Supply chain altruism – The art of giving back by using your hard-earned lean and supply chain skills to help others help themselves

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Giving back.

How often have we heard this term? Is it something that elicits guilt or something that spurs you to action? Regardless, altruism is a necessary means to help the less fortunate, a benefit to the giver, and a command ingrained in many faiths. But as efficiency experts and masters of supply chain disciplines, how can we focus our efforts and our skills to provide the most benefit in altruistic work? Can we use the tools of our profession to bring more benefit than just profit?

Altruism is a necessary means to help the less fortunate, a benefit to the giver, and a command ingrained in many faiths.

You may not be the best carpenter, most compassionate social worker, or kindest care provider, but your skills are in great demand. Although there is benefit to doing something outside of your training and experiences, applying your unique business skills to volunteeropportunities is a powerful thing. Not only does the recipient benefit, but so does the giver. Volunteering in the field of process improvement and supply chain management is a way to apply your skills to a different field, stay sharp if your current assignment removes you from hands-on tasks, builds your resume, and increases connections.

How best to start? Use the tools you are familiar with. One tool, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), can be applied personally as opposed to situationally. What are YOUR strengths; what are YOUR weaknesses, and so on? Knowing how best to apply your skills is a good way to start. A volunteer resume is another way. List all your volunteering in resume format: chronologically with experiences and benefits gained. This provides an excellent way to highlight deficiencies and maybe spur some action.

A personal skills Spider graph is an analytical tool that can assess capability and Personal Life High/Low plotting along with analysis of these highs and lows and can assess desire and passion. High Capability aligned with high passion is a recipe for success (both to the provider and recipient).

Your position in life will also have a great bearing in the form of volunteering. Are you retired, between jobs, a student, or fully employed needing to use vacations, part-time, or after work/weekend opportunities?

The traditional route to giving back within our profession is through professional societies (APICS, SME, ASQ, etc.). These are excellent ways; they help in education and assist in many of the personal areas mentioned previously, but I challenge you to look beyond these avenues. Disaster relief and humanitarianism are all about expediently transferring resources to the location in need.

Sounds like supply chain fundamentals, doesn’t it? Many times, these organizations employ people with professional skills, but at their core, they are volunteer-based, and your insistence (along with your credentials) will most often allow you to focus your volunteering on the area you can provide the greatest benefit: supply chain improvements and process suggestions.

Food banks, large and small, permeate most large and medium-sized metropolitan areas. Stockpiling and distributing food quickly and efficiently is a must in these organizations, and many have grown quickly, and sometimes, not the most efficiently. Your skills can assist in creating SOPs, improving staging areas, logistics suggestions and contacts, inventorying, reviews of needed and current supplies, streamlining the donation process – the list is almost endless and so is the need.

Calling or emailing local charities about need is one option. Some for-profit companies have volunteer arms that facilitate service opportunities. One example: Accenture’s VBP.

Another way, which I personally used, was an organization called Global Business Success Foundation: trips of one week, in my case, to Egypt to assist in lean consulting. Once overseas, opportunities abound. Universities can often get you in for an impromptu lecture. International business is often conducted in English and to have a lecturer speak in both English and about a current business discipline is a rare treat.

Unfortunately, there is no website (yet) where you can plug in your skills to match the perfect volunteer opportunity. It still requires you to initiate contact, but if you do, the benefit to you and the organization can be life changing.


Additional Reading

How to Achieve Operational Excellence in the Private Equity Industry
Human Capital Challenges for Green Supply Chain Management and Development, and How to Resolve Them 


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