In the latest episode of Leaders in Supply Chain and Logistics Podcast, we had a discussion with Dr. Dirk Holbach, the Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer for Laundry & Home Care at Henkel. During this episode, we talked about business transformations at Henkel’s Global Supply Chain, and the importance of talent management.
Dirk strongly believes that diversity is essential to navigating today’s business landscape since a company’s supply chain management needs to be not only robust but also resilient.
Though robustness can be developed by implementing systems that can withstand foreseeable threats, Dirk reckons that unforeseeable threats are much more commonplace these days – and having a diverse team helps in building a resilient system that can weather these uncertainties.
“One of the really important supporting factors of a resilient system is definitely diversity in the team,” Dirk argues. “From a talent management point-of-view, it is very important to make sure that you have a diverse set of capabilities and background – be it gender, nationality – in order to be able to have a higher likelihood to tackle an unplanned challenge or situation with a higher success rate.”
Henkel’s global supply chain organization itself has made efforts to create a diverse working environment, according to Dirk, with employees currently representing more than 120 nationalities and around 25% of management positions are occupied by females. For the whole company, the percentage of women in management positions is 35%. In his own words:
“This is good, but is it enough? No! We have to continuously focus on creating more opportunities.”
While a diverse team is a foundation for a resilient supply chain system, innovation is the backbone of a robust one. When it comes to innovating in supply chain, Dirk has two approaches to guide his team in executing new projects.
If a project has a similar framework to previously done projects, Dirk finds that a project can be successful by the highest standards of quality.
“When you do things which you’ve done already, let’s say 15 times,” “It’s all about excellence in execution, perfect preparation, thinking about contingencies, and deliver on time and budget – do everything as planned.”
Be that as it may, Dirk also provides a space for pilot projects to encourage his team in coming up with new ideas and solutions, giving it the space to experiment with what works and doesn’t.
“When it comes to innovation or new technology in supply chain, we have a pilot process” Dirk explains. “When we go into a pilot, it’s obvious and clear that we do this to find out whether things work or not and to continuously optimize them.”
Dirk also highlights that during pilot projects, the focus is on the speed of execution; not on excellence. The set-up and briefing are different as well. Only when it is going to be implemented on a global scale, will the project implementation framework be used as a standard.
Risk-taking, when innovating in business, as well as dealing with unclear circumstances, are an inevitable part of Dirk’s work. The importance of a strong team with a diverse set of strengths and perspectives is clear.
One of the most important skills that a supply chain leader should have is to hire and develop a team with complementary skills and perspectives who can manage risk in the present business environment.