Janet Watson

Janet Watson

Vice president of strategic sourcing, Baylor Scott & White Health

Describe a key mentor or key event in your life.

Watson: I was fortunate early in my career, 10-12 years ago when I worked at BP, that I was nominated for a mentoring program. The company signed up three young women leaders at BP to be in this program as a pilot to see how it worked. It was a year-long program. You answered some questions and added what you thought your goals and objectives were of mentoring. Then they matched you with a mentor. I was matched up with Bruce Burdett at Cargill. He was a senior executive and oversaw and led the Central America food operations. I was a little intimidated when I got matched. They matched me with a C-suite level person, and I was amazed that he had time to do this. We had calls every other month that lasted about an hour-and-a-half to two hours.

It was so beneficial because I was used to being mentored by leaders at my own organization such as my boss, or my boss’s boss, or my boss’s peers. BP was very into mentoring, but it was kind of through an inner chain of command, so this mentoring program was really different for me. I was able to articulate areas that I thought I needed to focus on. We were also able to talk about areas in my day-to-day work where I might have thought I was struggling or having challenges as a leader. My mentor didn’t know any of the people I worked with, and he didn’t know the company culture, so that removed a whole dynamic that is there when you’re being mentored by somebody in your own organization.

He would ask me questions and it would drive the conversation: “Why does that make you feel that way?” or “Why did you approach it this way.” A lot of times, my answers were rooted in what I thought somebody else would think. He told me I had to get over that and quit thinking about what everyone else was going to think. Instead, think about what the objective is, and how you are going to get from A to Z leading people. That was a key mentoring event in my career.

What have you and/or your supply chain team learned working amid the pandemic?

Watson: My team is full of rock stars. We’ve learned a lot, and I definitely learned that I had the right people in the boat for this.

I’ll never forget going into a meeting on a Monday morning in March. It wasn’t about COVID-19, just normal work, but by that afternoon the floodgates opened. All of a sudden it was, “We’ve got to get ready.” It seems like somehow that was a flip-the-switch day, and everything started just falling into place after that. That very next weekend, I remember being at home and my phone started ringing at 7 a.m. I went into my office at home and I didn’t come out until that evening. I was getting phone calls from doctors, CMOs, hospital presidents – all kinds of people who had connections with people who said they could get us PPE. I’m sure every health system had hundreds of supplier leads of people wanting to help us find PPE.

Our team rallied together because no one person could do this by themselves. We are structured into commodity categories. I’ve got a team of people with a commodity director, contract manager, and procurement specialists to handle med/surg. But we couldn’t expect one or two people to source all of that PPE, so we spread it out. I spread it out across my leadership team, and they spread it across their staff. We split it up into categories, assigned it out, and then we would have check-ins every morning, and sometimes every afternoon. For about three or four weekends in March and April, I don’t think anybody even knew what day it was. We just kept working just like it was a Monday or Tuesday.

We couldn’t have done it without the tremendous support of the Baylor Scott & White senior leadership and the C-suite, as well as the physicians and the clinicians, nurses, and infection preventionists. They helped keep the focus where it needed to be. It really was a test of the system’s ability to collaborate and integrate. The collaboration across the system was like nothing I’ve seen before. It’s helped Baylor Scott & White, even on the other side of the crisis, to be much more collaborative and engaging with each other to get things done.

Across the supply chain, we learned how to integrate quickly. When you think of all those leads, you think of having to vet the suppliers and whether you’re going to do business with them. You have to think about the interaction with accounting, finance, purchasing, demand planning, inventories, all of this. You talk about integration forever. But you always kind of wonder: Are we there yet? We’ve really improved on those processes and it’s in so much better shape than it was before COVID-19. Our Baylor Scott & White Supply Chain is stronger and our visibility into inventory and modeling is significantly improved. 

Describe key characteristics of the successful supply chain leader of the future.

Watson: I’ve been at Baylor Scott & White almost four years now. Before, I was in the energy industry, where 10-12 years ago we were doing the things that we have been doing in Baylor Scott & White Supply Chain over the last three years.

I’ve heard people in the industry and across health systems make the comment, “Well, supply chain is finally getting a seat at the table.” I keep thinking to myself, “OK, you’ve got a seat at the table. What does that mean?” What that means to me is you can get a seat at the table, but what are you going to bring to the table?

It can be a very short-lived dynamic if you’re not bringing something to the table or offering something different than what you were bringing before.

Getting things put in place that address your technology, processes, and the skill sets of your people is tremendously important. I told Tony Johnson about nine months ago that we have reached the point where the plan we put in place is now in Year 4 and this is the year that we need to stabilize and start reaping the benefits of all of this work with data, systems, and skill sets. Supply Chain leaders of the future definitely need to have their eyes on data, what it tells you and how you automate. You’ve got to lead from a point of flexibility to adapt to market changes, industry changes, cost challenges and other unknowns. If you have stable processes and systems, you can flex. Through COVID-19, the whole world has recognized that we must be nimbler. We all need to find ways to sustain our health systems and businesses.

I’ve never worked for a company that just does supply chain. So, I always say to myself and my team, “This company is not about you. It’s not about supply chain.” How do you learn the business you support from a financial perspective? What are the goals? The objectives? What’s the roadmap? Then, how do you support that and affect it from a financial perspective? When you really peel the onion back in business and get to the true objectives, that’s when you will find success. Supply Chain should be saying “These are the things that we will do to help you achieve the objective,” not “What do you want me to do?”