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Coloring Between The Lines

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/20/2017 | 10:16 AM

Industry Week's guest expert may have shot himself in the foot recently.  He led off with a characterization of 9/11 as an heinous act that ruined the US economy.  Heinous, yes; ruined, not so much.

More to the point, he linked the collapse of his employer's telecommunications business segment, then goes on to blame the technology installation that shifted copper usage as a faster than a speeding bullet legacy installation.

Ummm, I was actually there at the time.  9/11 was heinous, but led to massive recovery investment.  Copper cable "tanking" was a myth; succeeding years set new records in copper cable purchases as fiber optics installations took off.

The expert makes a (weak) case for the destruction of an old paradigm, with replacement by a new one.  And adds wireless technology to the mix - before stirring.

I will freely admit that new technology today replaces the old, faster than we can imagine - and places resource and materials demands faster than Procurement can possibly keep up with.

So, with the myth of one new paradigm some three decades ago discredited, how are we staying ahead of needs among a parade of new paradigms?

Simple to conceive; tough to execute.  But, in all cases, they mean being close to customers, listening to the customers' voices

Not being close after 9/11, not having a clue about technology shifts, not understanding copper cable demand, not getting the massivity of legacy technology infrastructure - all these contributed to the cable company's demise.

That's what happens when a manager posing as a leader takes decisions based on received wisdom.  No amount of expertise changes those realities.

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Dark Of Night . . . Nor Bargaining Unit Rules Shall Stay These Couriers . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/24/2017 | 3:19 PM

At one point, I felt that local last-mile parcel delivery could be the salvation of the USPS. But, based on personal experience and widespread complaints from a base of Fedex/UPS delivery destinations, I'm not nearly so confident today.

In fact, parcel delivery riddled with flaws could wind up being the undoing of the once-proud federal (now privatized) service.

Here's the deal, as H. Ross Perot used to say. Without knowing the details (also attributed, btw, to Mr. Perot), the United States Postal Service (USPS) makes home deliveries on behalf of B2C shippers, replacing the costly footprint of a redundant national network. In consequence, the mailman (or mail lady, as the case may be) spends an inordinate amount of time cramming slightly-too-large packaging into demonstrably too-small mail boxes during the daily delivery.

Sundays see a flotilla of mail trucks bearing nothing but parcels retracing the carriers' weekday steps.

Obviously, such reliance on a third party cries out for meaningful performance metrics, and measures—useful or accurate being independent variables—are definitely in the USPS wheelhouse. Home or local delivery is a chancy business, to be sure, so allowances must be made for nobody home, no shows, underaged signatorees, rabid dogs, and shady neigborhoods.

What we see in our moderately upscale community is a disproportionate log of tracked shipments showing a status of "delivered," but with no evidence of delivery, such as having the merchandise in hand, for example. As if by magic, the "missing" delivered parcel shows up in the next day's (parcel) mail, a classic maneuver to offload problems—and work—to another shift. But, in the meantime, to the consumer, the shipment appears to be lost. And a razor-thin margin operator is forced by customer service imperatives to send a replacement for something that will show up of its own accord.

The beat goes on … A note indicating attempted delivery is left when the recipient is languishing with a Dos Equis as the Browns shoot themselves in the foot once again. A hostile pet is indicated when the most dangerous animal in the neighborhood is a calico cat.

How much of this nonsense will shippers—and customers—tolerate before entertaining the cost of a captive delivery network? What will it take the USPS to wake up and smell the malingering? How much will it take to fire the non-performers? Can postal workers, once taken on, actually be dismissed for cause? Are today's metrics subject to review and audit? Are fudged measures of performance simply a way to postpone the inevitable?  Will the USPS get stuck with an investment in people and equipment when the parcel carrier(s) fire their sorry behinds? Will we even care by then?

It's time, perhaps even past time, to restore the sense of duty and mission that once characterized the postal service. Or, the end might just be in sight. 

Who Put The Ham In Hamilton?

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/21/2017 | 2:46 PM

The high point, so far, in La Diva's young life, has been a girls' weekend in Manhattan, punctuated with the theatre equivalent of end-zone seats at Lin-Manuel Miranda's brilliant hip-hop musical, Hamilton.  With early morning walks in SoHo, this pinnacle of great city life played a siren song, and we carefully guarded knowledge of the local rents, lest La Diva abandon her Broadway dreams.

But, The Kid also treasures singing and dancing, and can be brought to tears by strong acting, so we arranged for a Chicago early weekend to observe the local run, sans Lin-Manuel.  Side note: The Kid forbade La Diva from any further roles that portrayed her in mortal danger, after seeing her in The Diary of Anne Frank.  Speaking plainly, I am partial to Chicago as it is.  Great restaurants, without pretension.  The Cubs.  Da Bearss.  Ditka.  A murder rate that would make Acapulco proud (Thank you, Mayor Rahm).

We experienced some glittering dinners, and did drive-throughs at world-class museums, the bumpy flights separated by a Hamilton that brought us to our knees.

I was later moved to contemplate the musical, the adventures of the Kid and La Diva, and my obsession with goings-on in the magical world of supply chain management.  Two points caught my mental meandering.  One is that I need to relax, and stop wondering why I bother to bring the thunder.

Another is that opportunities will knock at the door daily, or even more often.  While we cannot afford to indulge any and every whim, and certainly should not throw money at every departure from the norm that arrives, full of hope and overflowing with hype, we really owe it to ourselves, our associates, and our enterprises to select what, where, and how much to invest in opportunities.

As with so much, including the targets for our thunder, these apply to life and to work - strange, how often and to what extent they overlap.

The Whole Fam Damily

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/19/2017 | 7:47 AM

I am aware that familial references in my personal blogosphere can be confusing.  Hence, a cast listing follows to outline the immediate nuclear cohort.  It's not complicated; there aren't enough of us to be truly mind-boggling.

The Washington State branch has been decimated by the loss of the sole male cousin.  His son is, I think, somewhere in Texas.  The Tucson clan has disappeared, with the only male survivor's state unknown, possibly deceased.  Sad, in many dimensions - connected by fortuitous accident, headed by a renowned music educator, who, with his wife, perished in a house fire.A brother, with one son, is in suburban Chicago, and is recovering from a triple bypass and valve replacement.  A couple of my already departed brother's children (all female) have preserved, for the moment, the family surname.

The woods are full of shirt-tale second somethings thrice removed; none bear the family name, and are completely unconnected with the rest of us.

The van Bodegraven name is quite rare in the US; it has a few adherents in other lands.  In the Mother Country, the name is not common, but is far from rare.  Originally it indicated being from the city or town of Bodegraven, but that distinction has been  inoperative for countless generations.  Our immediate family emigrated from North Holland.

Bodegraven itself is a large town or small city of some limited charms, located  south of Amsterdam, and some eight or nine kilometers outside of Gouda.  A cheese market of some import in local history, one imagines that selling a so-named cheese would pose a marketing nightmare.

Our immediate gang all live in or near Columbus, Ohio, although some have enjoyed stops in Detroit, Miami, Mexico City, and Kalamazoo..

Son David is an ambitious, engaged, organized leader who has devoted himself to serving others, improving service processes, and leveraging subordinates to elevate service and satisfaction.  His partner, Nurse Andrew, is a brilliant and comitted psychiatric health care service provider.  Both are active in combating substance abuse and aiding those afficted.  Their companions are Libby, a rescue, and OB, a family favorite.

Son Jonathan is a human dynamo, a sourcing and procurement maven for leading major corporations in a variety of industry verticals.  His wife, a Colombiana native now a passionate US citizen, brought one son into the marriage (Nicolas Alarcon Contreras), and together they are the parents of Los Colombianos, (Donovan Mateo and Aiden Gabriel, ages 10 and 8), who are extremely bright and engaged.

Daughter Elizabeth (Fierce Betty) is a gifted and high-motor executive in the supply chain world; she has retained the family name.  Her significant other, Tom  Daniels (Uncle Slick, The Engineer)  is an amazingly talented installer, fixer, maintainer, redesigner who routinely creates production facilities that produce more than they are conventionally capable of, with associates who are untrained and ill-prepared to do so.  He is also a master of smoking and grilling, with exotic meats a specialty.  They have a purebred bulldog, Toro, who, missing several teeth and critical reproductive equipment, still harbors delusions of seductive capabilities.

Daughter Julie (uber-Mom) works from home, in addition to doing all the cooking, cleaning, chauffering, scheduling, and other traditional Mom tasks.  She is currently beefing up the content and processes used in a fabulously successful life coaching corporation.  Husband Steve owns a cleaning and restoration operation in support of mitigating fire and water damage for insurance companies.  They are the parents of Ryan (The Kid), Jessica (La Diva) and Dillon Sheehy, a recent Florida State graduate.  Their rescue, Baby, is fiercely protective.

Phyllis, mijn vrouw, is the rock that gives all of us a place to hang on to, and the glue that integrates the activities of kids and grandkids - and keeps me from driving off the metaphorical edsge of life's cliff.  Superbly talented in many dimensions, she is both trained and intuitive in health care diagnosis and care, a fearless cook, and a marvel of organization and logical approaches to life.

A family member without a surname is Penny, our rescue Cardigan Corgi mix with a mind of her own.

 A minor player of limited capacity or interest is uber-Mom's first husband, who has a different - Irish - family name and is responsible for a terrific grandson as well as for spectacular misadventures.  The grandson's significant other is the gorgeous, talented, creative, clever, and sensible Mari, and they are momentarily within Austin City Limits.  No help on perpeuating the name, but great young people nevertheless.

So, that's it.  These are the van Bodegravens, all of them.  We could hold a family reunion in a van or camper.  And, they all populate the art of Art blog.

Renault Schools The Modern Supply Chain

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/17/2017 | 7:30 AM

What, you may rightly ask, does a long-dead creator of questionable automobiles have to say to us as a new century stands on the cusp of maturity?

Louis Renault was a genius. At first, and at an absurdly young age, he was a dabbler, a dilettante with interests in chemistry, electricity, mechanics, and sundry impossibilities. He settled on engines and automobiles.

An early blow, failure in his school entrance exams, was softened by the family fortune.

As the practical performance of autos was demonstrated, and a radical transmission evolved, racing was the next mountain to scale. Two dead brothers later, racing remained the catalyst for growth, and Louis was alone.

Atop a colossus, Renault could not share power with anyone, and suffered devastating work strikes. In 1940, he agreed to work with the conquering Nazis.

When the Germans decamped Paris, Louis was arrested and died in prison.

A one-man business to a national corporation. A name to live on in memory. A curious old man buried in a Paris cemetery. Alone.

Take from that the importance of building a team to carry on, the importance of collaboration for success, the power of focus, the potential of thinking outside the (gear)box, and the dangers of not staying true to core values.

Then contemplate an end alone.

Judging Books By Tattered Covers

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/14/2017 | 10:26 AM

I may have recounted The Kid's earnest plea upon encountering Fierce (Aunt) Betty and Uncle Slick's decrepit bulldog, the Latino Lothario, Toro.  Overcome, The Kid whispered, "Please don't eat me, Uncle Toro!"

Toro, our little Penny's hopeful, if mutilated, paramour was, to The Kid, just another Uncle.  Somewhat raggedy, Toro was missing some patches of hair, and had fewer remaining teeth than the average West Virginian.  He would occasionally topple over, as well.

But, during our latest cold snap, Toro, sapped of will and desperate, snagged his blanket with a remaining tooth, and dragged his chenille scrap over toward the fire.

In short and in sum, our Toro was a rumbling, stumbling contradiction.  Clumsy, and apparently a bit dim, he was smart enough to get warm.

The takeaway: don't underestimate a dog dressed in his underdrawers, the canine equivalent of a union suit.  This applies to working colleagues, neighbors, your kid's friends, and people with drawls.

btw, a childhood friend's first wife was/is the creative and nurturing force behind Denver's legendary Tattered Cover independent bookstore, rising above and beyond the strictures of a Purdue education.

Don't judge, lest ye be judged . . .

When Synapses Mis-Fire

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/12/2017 | 7:44 AM

I don't know if it is bad wiring, a genetic defect, or sunspots, but the ol' brainpan seems to be, without warning, thown off course by apparently random browmnouts and power surges.  The following are a few of those "who left the gate open" thoughts that wander in with neither permission nor purpose, in no particular sequence or priority, and no relationship with other blog posts.

"We are all dying."  

Of course we are, just at different rates.  To complicate the planning process, we have no clue regarding the timing of the end game - when, how long, with what accompanying features.  So, the notion that we should live each moment as if it were our last gains credence.  In the greater scheme, it seems, with all the uncertainty, that we should have and execute, as best we can, a plan to make a mark, leave an impression, elevate those around us, and contribute to organizational well-being.  Our associates deserve it, the enterprise may or may not be deserving, but its health benefits others, and we ought to enjoy - treasure - the satisfaction, the peace of mind, that comes from deliberately making a difference.  And our efforts should extend, first to family, then to random strangers.  

Life while dying can be good, if we let it be so.

"Freedom is a mental state."  

We are not truly free, whether physically constrained or not, until and unless, our minds are free to wander pristine corridors to unknown destinations.  Further, it is a decision, a position staked out by the mind, as to whether we can rise above, can remain human in the face of, any physical deprivation.

Coupled with the 1st Amendment, that means we are free to be paranoid or schizophrenic - or both.  Or neither.  Nurse Andrew reminds us that genuine and authentic people whom society deems to be "menatlly ill", can be interesting, engaging, amusing, and worthy of respect and recognition.  Of course, if that freedom creates an annoying kook, we get to make our own rules of engagement.

And, so it goes.

"Don't water the weeds."

Advice from a business guru that sounds good until examined in a strong light.  True, one does not want to lavish attention and resources on dim stars while permitting benign neglect of the super-novas that illuminate an organizations potential and performance.  But, as leaders, we most often inherit a mixed garden of roses and weeds, with the occasional hollyhock thrown in.

"Profitability first."

Cementing its position as a failed icon, whose past glories no longer justify its arrogance, struggling GM has sold its European brands.  Vauxhall and Opel have thrown a golden egg onto the profit plate.  The golden goose is not visible, and its capacity to produce more eggs that get eaten up to satisfy persistent hungers is questionable.

These latest strategic moves, generating a one-time cash infusion, cap 16 years of losses in Europe. Slow learners?  Further, the once world-leading transport corporation, already fallen to #3 globally, will fall even farther, as Peugeot goes ion the rise. Peugeot?  Really?  And no one is losing a job because of these epic failures.  So much for bringing jobs toio the US.  Meanwhile, Honda (no Toyota or Nissan, even in Japan) is investing another $149 million in US operations.  Pitiful.

Our job becomes one of getting the most and best out of what we have, including finding a place for nurtured weeds.  Waste nothing, including people with limitations.

"Which means?"

There'll be more later, as electrical disturbances roil the thinking processes.

Until then, Shalom, my friends.

No Surprise, Sherlock!

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/10/2017 | 2:58 PM

There's a more pungent form of this expression, but in a sensitive business publication, we'll skip ahead to the main point.  The insightful Steve Melnyk, in a late 2016 issue of Supply Chain Management Review, cites a Deloitte study from CIO Journal that reaches some "well, duh!" conclusions that I've been beating 'round the head and shoulders for a few years now.

In short, a clear minority of current leaders fall woefully short of capability in elements of new-century leadership - and they are all expected to become more critical in the coming years.  Translation: We are in deep kimchee as global supply chains compete more vigorously, Trumpian trade policies aside.

Today's "leaders" are largely managers, living off past glories of functional focus, cost obsession, velvet glove/iron fist discipline, and inward focus on metrics and performance - along with being risk averse and frustrated by complexity, and not really liking clients/customers all that much.

New century leaders are more likely to be authentic leaders, more effective communicators, outwardly focused, accepting of complexity (but not necessarily complication), strong customer ties, concentrating on operational performance rather than soley on cost, strategic thinkers with links and driver of corporate direction, collaborators, champions of diversity, and comfortable multi-cultural global players.

Are you ready?  What are you doing to get ready - and snare the right resources for the future, now?

The Cobra Takes On The Mongoose - And Wins

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/07/2017 | 9:33 AM

When we were young, and in our salad days, fresh and green, many of us wanted to be Don Prudhomme, legendary as "The Snake".  We weren't afraid to drag race, whether on a deserted road or on a track.  As Don reminded us, drag racing wasn't about the money; there was no money in it.

The Snake was so-called, niot because of a personality disorder, but because of his cobra-like reflexes.  How was ready to take on whatever and whoever was the next mongoose up.  At the end of the day, The Snake wanted only to win.

And, win he did, hating beyond words finishing second to anyone and anything.  That driving force propelled him into legendary status while he was barely out of his teens, and he won 389 out of 589 races, a gasket blowing, piston throwing, 66 per cent.  In as close to perfection as it gets, Don won 13 out of 16 NHRA events some 40-odd years ago.

His farewell tour, The Snake won 3 NHRA races and finished second in points.  Not a bad way to say "good-bye".

Maybe you don't do a 7-second quarter mile.  But, we can - and do - expect high levels of performance every time out.

So, is your supply chain consistantly excellent?  Do you get the mongoose, or does the mongoose get you?

Do you play the game for the thrill of winning, or for the money?

Union Station Isn't Closed; It's Just Not Open Today

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/05/2017 | 8:11 AM

Alison Krauss and her usual band are still together, but they don't always perform everything together.  Windy City, just released in February, is her 5th solo album.  And words, again, fail any attempt to convey the wonder that Alison brings to our lives.

She, with her voice alone, will make you believe in angels.  That Union Station generally brings the equivalent of harps to accompany her is a bonus beyond measure, they being the tightest bluegrass band in the game.

As is most often the case, Ms. Krauss is not singing songs she has written.  Her thing is bringing new life to the works of others from several musical genres.  

In one case, she was credited with single-handedly reviving the entire bluegrass movement.  Her interpretations that informed the story line of the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou, were and are translucent and transporting.  "Bring a tear" hardly begins to describe her powers.

It's ironic.  Primarily an instrumentalist, she gained and retains recognition as a vocalist beyond any normal comparison.  The talent maldistribution involved is simply not fair - but uplifts us all.  And, she did not form Union Station; the band was already in business with both feet, and invited her to join.  Happily, she said "yes".

And, happily, she continues to outshine the stars of previous outings, leaving all the rest of us to sit in gob-smacked shock and awe.

I could die happy with Emmy Lou Harris holding one hand, and Alison Krauss the other.  Rich and robust fantasies do not die easily.

In our workplace, the message may be that it is not necessary to create or invent disruptive processes, products, and practices.  Just maybe, building from, tweaking, someone else's original concept can pay off in performance, cost, and customer delight.  But, you've got to do that right, and do it well to pull it off.

Meanwhile, take inspiration and comfort from the magic that Alison Krauss brings to us from another universe.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven is Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art has been principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception. Art's continuing passion remains talent and skills development in the supply chain profession.



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