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Blog: Supply Chain Leadership

While the general public and general management areas are maybe only now waking up to what supply chain managers and scholars have been calling for years, there is also a novel aspect that deserves more attention.

Supply chain management is not new, even if it is in the news now more than ever. The outfall of the global pandemic, the Suez Canal Evergreen blockade, rising container prices. Others have written about the root causes and underlying systematic problems leading up to this (break) point and the attention for supply chain in the press right now (Arkieva Blog, 2021, Vox, 2021, Wall Street Journal, 2021). While the general public and general management areas are maybe only now waking up to what supply chain managers and scholars have been calling for years, there is also a novel aspect that deserves more attention.

That is why we are investigating the role of supply chain leaders in driving change in their organizations (see also Brian Fugate's post). We see more and more organizations appointing Chief Supply Chain Officers and similar positions, representing supply chain at the highest echelons of the firm (see "Supply Chain in the C-suite"). Officers for specific aspects of the supply chain have been around for longer, such as Chief Procurement Officers, Chief Operating Officers, or Chief Logistics Officers, yet CSCOs are increasingly prevalent to provide an entire value chain perspective. From literature, we know a little bit about the positive impact these officers and executives have on financial and operational firm performance.

But how? How does Supply Chain Leadership, represented at the highest echelons of the organization, enable specific individuals through their position, behavior/style, or activities to improve organizational performance?

We have been conducting interviews, and are doing many more, to answer such a question. Our initial findings point in the direction of providing a holistic perspective of the end-to-end supply chain at the highest level. CSCOs, more than other executives, focus on internal and external integration and stakeholder management. Enabling collaboration and alignment across departments and with supply chain partners is key: connecting the dots. A key challenge right now is also to attract the right people and talent to get the job done.

With various students at Maastricht University, we are seeking more answers to our questions. Our next steps involve specifically looking at how supply chain executives drive change and enable their supply chains to become more agile. As we see that lean and just-in-time may not suffice anymore, additional agility, flexibility, and even redundancy of suppliers and materials may be needed. We are also looking into the management of disruptions specifically to understand how such supply chain leadership plays out at various levels in the firm. Making supply chains accountable for sustainability and CO2 emissions as well as driving the digital transformation with suppliers and customers is the new frontier for state of the art supply chain management. In other words, how do specific individuals help to steer the ship in the right direction?

By: Robert Suurmond with Max Korber, Diogo Cotta, Laura Mennens, Sebastian Hoffmann, Tom van Mourik, and Jessica Herrera Pusda.

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