of those gaps would become the inaugural Future Leaders project: a supply chain manager competency model.
Sound dry? Imagine what it’s like looking for a treasure,
worldwide, without a map — and then being handed one.
That’s the kind of excitement the project brought to the APICS
“We needed to define the critical skills that supply chain
professionals need to get into the field, and what they need to
do to advance,” Vokurka says.
The scene was set in 2008: An experienced mentor, eight
professionals full of potential and a project designed to grow
all of them within 12 months.
“My initial thought when we first met was that these people
are from all over, with such diverse backgrounds,” Vokurka
says. “But they were all freely sharing their ideas. I could tell
they were going to work together very well. Whatever they did,
the output was going to be of a high caliber.”
MEETING OF THE MINDS
The first Future Leaders class descended on APICS’ Chicago
headquarters from Vermont, Indonesia and South Africa. There
also was a member from Canada, who was originally from India;
another from Texas, who was a native of Mexico; and still
another from California, who was born in Brazil. There was a
touch of “The Apprentice” in the air, but this was all reality —
Kevlin says she was “a little anxious to meet everyone. You
might have friends who say, ‘What the heck do you do?’ But
Elizabeth Kilgour (left), Debbie Chiles (center), and Genevieve Leblanc (right), of the
2010 APICS Future Leaders, at the foot of the CN Tower in Toronto. The trio spent time
getting acquainted and sightseeing before launching into a year of conference calls to
execute their mission of growing themselves and their profession.
HAVE YOU READ?
Each year the APICS Future Leaders program selects a
leadership book that participants will read and discuss
during each month of their year-long project. Past selec-
• 2009 Future Leaders: Remarkable Leadership, by
• 2010 Future Leaders: Hit the Ground Running, by
this group really understood each other. We’re part Sherlock
Holmes — investigating how to get things done and done bet-
ter — and part customer service person,” she adds. Kevlin’s
work helps ensure that a multitude of electronic items, includ-
ing Wii games, are on the shelf when you want them. “At the
end of the day, most everything we do ends up in something in
your household. By lunchtime, it was like we were old pals.”
The two-day Future Leaders kickoff began with an up-close
introduction to APICS, including its structure, personnel and
mission. The class also was introduced to a leadership book it
would spend the next year reading together. And then, Vokurka
presented the class with its project.
“APICS didn’t schedule our time from morning to night. One
of us was from South Africa and hadn’t been to the U.S. before.
We had to take him downtown on the train,” Kevlin says. “It was
a nice, natural way to get to know each other before we started
really working together.”
When the class left Chicago, the real work began. Monthly
conference calls — someone often inconvenienced by the time-
zone differences — began with dissecting a chapter of the lead-
ership book, Kevin Eikenberry’s Real Leadership. Then the
assignment of duties began — again, over the phone — as the
group defined, researched and pared down competencies. Future
Leaders members took turns facilitating the calls, after each had
an agenda-structuring conference call with Sharon Rice, APICS
executive vice president for professional development.
With eight strong professionals — and eight robust personalities — education was immediate.
“We had some nice arguments on the ethics side,” says
2009 Future Leader Sumanth Nagaranthnam, a Toronto-based
IBM consultant. “It was a challenge to convince people of your
ideas — East vs. West ways of thinking. The values of a person
and a company can change when you need to do business outside your company, but sometimes you have to convince others
The group dynamics and processes even taught Nagaranthnam a few things getting his MBA didn’t. He served as an
administrator of the Future Leaders’ Google Group, and therefore organized ideas that reflected the group’s priorities. Along
with that new process, he took home a new understanding of
serving internal and external customers.
“My focus had always been external. But everyone is your
customer, even those you are working with,” Nagaranthnam says.
“It’s a different way of looking at it. If you want something from
someone, you have to approach it the right way.”