Are supply chain managers morphing into political entrepreneurs?

Supply Chain

publication date 07/11/2016

Supply chain managers find themselves in the process of shifting from managing processes to managing relationships with suppliers.

The way in which companies interact with their environment in order to create economic value has changed radically in recent years. Such evolutions have significant implications for management. Some managers are concerned with the acquisition and deployment of resources beyond their direct authority, both from their own organizations and from their customer or supplier organizations. In order to access these resources and influence outcomes in other organizations or other parts of one's own, managers cannot merely connect, but must "span" organizational boundaries. They cannot rely solely upon formal or contractual control mechanisms when seeking to influence the behaviour of others.

Supply chain managers are particularly affected by such changes

This recent study explores the evolving role of the supply chain manager (SCM), who is becoming a strategic supply chain relationship manager (SCRM) dealing not only with processes, but also with supplier relationships. The evolving role of SCMs demands both novel management approaches and new skill requirements for role players in order to deepen their understanding of how they informally manage networks. This means transcending the restrictions of formal contracts, processes, structures and relationships, and solving contractual and operational problems while trying to achieve potential synergistic value.

Inspired by the concept of the political entrepreneur described in the key account management literature, the proposed model is used to explore this emerging role of the SCRM, as seen in three case studies taken from the aerospace industry.

Findings support the idea that the SCM’s role is increasingly strategic, shifting from a boundary connector to a boundary spanner, where less formal mechanisms are employed to solve problems or create value, using both political and, to a lesser degree, entrepreneurial skills.

This study provides valuable insights into the evolving role of SCRMs, with implications both for managers of SCM programmes, and for HR departments, impacting selection and training of managers.