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When Soft Gets Hard; When Hard Turns Soft

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/19/2017 | 2:14 PM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

An ongoing debate has revolved around the hard vs. soft primacy in acquiring talent for a couple of generations, now.  We have slowly learned to come down on the side of " you can't teach attitude" in these deliberations, but somehow are left with a cadre of  anti-social tecnicians while ushering the sub-par welders with smiling faces out the back door.

But, the equation generates its own unplanned results and relationships, perhaps forcing un-natural decisions.  Realistically, as much as we might prize it, we can't really pay for attitude - or measure it very well.  Worse, operational fragility might seduce hiring a skill that we need both desperately and immediately, forestalling acquiring the charmer who's a better fit with our (aspirational) culture.

For those with an eye on the future, where the ball is going, where the puck is likely to be, how severe the planned slice or hook might deviate from a true arc, we'll wait - even actively search for - the right kind of enterprise player.  We want someone who fits in, a team player, a resource with strengths that compliments others'.

I could go on for days on end . . .

The author of a monthly Lean column (electronic) has little idea of what he doesn't know.  His recommendation(s) for acquiring "soft" skills in manufacturing are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and FIRO-B.  Cool for someone who just got on the bus and has no clue what its first stop might be.

But, the Jungian roots of MBTI do not confer full legitimacy as a business tool; there are others, similar in foundation and better organized.  The selection of FIRO-B is useful, but has limitations in application.  These recommendations are naive on a good day, and dangerous in the hands of amateurs.

In the general type/style arena, alternatives to MBTI include the very popular DiSC model and endless varaiants of longer and shorter classification exercises.  The best, by far, imho, is the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI).  The full suite of tools is necessary to really get a handle on people and how to energize, engage, empower, and motivate them.  One or two random tests are not remotely close to what is needed to lead and manage effectively.

The authentic leader and manager exhibits, and teaches others, the subtleties of conflict management - styles, preferences, and conscious application as situations evolve (Thomas-Kilmann).  FIRO-B is useful only for aligning team roles and expectations, for understanding not only who fits, but also how they fit into organizational needs and individual expectations.

There's plenty more.  Team dynamics, group problem-solving, situational leadership - and the translation of all that has been learned into individual development.  Who's a keeper; who's a super-star; who's a stone loser; and who needs to find another home for Dilbert tendencies?  Situational ledership is one of the most needed, and most neglected, skills in the arsenal.

It remains true that soft skills are hard to find and leverage, while hard skills have soft spots that could swallow a forklift or two.

Oh, well. I suppose that the incomplete and misapplied tools the author suggests are to be expected from an irrelevant education coupled with working experience, apparently as told by the Brothers Grimm.

 

 

Optimal Supply Chains

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/17/2017 | 1:19 PM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

My friend Terry Harris of  Chicago Consulting has taken a stand promoting the design of supply chains that balances cost and service considerations, as reported in Parcel Industry.com.  The cost elements are fairly simple: transportation, warehousing, and inventory.

Terry's take, where we come apart, is that the balance of cost and service is a trade-off that offsets cost with lead time reduction.  He reduces this balance to a graphic that allows self-placement on a sliding scale that displays the optimized trade-offs, to illudtrste the comprtitive position of a given enterprise.

My own view is that the competitive positioning is way more complex than that.  Terry's model works just fine in a transactional universe.  My position tries to create relationships that build special ties between companies and customers.

There's a reason that Rolex is in high demand, at a price point that would ruin Casio.  And, it's not based on traditional cost/service trade-offs.

Failures (Continuing) In US Business

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/15/2017 | 9:36 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

So much going on, but not well . . . Or, maybe it is humming like a precision nuclear reactor in Tehran, with outcomes cleverly disguised as incompetent bumbling.  Whichever, no one should be heartened by the news.

One wonders, "Is there anything we can get right; is there no limit to how many feet we have to shoot ourselves in?"

I, with reservations, have seen a relationship with major parcel carriers as  the salvation of the United States Postal Service.  And, in an encouraging discharge of exhaust emissions on Sundays, the  couriers have traversed their appointed rounds on weekends.  In a miracle of leadership and management, the USPS somehow lost over $200 million in its single busiest season with the year's highest volumes, and one imagines, record top-line revenues.  You've got to work overtime to rack up losses in your best shot at profits . . .

General Motors continues to flounder.  Ford impresses the auto and tech segments with bold moves to make autonomous vehicles practical - and safe - and GM is sweating through it's Hanes briefs over a $9 billion pension negotiation.  If they're haggling now, just wait until The Donald intervenes for a dramatic, if crippling, solution . . . 

In a neap tide of criticism, speaking of The Donald, much horror is being expressed over the possibility (probability) that the CEO of Lockheed is tuned into arcane knowledge of the government's hopes for an F-35 Boeing deal.  Oh, wait.  Pitting competitors, who've grown fat at the public trough, against one another might not be all that bad a thing.  Incompetence with an outstanding result?

Meanwhile, think tanks, industry groups, and the current political administration all have cannabis-high hopes for a resurgence of American manufacturing, with a return of the well-paying jobs that disappeared during the outsourcing/off-shoring.  Never mind that we can't fill jobs with qualified people in small businesses, large businesses, supply chain management, trade skills, crafts, customer service professionals, leaders and contemporary managers, analysts, techno-nerds, new-generation innovators, and a host of others, critical to long-term success in a global economy.

Also, never mind that we have no plan to train, educate, refresh, upgrade, and acquire the needed talent.  It's every disjointed university and trade school, abetted by myopic businesses, for itself.

These are all part of a business experience much like handling snakes and drinkin' pizen in a religious context.  Good luck with the Komodo Dragons.

In the retail universe, as everyone goes gaga over this mysterious omni-channel thingy, stores are closing left and right, and iconic national brands are boarding up the windows as fast as they can score enough plywood from The Home Depot.  And, they'd cut off a limb to save cost, rather than invest in processes, technology, and human capital to create unique and "sticky" customer experiences.  Think Macy's, Sears, JCPenney, the tubercular formerly known as K-Mart, a wobbly Limited, and so on.

Then, there is a wise man and friend of several decades who believes with all his heart that Amazon is a passing fancy, that its' smart people are merely looking for problems to which their solutions might be attached.  He's no Ebenezer Scrooge, but he does need a welcome to the Ghost of Christmas Future.

There is, btw, a future.  It might be bright - or not.  Time and mis-steps will tell.

 

 

Disarm the Pundits; Cripple the Commentators

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/12/2017 | 1:04 PM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

The Talking Heads—no, not the band—and dispensers of wisdom for cash, a sort of ATM for misinformation, are at it again. The past two days alone have provided fodder for the cognitively challenged and easily influenced.

I don't know whether to laugh, cry, call the cops, or wind my watch. The Fitbit takes care of itself in the power department.

On one hand, a highly respected trade press group has heralded the advent of the customer experience as the key that unlocks the future. They maintain that customer service is what will make omnichannel retail a profitable, eventually dominant, parallel supply chain.

On the other, an equally repected media conglomerate has admonished that the tide is going out—rapidly. They claim that investments in customer service are flat or waning—and that controlling costs in the omnichannel universe is the new focus of corporate management.

So, who's right? Does it matter? Does any one of these self-anointed mavens even care? How might they, and their networks, be affected by dispute, disagreement without commentary, disparate 
"expert" opinions, and out-and-out polar-opposite analyses? 

The pernicious disease seeps into all phases of public discourse. In the political arena, there may be some excuse for cashing in on past glories, or positioning for a more powerful role when the road banks and makes a sharp turn. But, in supply chain management? The glories tend to be smaller, to be direct.

Not that all those who rage against the machine are bumbling dolts. I get inspiration and thought material from Mitch Mac Donald, Toby Gooley, Dave Maloney, Mark Solomon, and the rest of the terrific Agile Business Media team. Adelante's Adrian Gonzalez and MIT's Larry Lapide are solid thinkers who can blend fresh concepts with practical applications. I treasure the real contributors, and hold the Screamin' Mimis (not a hot club act at the moment) in disdain.

But, we all have a tough responsibility to sort through the throwaway lines and pay attention to the real stuff, before being seduced into premature or misdirected action.

Meanwhile, there's space at Gitmo, where SCM goings-on can be seen in perspective. Maybe six months, followed by shock parole, would sharpen the guest experts' world views. One can only hope.

About Schmidt

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/10/2017 | 7:10 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

When we compare and contrast the roles of people, process, and technology in modern performance management, the disconnects become painfully obvious.  The always-brilliant Jack Nicholson starred in this obvious tale of a displaced worker some fifteen years ago.

Today, we like to debate the roles and interplay among people, processes, and technology.  Reality is, to repeat myself, that technology forces new processes, and that people must try to execute them.

Some credit W. Edwards Deming with the axiomatic observation that bad systems can kill good people.  The citation is actually that good people can overcome bad systems.

In the abstract, though, these elements become increasingly important as Lean and Six Sigma, and galloping robotics capture more and more mainstream attention in highly competitive supply chains.

The keys to integrating human assets, talent, into new worlds are:

  • Designing organizations, with right mixes of skills and styles, to get talent into the right place, putting it where it can do the most good for the enterprise.
  • Allowing, permitting, encouraging talent to be responsible for its own improvement; you are not the imporvement motivator; you are merely responsible for establishing an environment in which talent can grow and develop - and improve.
  • Leading talent, being the coach and trainer that every colleague can benefit from; becoming the leader who knows how to develop talent and talented behaviors.

The real secret of talent leadership lies in a couple of largely ignored facts.  One, to make the leadership of human capital work, is to weed out those who are not life-long learners.  Warm bodies are no substitute for genuine talent.  Another is to recognize the valuable part of the enterprise DNA, and keep it on for the value, context, and history it serves.  DNA that is no longer useful, that we have evolved beyond, is of no value in and of itself.

In About Schmidt, we - and Jack (Warren) must pay the price for being neither a contributing DNA fragment nor a continuous learner.  A

And that's how aged functionaries wind up in hot tubs with Kathy Bates.

Grandeur Tarnished; Magnificence Diminished; Instituitions Defaced

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/08/2017 | 8:50 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

Washington, DC is overflowing with icons of history and promise.  A magnet for impressionable youth, it is a shrine for (legal) immigrants and new citizens.  We are keenly aware.  Our Colombiana daughter-in-law is a passionate citizen, and she is determined that her boys, born in the USA, appreciate where they are and what she left behind.

Los Colombianos have been suitably impressed with the imposing edifices in our capitol.  But, there is an insect, possibly a fly doing the backstroke, polluting our crown jewels.  It's not so much that buildings overwhelm the visitor, but more a matter of grand concepts and ideas residing there, rooted in the hard work of nation-building in Philadelphia some couple of centuries past.

Institutions engraved in the minds of millions seem to be falling into disrepair, thus the capitol requires periodic and expensive maintenance.  The White House needs restoration and "imorovement" from time to time.  The abundance of monuments and official buildings is apparently insufficient, so new monuments are continually in development, shoulder to shoulder in a crowded space - The Wall for Viet Nam, a comprehensive Holocaust Museum, a history of the US' African-American experience, WWII, Jefferson, Lincoln, the now-closed to the public Washington Monument - all this and official building\s, as well.

A Presidential residence, the White House, home in succession to an easily persuaded warrior, an elitist narcissist who was smarter than all the rest of us put together, and a racist misogynist with delusions of unfettered powers and Czarist wishes morphing into commands.  This, now the wellspring of invoked policy pronouncements, governance by ukase.

The Capitol, the working home to our Congress, where laws, like roaches, check in but don't check out, a perpetual maintenance project in itself.  

Sundry official office buildings to accomodate our glut of lawmakers and staffs.  Most dangerous, a random and motley collection of offices for the agenceis that formulate policies and regulations that have the force of law, no matter how inane or intrusive - or counter-productive.  More acquisition, expension, remodeling, repair, maintenance - rinse and repeat.

Dead generals on horseback, galleries, the infinite scope and range of the Smithsonian, and on and on.

The streets are full of Sammy Glick's, on the make, on the run, lobbyists, single-issue proponents, philosophical poseurs with more full agendas, "git 'er done" aides, hangers-on, posse members, and hopefuls for either high office or a part-time job somewhere in politics.  The more prominent politicians exhibit manifest symptoms of mental imbalance, if not outright illness.  The nearby residents, armed with hobby supplies have tagged sacred monuments and buildings with graffito in permanent black.

That's right, youth in hoodies, pants at half-mast, ignorant of history, deficient in the English language, and with a surplus of disrespect are wreaking their special magic on the symbols of hard-won independence.  This is not fake news . . .

In short, our national treasure and holy symbols have been defaced and defiled in multiple dimensions, a sad state and a wretched point in our national image - nationally and globally.

How might this condition translate into the universe of SCM?  Does your operation look good, but perform in fits, starts, and lurches?  Does it look a bit run down and in need of a technology - or talent - infusion, but somehow get the job done?  Are your facility tours deceptively impressive, but independent of accomplishment?  Do your customers know of, and help out with, your problems?  Or, do you hide behind the curtain, and hope that no little dogs pull it away to reveal your dark secrets?

Sustaining Change - Winning Hearts; Owning Minds

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/05/2017 | 1:27 PM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

There's contemporary interest in the subject.  But, we learned in Viet Nam that, if one wins the heart, the mind will follow.  Actually, despite current research, Mark Bonchek reminded us in 2014 in the HBR that the seminal insights came from Ignaz Semmelweiss in the 1840's.

In summary, it's not new ideas we need; we have a surplus of those.  And, simply more explanation is more of a turn-off than a turn-on.

Somwhow, we need to develop new thinking - the ability to build mental models that help us see how to leverage the tools that others take such pride in developing.  But, to be direct, I am sick to death of solutions wandering the halls of SCM in search of problems - all generating pleas for greater understanding, more open minds, increased study (and enhanced intelligence) to realize the full benefits of the latest breakthroughs.

Never mind that the core business model is flawed beyond saving, but will be pursued relentlessly based on the singular focus of the originator.

Not that this is easy, even on a good day.  And, there are multiple perspectives to be fleshed out.  The mental adoption we require is to consider where we are now - tools, outcomes, resource requirements.  Then, if we are inclined to become believers, we must, with clear eyes and criticality, make the same assessment for the future.  What will we be able to do?  How will results change? Why?  Is there a next level after the initial whack at a future view?

All this is more or less academic without the final phase.  But, there must be a transition period (and plan) to get from the present to the future - and to consider what lies beyond.

So, to summarize, the critical first step is to identify the shift in thinking required, then ifentify and create remedies for sticking points that will make acceptance and adoption feasible.  Then comes the pick-and-shovel work of building constructs for changes in state and transition.

Beats jaw-boning and commands from abstract, distant leadership . . .

March Of The Zombies; Robot Invasion

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/03/2017 | 2:12 PM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

I've been ranting about job loss to technology for several years, now.  

When automation pervades, with a constant influx of technology application, there'll be no low-end jobs left.  It'll take a special skill set of technology tools to build, assemble, install, repair, and tweak technology that we can only begin to dream of, i.e., drones, conveyors, AS/RS systems, etc.

Now that robots are all over the supply chain, the data are beginning to come more clear.

The impact of robots is now measured in robots per thousand jobs.  Think about that in the context of the total number of robots in supply chain management and manufacturing.

Where robots are installed, employees are nearly only half of the previous number.

Cheering up the CFO, labor cost likewise moves from .50 to .25.

So, how is the installation of robots affecting your supply chain?

Hold Up There, Zeke; You've Rode The Tractor Into The Ditch!

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/01/2017 | 9:47 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

So, how is it remotely possible that the smartest Buford in the county has mired the equipment - again?  How can it be that our neighborhood's equivalent of Dawsonville's Bill Elliott has driven his speed machine into the wall, while facing absolutely no oncoming traffic?  Neither crystal meth nor Ketel One - not even the Finger Lakes' finest Kosher Concord grape squeezin's - provide answers.

Actually, there are valid and well-researched reasons for how and why a Kodak can fail, or  Xerox needs re-invention to survive. Published a few months ago in Inc., and written by Travis Bradberry with a nod to the basics of EQ, there are parallels with the pitfalls of Groupthink.  The research behind this study was led by Sydney Finkelstein, and 'splains a lot.

Some of the cited failures are of the nature of Albert Einstein relying on cheese as mouse bait when a shotgtun is close at hand.  But, here are the basics.

Ignoring red flags and warning signs. Given an ample supply of hubris, many leaders are fully capable of blowing off the "Danger!  Here be monsters!" alerts.  C'mon, man. Even the best aren't good enough to get away with this.

"We are the champions!"  Freddie Mercury singing it doesn't make it so, even with backup from Queen.  But, so many - leaders, enterprises, corporations, teams - come to believe that they are untouchable.  Impervious to attacks from competitors, regulators, shareholders, or internal dissidents.

The smartest little boy - or girl - in the room.  When someone is consistently brighter than his/her colleagues, it's too easy to think that they are always both superior and right.  They would be wrong.  One, there's always someone smarter.  Two, collective wisdom and experience is generally more practical and useful than the vision of one delusional leader.

Carrying a posse of yes men and women.  See above, with the understanding that the posse doesn't - and can't - measure up in its contributions.  But, they'll validate any group into oblivion, understanding that they'll say and do anything to keep the paychecks flowing.

Applying what's always worked before.  Surprise!  Stuff happens.  Things change.  Equations shift.  Last century's successes have a way of turning into this century's horror stories.  But, if no one knows anything but the past, the future is in some jeopardy.

Inability to seperate individuals from the organization, leaders from ultimate, and permanent responsibility for everything!  You've got to be able to compartmentalize, stand aside and apply fresh thinking to trends, technology, generational shifts, competition, and  - perhaps most important - products, markets, and customers.

These factors are relevant to any and every industry vertical - retail, food and beverage, manufacturing, technology, IT products, sundry flavors of supply chain management.

In short, put down that wheelbarrow, Leroy, you know you don't know nothin' about machinery . . .

 

The Thrust Of Trust

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/29/2017 | 1:21 PM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.

 

A few months ago, Industry Week published a piece by two academics, a somewhat abstract looking-down-the nose discussion that claimed gigundous benefits from trust as a foundation of sustainability.  

Here's a dose of reality.  Trust is at the core of any and every relationship-based supply chain interaction.  The outmoded and discredited transactional models of the past simply don't work - or work out - in today's trust models.  Today?  Grow up!  We've been promoting collaboration, with a foundation of trust, for decades, now.

It's not complicated - perhaps not easy, but certainly not all that difficult.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say, in all supply activities, with customers, suppliers, partners, associates, and outside resources.  There!  Feel better now?

Make good on your promises; go to the wall to make the impossible both happen, and do so without perspiring.  This is not hard.  Awkward, maybe, but not hard once it becomes culturally ingrained.

Where does trust come in to play?  Whenever you have a joint commitment to performance and achievement.  Whenever you have mutual problems to solve.  When you've got to reduce costs, at no sacrifice in quality.  When continuity of supply is mission-critical.   Whenever contingency plans  for proactive risk management are vital safeguards and back-ups.  When you need to collaborate on customer acquisition and retention, especially as a competitive wake-up call in the marketplace.  When you need to pool creativity and resources to innovate in product and process.

That trust abets the creation of sustainable supply chains seems to me to be just another fall-out from building the right kind of relationship.  Reputation, mutual benefit, asset leverage, joint innovation, environmental plusses, competitive advantage and thought/concept leadership.

But, what do I know?  I'm just another working stiff, bereft of time to research, write, and persuade.  

And, unable to flit from job to job, dispensing faux wisdom at each.

 

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 (1939 - 2017) was 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 was 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.



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