Dr. Linda Silver Coley sees a tight inter- dependence between supply chain management and her main field of study. The assistant professor of marketing at Miami University (Ohio) works hard to ensure that marketing students and practitioners recognize the importance of supply chain thought and business processes in market-oriented decision making.
But that's not her sole focus. As a passionate educator, Coley is dedicated to empowering her students to discover their innate leadership abilities. And as a former marketing executive, she is committed to helping them become the worldclass business leaders of tomorrow.
Madeleine Miller-Holodnicki, CSCMP's Manager of Communications and Senior Editor of Supply Chain Quarterly, recently spoke with Coley about her philosophy of excellence in both the academic and business realms.
Name: Dr. Linda Silver Coley
Title: Assistant Professor
Organization: Marketing Department, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio U.S.A.
Marketing and supply chain management (SCM) seem like an odd couple. What's the link between these two seemingly dis- parate functions?
Marketing students in universities everywhere learn about the "marketing mix," or the "four Ps": product, price, promotion, and place. Supply chain management affects all four of these marketing elements.
Take "price," for example. If a product is to maintain a competitive retail price, then an efficient supply chain needs to be in place to produce the product through strong supply chain relationships between customers and suppliers. When a company decides to promote a product to the consumer, the volume of the product sold and the rate of movement of that product off the shelves triggers decisions that have to be made all the way down the supply chain, even at the raw materials stage.
This is not new thinking. There has always been a link between supply chain management and marketing, but the marketing end of the process was once simply "logistics." If we in academia do not link marketing to the supply chain management function, then we're not properly preparing our students for today's business world. The way marketing is taught at the university level must change to embrace cross-functional SCM.
How important is a supply chain-integra- tive education to entering and succeed- ing in business?
I encourage as many of my marketing students as possible to minor in supply chain management. On the flip side, I also encourage my SCM students to take an advanced marketing course. Here at Miami University, we're making the move to integrate marketing and SCM as well as reframing our courses to be more experiential. In the broader sense, I believe that supply chain management should be a required core course in every business school.
Is there any value to a senior-level supply chain practitioner to going back to school and getting an advanced degree?
At that level, an advanced supply chain degree is not as important as real-world business training and the kinds of education and training offered by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. The main reason for an individual to pursue an advanced degree is if he or she wants to teach or conduct research in supply chain management at the college or university level.
I earned my PhD for this reason alone—to teach courses and do research that integrate marketing and supply chain management. I wanted to make an impact on the fields of marketing and SCM. I was determined not to miss out on the supply chain management phenomenon.
What are your marketing students convers- ing about in the classroom?
My students are engaged in dialogue about the impact and value of intangibles and how you can't measure them. They're having conversations about supply chain management, the effect of customer and supplier relationships on innovation, co-ownership of processes between suppliers and customers, and international issues.
I teach using case studies and an interactive "student as leader and teacher as coach" format, where each day, a student is randomly chosen to be the leader. At the beginning of the semester, students are typically very competitive and want to "win." By the time my class concludes, their focus in the learning environment has changed from "self" to helping "others" succeed. They've learned how to collaborate and support one another through coaching and teamwork. I structure my classrooms to become business learning environments where students have an opportunity to collaborate in pursuit of common goals similar to a real company's, such as designing a product.
You're passionate about the subject of lead- ership. Why? What does "leadership" mean to you?
I'm passionate about leadership because I'm helping to train the next generation of leaders. My personal leadership style could be described as a combination of "servant" leadership—setting my own ego aside to humbly serve others—and "transformational" leadership—making positive change happen by modeling appropriate behavior and allowing students to have a voice in the learning process.
However, I don't want my students to mimic my leadership style. I try to help them find their own styles. But I teach that leadership is not just about traits like honesty, integrity, respect, and abilities; it is also a dynamic process between the leader and the follower. Sometimes I am the leader in my classrooms, but most of the time, my students go to the front of the class to develop their own unique leadership styles.
What is your definition of exceptional leadership?
I do not believe we can define exceptional leadership because it truly depends on the situation and the desired outcome. There are many examples of exceptional leadership throughout history. There have been effective leaders who have had evil desired outcomes. And there have been effective leaders with kind and benevolent desired outcomes. This is why I am intrigued by leadership…it's multidimensional.
Walk us through your teaching career.
I have been teaching for over 18 years but have only been on the tenure track for two years. I've taught successfully at several large and small institutions as well as at public and private universities and colleges, including the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign (UIUC); the University of Cincinnati; Xavier University and the College of Mount St. Joseph, both in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Thomas More College in northern Kentucky.
At Miami University's Farmer School of Business, I teach marketing strategy to marketing, supply chain management, finance, and accounting majors. However, I have also taught marketing courses in several undergraduate curriculums in the colleges and universities I just mentioned—courses focusing on the principles of marketing, consumer behavior, market research, sales management, business-to-business marketing, product information and supply management, and marketing strategy.
As a visiting assistant professor at UIUC, I taught new product marketing, new product development, marketing management, and an experiential distribution/supply chain management practicum.
My teaching background and business experience have allowed me to teach marketing and marketingrelated courses to students across disciplines, such as engineering, and across business school departments, such as supply chain management and operations management. While most of my teaching experience has been at the undergraduate level, I've also taught marketing to MBAs at UIUC and to Asian executives in the UIUC master's program.
Tell us about your teaching style and philosophy.
My teaching style is highly interactive, but let me give you some insight into my thinking, which will help explain my teaching style and philosophy.
My motto is "To whom much is given, much is expected," and I approach teaching with this thought in mind. I have been given a lot of ability and a tremendous opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of my students, and I am humbled by the responsibilities of serving them. I know that highimpact teaching is critical to move students "from good to great."
When I teach, I try to model respect, fairness, and an unpretentious ego while presenting and encouraging leadership agility, boldness, risk taking, and creativity that will cultivate powerful, transformational thinking and ideas that are "outside of the box."
My focus on the needs of the students leads me to teach them everything I can, integrating my knowledge, wisdom, research, and business experiences into my studies. I share my lifelong love of learning and the learning process with all my students with enthusiasm, laughter, and an open mind. As a result, I listen to them and look for opportunities to better understand their worldviews while sharing mine.
I am comfortable with who I am and the knowledge I've acquired, so I empower my students to question me, the authors I present, and each other in a safe environment. I ask students for their opinions and teach them how to disagree with me and their peers as well as with the authors of established business classics while maintaining civility and respect for others and for the learning process.
I encourage my students to take risks and give them opportunities to correct mistakes when lessons are clearly learned. I am able to respect and value their differences and see beyond the obvious to nurture the potential that is sometimes buried. We dialogue in an interactive classroom; we critique each other's ideas and ask probing questions, always seeking new possibilities that are beyond the obvious, because, what if there were no box to think outside of?
Given that one of my goals is to establish a safe, productive, high-impact learning environment, I coach, I mentor, I listen. I fill in the learning gaps while broadening the concept base using any appropriate tool at my disposal. I give my students a voice in the process by allowing them to negotiate the governing rules and consequences to create a sense of mutual responsibility for the learning process and deference for the learning environment.
Yet my position as "teacher" is never compromised. A central component of my teaching is to encourage students to seek resources beyond the classroom and take responsibility for enhancing the learning process. I set high standards and then gently demand the best from myself, from each student, from teams, and from the learning environment. Opportunities for each individual to experience leadership, creativity, relevance, meaning, and success are factored into my approach to teaching. Each individual is encouraged and given the space to reach his own personal next level.
What have your students taught you?
I've learned so many valuable lessons from them, like the importance of consistency, how to be flexible, and how to see the world through their eyes. Each student is unique and interesting, and they all have diverse lives, views, expectations, dreams, and fears.
Compared to when you were in college, what are the students of today like?
The students are the same today as they were when I was in school. They're young people looking for an education to help them bridge the gap or stop the time clock between now and the next phase of their lives. It's the rules of engagement that are different— the world is different, technology is different. The entire educational environment has changed, so expectations have been dramatically altered.
How have expectations changed?
Students today need more hands-on evidence, more experiential learning. Global aspects of learning are also more important. Learning in a silo, versus crossfunctional learning, is a disadvantage to today's young person. A liberal education is becoming more and more important. Technical savvy needs to be complemented with creativity, and intellectual competency needs to be balanced with emotional competence.
What supply chain management business issues are most important to you?
The SCM issues most important to me are those at the strategy level of the firm or the macro level of the supply network. This includes issues that involve multiple relationships between customers and suppliers and sustaining competitive advantage through the process of market-oriented supply chain management, issues of relational and executional leadership competency. I am primarily interested in consumer-driven supply networks.
What are the most significant changes you
have seen in the supply chain management
profession over the past five years?
I'd have to say that the biggest change has been a move from focusing solely on efficiency to looking at business drivers and performance measures.
What's your perspective on globalization?
Students need to understand the markets and consumer needs in various regions of the world and how to satisfactorily serve those markets with global and niche products and services. Here at Miami, we teach students to gain an appreciation of different cultures. Right now, we're focusing on the Asian market. I also use real global case studies in my classes, like Procter & Gamble's Pringles potato chip launch in Italy or the brand-image effect of BMW building an assembly plant in South Carolina.
Globalization is an extremely important issue for marketing and supply chain management students. The world really is "flat" and getting smaller by the day. Today's leaders are now doing business with one giant, global supply network.
What have you learned in your pursuit of knowledge that could potentially change the way we do business?
I've discovered that market-oriented supply chain management, paired with relational and executional leadership competency among suppliers and customers, could possibly aid the continuous process toward sustaining a competitive advantage for the supply network. The outcome of this orientation can lead to remarkable innovations in products, services, or processes across the global marketplace.
How does cscmp energize your professional life?
As a marketing professor who integrates supply chain management, CSCMP provides me with a forum for ideas and for dialogue with like-minded colleagues. I am thrilled to be a member of CSCMP's Education Strategy Committee and to work with these outstanding professionals from all over the world. Being on this important committee gives me the opportunity to help shape the organization's educational agenda and interject a marketing perspective into the process.
What's the best advice anybody ever gave you?
Don't just do the right thing. Do the right thing for the right reason.
What advice would you impart to recently graduated students who are about to enter the supply chain management field?
I would tell them several things. First, "making a living" is important, but it is not as important as "making a life." Don't just go with the highest offer or feel compelled to stick around if you find yourself in a situation that does not suit who you want to be.
Second, I would advise them to check their egos at the door. Being technically competent is important, but possessing emotional competence is more important. Putting the needs of your colleagues and customers ahead of your own will make you a supply chain success.