Read the assigned article from this week’s readings. Consider yourself as a project manager at American Airlines, and John MacLean is your project sponsor. Describe some example projects you could be the leader for, and how an efficient supply chain process can support the profitability of American Airlines. Submit a two –to – three pages, APA style paper. Use concepts from the text for purchasing links to profitability and your knowledge of project management to support your views.
“How would John approach this?”
That thought frequently goes through the mind of Brent Shinall, vice president of global supply chain at Houston-based Helix Energy Solutions Group, he says, when he confronts particularly perplexing supply chain situations.
He is talking about John MacLean, vice president of purchasing and transportation at American Airlines, and Purchasing’s 2009 Supply Chain Manager of the Year.
Shinall’s statement is perhaps the ultimate sign of respect. And, its roots trace back to the nine years he worked for MacLean at American. Shinall held four different management positions under MacLean between 1994 and 2003, including managing director of aircraft purchasing. In that latter position, he met with MacLean once a week to discuss pressing issues.
“He was a master at getting me to think through a problem,” Shinall says. “He would hand me a white-board marker and at the end of the meting the board would be filled with my thoughts.”
Thoughts that MacLean had drawn out from him.
Shinall is having a successful career himself, having moved from American to supply chain executive positions at Royal Caribbean and then to Helix.
“But I consider John MacLean my mentor,” he says.
It’s a sentiment several people at American share, as you’ll read in our cover story this issue. More than one person describes him as a data-driven, forward-thinking motivator and coach. From all accounts, he is a good listener, a rare but essential trait in business as in life.
Of course, he is no saint. Shinall laughingly recalls that at department volleyball tournaments, MacLean’s team always won. His penchant for listening in meetings and frequently not saying anything until after his subordinates have presented their ideas can be a little intimidating, says one of his long-time associates. And, he can be demanding in a quiet way. “He holds you accountable, and you better meet the commitments you make,” Shinall says.
But, if anything, that is a sign of a disciplined manager who sees his role as a guide who wants to empower his team and bring out the best in them.
To do that, he encourages them to think big and think out of the box. “He doesn’t think in a straight path,” Shinall says. “Instead, he thinks around problems and plays the devil’s advocate.”
His management of the purchasing operation at American–and expansion of its purview–led to American’s win of Purchasing’s 1998 Medal of Professional Excellence. Since then, he has helped pilot the airline through a series of crises that would test him and his team. The MacLean team has passed every test and made the airline stronger in the process.
The airline industry grew in some measure because of the daring, imagination and exploits of its early pilots who were often known as barnstormers. John MacLean is a latter-day barnstormer in a pinstripe suit because of his efforts to expand the role of purchasing and supply chain management at American Airlines. We congratulate him for his successes.
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Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier, Inc. Oct 15, 2009
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