proactive is essential in everything we do.

–Matthew Culp
VP of Carrier Sales
Arrive Logistics

Communication. The supply chain has a lot of moving parts, often involving multiple teams and outside sources. It is important to communicate to avoid any major issues. Strong communication is one of the most beneficial skills you can have.

–Joseph A. Schlossberg
VP of Global Sales
Sourcing Solutions International

The ability to look at your whole operation and rapidly assess the consequences of every decision is essential. Add to this the numerous, challenging ESG regulations across the world and you must become a real control tower, with a deeper understanding of all aspects.

–Lilian Bories
Chief Marketing Officer

Adaptability and good communication. As the supply chain continues to evolve and we face worker shortages, we should be open to talent—even from other industries—who possess these skills; they not only fill gaps but also inject fresh ideas and enhance our resilience.

–Laura Sheehy
Chief Human Resources Officer
Odyssey Logistics

Communication. Speak to your customers and vendors on a regular basis. Don’t take your relationships for granted. Active communication is key to awareness of potential issues and responding to challenges.

–Jim Heide
COO & Co Founder

For founders and business owners, the key skill is hiring people who have done it before. That means hiring people with experience managing larger or more complex supply chains, which will allow the company to handle future growth in the supply chain.

Another key skill in supply chain management is negotiating. For example, if you can get net terms from vendors, that will help cash flow, and owners can invest more aggressively in scaling up supply chain efforts (new warehouses, bigger inventory buys, etc.).

–Dawson Gant
VP of Store Partnerships
Ecom Authority

Stakeholder management. You cannot excel without building strong cross-functional relationships and effectively translating them into specific supply chain needs. Success often hinges on becoming an internal “consultant”—and strong relationships mean more transparency, better understanding, and enhanced efficiency when solving issues. While often underestimated, strong relationship management is truly crucial.

–Omer Abdullah
The Smart Cube

Effective communication, paired with the ability to influence across other functions in the business, stands out as a crucial yet underrated skill in supply chain management. As technology streamlines operations, professionals can focus more on root-cause analysis and proactive strategy development. This shift means they’re not just reacting to crises but actively steering business strategies, making their collaboration and negotiation skills increasingly vital.

–Tom Charlton
VP Product, Forecasting & Replenishment
RELEX Solutions

Collaboration, because it can form stronger cross-functional, supplier, and customer relationships and also foster data sharing and innovation. With a collaborative mindset and relevant skill development, industry professionals can better navigate the complexities of modern supply chains, respond to challenges more effectively, and ultimately drive greater value in their operations.

–Jennifer D’Angelo
Vice President
Catena Solutions

Adaptability and agility are crucial to success when dealing with disruptions and changing market demands in the supply chain industry. Whether it’s adding new technologies or making process adjustments on-the-fly, being adaptable can enhance efficiencies, reduce costs, and help you maintain a competitive edge in a dynamic marketplace.

–James Kelley
OSM Worldwide

Thinking about how supply chains can help customers is an underrated skill that allows people to excel in supply chain management. The true breakthroughs occur when customers can do more with their business because of the service you offer. For example, providing contractors with real-time ETAs and delivery tracking allows them to maximize the utilization of their crews because the contractor knows exactly when materials will arrive to keep the crew productive.

–Chris Jones
EVP of Industry

Soft skills like communication, discernment, and (especially) listening are often undervalued in supply chain management. Universities have tended to make supply chain management more about formal modeling (which is no doubt important), with less focus on how to build lasting and meaningful internal and supplier relationships. Supply chain management is a team sport.

–Tony Pelli
Practice Director, Security and Resilience

Situational awareness is a significant skill that allows individuals to excel in supply chain management. Being attuned to changes in opportunities and obstacles within an operating environment facilitates prompt, well-informed, effective actions that can help mitigate risk and provide optimal performance for the individual, team, organization, and clients.

–Steve Blust
Containerization and Intermodal Institute (CII)

Understanding supply chain tradeoffs. Neglecting to grasp supply chain trade-offs can harm a business. Failing to acknowledge these trade-offs can lead to inefficiencies, higher costs, and missed opportunities. Adapting to changes and investing in data analysis, modeling, and scenario planning are crucial for effective supply chain management, ensuring optimized decisions while considering trade-offs.

–Annie Noel
Chief Operating Officer