Supply Chain Professionals: Have You Sharpened Your Saw Recently?

Join the supply chain conversation at Think Supply ChainThis year, I made it a priority to attend more conferences. Since I started working with APICS in 2007, I skipped my own industry conferences to immerse myself in the world of supply chain. I needed to learn about supply chain and why it is critical to business success. I needed to meet supply chain professionals. I needed to understand the various organizations that serve you in the APICS community. Additionally, I still spend a lot of time on the road meeting with APICS partners and customers to understand their perspectives and needs. In the office, my days are packed with managing planning, budgets, people, and more. I have a busy work and personal life, and I know many of you relate.

I rationalized my nonattendance by telling myself that APICS is my best teacher—that what I was learning on-the-job is better than any education I could receive at a conference. Personally, I am travel weary. I didn’t want to be away from home to attend a conference. Plus, I am 54 years old, and I have been working in associations for 27 years. I thought: How much more could I get from a conference?

Then, in January, I became executive director of the APICS Foundation. My new role required me to stretch as an association professional in ways I had not before. I want to be able to meet the new expectations now that I serve the Foundation’s board. I want to lead my staff into new areas and take advantage of the new opportunities that the Foundation is bringing APICS.

Conferences are a unique opportunity for supply chain professionals

So, earlier this year, I signed up for a one-day seminar on governance. Surprisingly, I loved it! I learned not only from the presenter, but from the others in the room. It was a unique event where association executives and association board members interacted with each other and shared ideas. Now, I am doing some things differently because of that experience. I relate to people differently as well because I gained perspective. I am traveling to another association industry conference in November, and, now, I am really looking forward to it.

Initially, attending the association seminar wasn’t entirely my idea. I was talking to APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, and he advised me to network with my association peers. He suggested that I needed to be exposed to other association leaders and organizations outside of supply chain. He was right. Now, I see the value in his suggestion.

When I first read Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I thought the seventh habit, sharpening the saw, was listed last because it was the weakest. It seemed to be there because seven habits is more aesthetically pleasing than six. I was young, and I didn’t need to focus on balance and renewal. Now, I recognize the value in that seventh habit.

There are many things in our busy work lives that drain energy, weaken our cognitive abilities, and cause us to develop unproductive routines. Taking time away enables us to learn from people in different companies and industries, test ideas, and widen our networks of people—especially those whom we meet in person.

For the last four months, I have spent a lot of time talking about the benefits of attending APICS 2013 from a content perspective. I want to urge you also to consider the professional development arc that includes leaving the office, hearing fresh ideas, meeting new people, and having time to think about applying this knowledge at work and in life. The development arc ends when you return to work, excited by what you have learned and whom you have met, and eager to try something different at work.

That’s my story. What’s yours? Are you taking the time you need to renew and refresh yourself professionally? It’s not too late. Sign up for APICS 2013 today. And, don’t forget to budget the conference experience for next year.