My interview with AS Äripäev, ahead of my forthcoming keynote speech on supply chain risks at their Pärnu Supply Chain Conference in Estonia.


Interview by Harro Puusild.

Ineffectiveness is by far the most dangerous ailment that detracts from our work success, says Sigi Osagie, supply chain expert and Pärnu Supply Chain Conference keynote speaker.

“Rather than focusing on the things that are truly important – the few actions that take us powerfully towards our goals – too many of us expend time and energy on things that are urgent, fun, interesting or what everyone else is giving attention to,” Osagie adds.

Harro Puusild, Äripäev (HPA): If I’d asked you to open your Pärnu Supply Chain Conference presentation a bit, then how would you describe supply chain risks in this volatile world we see these days?

Sigi Osagie (SO): As a generic comment rather than specific to my talk, I’d say that, firstly, supply chain risks are unavoidable. And they can stem from any facet of the supply chain infrastructure – employees, suppliers, technology, geopolitical factors, etc.

The jet engine, the internet and falling telecommunications costs have combined to create a global village. And globalisation and outsourcing, in tandem, have given us more extended supply chains. Of course, the more links in your chain, the more opportunities for things to go wrong – and you can almost guarantee that some will.

It’s not just the traditional risks like intellectual property, quality, inventory and supply continuity; organisations must now also contend with broader issues becoming more and more important – corporate social responsibility (CSR), including ethics and sustainability, probably tops the list. These are risk issues which can wreak significant financial and reputational damage on any business.

Most companies will have to up their game dramatically as regards supply chain risk management, to safeguard their organisational prosperity in these volatile times.

HPA: Your background is impressive, I must say. You were Customer Supply Chain Director at Bombardier Transportation, Global Logistics Director at GEC-Marconi and Head of Procurement & Supply Chain at BAA Airports etc. What are the most important lessons learned from your valuable experiences? 

SO: Thanks for the compliment; that’s very nice of you.

It’s difficult to say some specific things are “the most important”, because it depends on the context and focus.

For example, as regards career success, I’d say that self-leadership is vital. After all, if you can’t manage yourself effectively, how can you possibly manage any work initiative, project or team successfully? You must be aware of who you are, what you stand for, how you think and act, and why you think and act the way you do.

But I also learned that there are other important ingredients – like personal effectiveness; self-belief; having clarity of your career goals and a game-plan to achieve what you want; maintaining productive stakeholder relationships; and taking ownership of your own development rather than relying on your boss or your employer to shape your career destiny.

In the context of leadership, probably one of the key things I learned is that a fish rots from the head down – as the head of an organisation or department, you the leader are the bedrock of your team’s success. So your leadership effectiveness must be sound.

Yet your personal success and that of the organisation is inexorably linked to the talent of your people. So paying attention to ‘people capability’ is fundamental. It is people that create performance, good or bad – not computers, PowerPoints or fancy branding.

The aggregated talent of your people is the most valuable component of your balance sheet – it is the soul of your organisation.

HPA: Maybe you could share your thoughts with Estonian supply chain and procurement managers and phrase for example three most important rules that help to ensure an effective and working supply chain? 

SO: Again, I’m hesitant to say any three things are the “most important” because context always matters. For example, the things that are most important for an effective supply chain in a stable, mature business may be different from those for a business going through a turnaround or rapid growth. Likewise, the critical factors in a product supply chain are not necessarily always the same as those in a service supply chain.

Nonetheless, as I explain in the book Procurement Mojo®, my advice to supply chain and procurement managers is to;

  • Build and maintain an effective organisation. Your organisational capability will make or break your supply chain management competence and reliability. And it starts with effective leadership at the top – irrespective of whether you’re the Chief Procurement Officer, the Supply Chain Director or a middle manager leading an operational team, you must embody leadership effectiveness.
  • Ensure your enablers (i.e., processes, tools and systems/technology) are fit for purpose. This is far more important than slavishly chasing “world-class” or “best-in-class”. Best-in-class may not always be best for your procurement and supply chain function and its particular context.
  • Manage your suppliers robustly. The supply base is an external component of the enterprise value chain, and no matter how slick the internal infrastructure is, the organisation will always be limited or augmented by the capability and performance of suppliers. The key requirements here are to use sensible processes for Supplier Performance and Relationship Management (SPRM) and supply risk management, to secure optimal value (not the same thing as cheapest price!) safely, ethically and efficiently.

HPA: And finally, what supply chain managers should definitely avoid in their work?

SO: Ineffectiveness. It’s by far the most dangerous ailment that detracts from our work success.

Rather than focusing on the things that are truly important – the few actions that take us powerfully towards our goals – too many of us expend time and energy on things that are urgent, fun, interesting or what everyone else is giving attention to.

Or we fall for trap of ‘busyness’, because we’ve become deluded that being “busy” means we’re important or we’re making progress.

Supply chain managers must focus on and sustain their personal effectiveness – whether in regard to specific work tasks or their operating style. It’s the single trait, competence or factor that affects everything else. So, at all cost, avoid ineffectiveness.

Sigi Osagie is an experienced leader, supply chain expert, speaker, mentor and writer. He is the author of Procurement Mojo® and Career Dreams to Career Success.

Sigi Osagie will give a talk at Pärnu Supply Chain Conference on April 2-3.


Read the original interview here (in Estonian).

Features extracts from Procurement Mojo® and various works by Sigi Osagie, copyright © 2007-2020. All rights reserved

Interview published as “Sigi Osagie: tarneahela juhid peavad vältima ebaefektiivsust” on Äripäev Töö, 27 February 2020