Skills or Competencies—Which Are Your Priority?

By Robert A. Rudzki, SCMR Contributing Blogger
August 13, 2010 - SCMR Editorial

Today’s guest blogger is my colleague, James Baehr, who in addition to his broad experience with Strategic Sourcing, heads up the IT Strategic Sourcing practice at Greybeard Advisors LLC. Jim has had management roles in IT sales, IT operations, and IT procurement at major firms, before joining Greybeard. Jim can be reached at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

For a Supply Chain group to be successful it needs to be staffed with skilled professionals.  However, what skills are needed?  How are skills defined?  Do a web search and you will find numerous definitions and long lists of what are considered skills. There is no consistency.  Skills can range from “basic” - the ability to type in orders or do simple math to “advanced” - being able look at production planning and make associated forecasts. 

Almost a decade ago Larry C. Guinipero and Dawn H. Pearcy prepared a paper titled World-Class Purchasing Skills: An Empirical Study.  In their work they collected information from numerous sources to identify the skills of a “world class Purchasing professional”.  The paper calls to attention just how much research had been done to that point in time without reaching a consensus on the exact skills needed. The discussion is even more complex when differentiating between tactical and strategic skills (which, unfortunately is important only if your Procurement organization has committed to being truly strategic).

Individuals come to their assignments with skills but if they don’t convert their skills into competencies, they won’t be successful.  Competencies are acquired through training, practice and experience.  Competencies are the difference maker.  Why?  Because, competencies represent understanding which, in turn, converts to predictable and measurable performance. 

Being tactical or conventional implies reacting to conditions and requires basic skills.  A competent Procurement professional anticipates and understands the needs of a Stakeholder and uses his or her experience to strategically address these needs.  Successful organizations understand the difference.


About the Author

Robert A. Rudzki
SCMR Contributing Blogger
Robert A. Rudzki is a former Fortune 500 Senior Vice President & Chief Procurement Officer, who is now President of Greybeard Advisors LLC, a leading provider of advisory services for procurement transformation, strategic sourcing, and supply chain management. Bob is also the author of several leading business books including the supply management best-seller "Straight to the Bottom Line®", its highly-endorsed sequel "Next Level Supply Management Excellence," and the leadership book "Beat the Odds: Avoid Corporate Death & Build a Resilient Enterprise." You can reach him through his firm's website:

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