My Training With Industry (TWI) Experience at Starbucks

Oct. 22, 2014 | By Lt. Cmdr. Michael Dausen
    My Navy career has been varied, which has helped prepare me well for my Training With Industry (TWI) experience. I completed a division officer tour aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), first as HAZMAT officer, wardroom officer, and then stock control officer. Follow on shore duty was at Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk, an Individual Augmentation assignment with the 2nd Marine Airwing in Iraq, and Navy Exchange Service Command. I served as department head aboard USS Lake Erie (CG 70). Then I was selected for the TWI program in 2013. [capt
VIRIN: 141022-N-ZZ219-2567
]     The operating environment at Starbucks is dynamic and changes rapidly. Meeting consumer demands requires a forward leaning work force with considerable flexibility. The downstream effect of precipitous changes in policy and product assortment is a nimble supply chain uniquely geared toward maximizing customer service. The Supply Corps shares many parallel attributes with Starbucks logistics personnel in this way, despite our disparate missions.     Organizational structure at Starbucks is a blend of hierarchical and matrix reporting. Most partners will have one or more dotted line relationship(s) as part of their responsibilities. This can be challenging for an organization to remain employee-focused, since people may tend to get lost in the shuffle. Starbucks mitigates this risk with careful oversight and concurrent evaluations. Matrix reporting is necessary to moderate the previously mentioned dynamic and rapidly changing environment and help Starbucks adapt and transform quickly. Starbucks Supply Chain Top Priorities are: • Partner development and growth: Inspire and nurture partners to unlock their full potential. • Enterprise dairy: Cultivate new dairy-procurement solutions for consistency of supply and price certainty. • Soluble platform: Create best-in-class technology and technical/manufacturing expertise to produce VIA© and other coffee-based powders that will deliver cost savings. • Value chain integration: Optimize resources and infrastructure to enable company growth and expansion. • Accelerate concept-to-customer: Develop a holistic supply network that moves with agility.     Starbucks’ corporate culture leans toward consensus building. This system has both advantages and disadvantages. The opportunity for consensus building is the time it takes to reach a decision. In my observation, if time is not effectively managed, this can lead to missed deadlines. The advantage of working toward consensus is the intangible benefit of buy-in, and in theory, the covering of all angles through the organized vetting of ideas. The challenge with a consensus-building culture is striking the optimal balance between well-timed execution and allowing adequate partner engagement. Starbucks excels at meeting this challenge and is a worthy example of a consensus building success story. I must admit, it definitely took some getting used to, but it is very ingrained here and bottom line is, it works for Starbucks.     Compared to the United States Navy, Starbucks is a new organization. However, they are already weaving traditions into their culture. Perhaps the most enduring and prevalent tradition at Starbucks is the Coffee Master program. Becoming a Coffee Master at Starbucks is akin to earning your warfare qualification. Coffee Master participants study for six months or more and complete an oral board to demonstrate their knowledge. It is a badge of honor that marks a partner’s achievement and signifies a deeper understanding of how the Starbucks coffee experience is brought to the consumer. It is an optional program; however, I found it tremendously helpful in understanding the Starbucks culture to know the essence of what the company is all about. I earned my Coffee Master certification January of 2014 and it was one of the marquee highlights of my TWI tour.     Upon joining the team at Starbucks, I was assigned to the store delivery section of Supply Chain Operations. My primary role was to take a leadership role on a logistics/information technology project for Starbucks-licensed stores (similar to a franchise) which facilitated the introduction of La Boulange-branded pastries. Project Starbucks Managed Orders (SMOOTH) as we dubbed it, is a multi-million dollar initiative encompassing 4,000 licensed stores, nine third-party logistics providers, and operating 23 consolidated distribution centers. Project SMOOTH allowed me unfettered access to most every aspect of the Starbucks business. I delved into retail, finance, accounting, marketing, legal, and, of course, logistics, to perform my duties. Most of my daily interaction was at the manager/director level, but I also had significant engagement at the vice president level on a regular basis. This opportunity allowed me to hone my business acumen and to sharpen skillsets, which will prove invaluable throughout my naval career.     The Starbucks TWI can best be described as an accelerated, hands-on business experience focused on logistics. Navy externs are placed in a leadership role on projects that have strategic significance to the company and produce tangible results to the bottom line for shareholders. Starbucks executives expected results from me and demanded my best, but were careful to provide guidance and cultivate my business expertise. TWI was a rare opportunity to rapidly translate my abilities garnered through twelve years’ experience as a Supply Corps officer to a dynamic business environment. Conversely, it was also an invaluable time during which I was able to harness proficiencies and learn from a global and innovative company. I am taking away from my year with industry a more comprehensive paradigm through which I will view and tackle future challenges when I return to uniformed service in the Supply Corps. The following take-away skills from this experience stand out as valuable assets for a Supply Corps officer: • Cross-functional leadership • Project management • Change management • Negotiation expertise • Customer service • Analytical proficiency • Understanding of supply chain cost drivers • Building and evaluating logistics models • Effectively communicate to an executive team By Lt. Cmdr. Chris Roesner, SC, USN