Nurturing growth

10 April 2014 | Bola Afolabi

Bola Afolabi It was a tense atmosphere. 
I had to wade in to dissuade John, a seemingly promising talent, from resigning a career spanning more than half a decade.

His head of sourcing in a conglomerate had just concluded a scheduled quarterly business performance review with one of his six direct reports when John, a junior officer, sought an appointment for his own career review.

John was arguing that management was not sincere in its campaign encouraging young people to acquire CIPS professional qualifications.

Management had promised that those who did would have the chance of accelerated promotion and speedy career progression. John fumed – having recently acquired MCIPS – why was he not being promoted to the next level?

I had a chance to examine the matter and obtained the views of the leader. The head of sourcing’s position was clear when he said: “Bola listen, the young man has not delivered, period!”.

Thinking about it frankly, empirical evidence suggests that disaster is imminent when untrained, unqualified and or incompetent staff are charged with managing the supply chain in any company.

An entity’s profit and operational efficiency is likely to be significantly eroded by poor actions and/or the inaction of incompetent personnel.

It is implied that operating cost will rise, profit will reduce when the wrong commercial decisions are taken. In a similar vein, shareholders’ confidence will be lost as market share diminishes, which is the whole essence of why we are in business.

I take the view that, irrespective of their academic background, colleagues in supply chain should ensure they receive the requisite CIPS professional qualification. But they must also work hard to apply the learning obtained from such studies, so that the effect of qualification becomes evident in their behaviour and contribution at the workplace.

We must let our knowledge, performance and results speak for themselves, because qualification does not earn promotion, performance does.

In our profession, product and market knowledge, negotiating skills and relationship management are panacea to commercial acumen.

This is knowledge that is difficult to acquire from textbooks. It becomes innate over years of accumulated acquaintance with the trade.

I had since taken it upon myself to further commit to mentoring young people and providing them with professional guidance.

Every experienced person should ‘adopt a youngster’ 
for mentoring and career development 
even if they work in a different establishment.

This way, we will all grow the apple trees 
of sound supply chain professionals who will 
make a difference to the bottom-line and who will eventually make it to the boardroom.

☛ Bola Afolabi 
is general manager SAP at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation 
and a past president 

Central London and Cheltenham
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