Last week, Home Depot named Craig Menear to be its new president of U.S. retail operations, assuming leadership of this retailer’s over 2200 retail outlets.  Home Depot Succession Planning

The Wall Street Journal characterized this appointment as a “transfer of power” and marked the end of the previous rebuilding era for Home Depot, including investment in a more streamlined and responsive supply chain capability which Supply Chain Matters has praised.

This appointment is part of the home improvement retailer’s succession planning, paving the way for the eventual retirement of current CEO Frank Blake whose leadership has done wonders for the retailer’s current stock performance. The WSJ, cites in-part, Blake’s achievements as the following: “He ushered in a huge overhaul of the company’s supply chain and technology systems, spending billions of dollars to make its operations more efficient and move more workers out of the back rooms and onto its sales floor.”

Menear previous role was head of merchandising, responsible not only for the assortment and pricing of all Home Depot products but also its suppliers, supply chain and online operations. In essence, if this succession plan comes to pass, we will have another CEO with operations, supply chain and procurement leadership as a part of their resume. 

What makes this development more interesting to our community is that Blake’s leadership efforts included the hiring of a new cadre of supply chain management leaders. That included the hiring of Mark Holifield, a highly experienced retail and consumer products supply chain leader.  The new appointment of Menear as president of retail operations includes the elevation of Holifield to the role of executive vice president supply chain and product development, reporting to Menear.  Another executive brought in to transform U.S. distribution was Charles Armstrong, vice-president of distribution, who has outlined the transformation of Home Depot’s distribution networks at prior CSCMP annual conferences.

It has long been the contention of Supply Chain Matters that companies with critical value-chain dependencies are increasingly seeking senior management teams with solid grounding and understanding in principles of operations and supply chain management. These firms often desire that the supply chain continues to serve as a competitive differentiator for business outcomes.  There are many industry examples. We can reflect on the CEO’s of firms such as Apple, General Motors, McCormack Foods, and global apparel retailer Zara, part of Spain’s Inditex Group. Each came to their role with solid supply chain wide leadership experience and grounding. There are others as well.

The takeaway for those future leaders aspiring for a path to the top leadership role within an industry with critical value-chain dependencies is that focusing your career in cross-functional supply chain leadership can indeed be favored over backgrounds in solely financial management or sales, marketing or merchandising.  Responsive product lifecycle management is an added experience differentiator, especially when coupled to integration to value-chain needs.

These trends continue to reinforce how important responsive and resilient supply chain business processes, supported by differentiated enabling information technology capabilities, are becoming paths to the top. While some in supply chain leadership may feel, at-time, unappreciated, your experience and insights really do matter.

Bob Ferrari