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Archives for August 2017

It's Kick-Off Time! Rejoice, Ye Faithful!

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/30/2017 | 3:35 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 Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future.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 understand the siren call that lures unwary sailors into dives that make tattoo parlors look like spiritual retreats.  ESPN, with pockets full of cash, is easily able to seduce the San Diego State Aztecs into a den of swirling cigarette smoke and cheap cologne.

Boise State and the like will sacrifice much to gain visibility - and a hefty check to salve their consciences.  In short, that's how TV schedules get populated and we have the amusements of college football on odd nights of the week.

Here's the bottom line.  The classic fall football season begins on the first Saturday of September, often after Labor Day.  Exceptions in recent years might feature the mighty Toledo Rockets (not to be confused with the Central Michigan Rockettes).

But, this year, and not for the first time, the Buckeyes of The Ohio State University will be opening up new game plans on August 31, with hopes for a public flogging of Indiana University.  I, to be blunt, don't get it.  It's not like the university is feeding street people, and needs the money.  And, it's certainly not to raise flagging visibility.'

Is this simply supply and demand?  And, is there a check big enough to justify upsetting the traditions of over a century?  Or, is it naked greed, getting what you can just because it's there for the taking?

Full disclosure.  I'm a fan. A borderline rabid fan.  College football is a perfectly lovely game, and each year I'm persuaded that TOSU will be playing for the National Championship.  But, I'm embarrassed about selling out for some paltry compensation in order to please the gods of Bristol, CT, for whom Disney is seen as a "class" act.

btw, the traditional end of the season has been the weekend  before Thanksgiving.  Now,things wind  up two days past the feasting.  That's a little easier to take, with the holiday shot anyway.  And, a couple of long-time rivalries have been played after Thanksgiving, as it is.

So, relax and enjoy.  The games beat CSI reruns handily, even if they are damaged goods, diluted by cash and announcers from the "B" Team.

In our workaday world, you gain not much by getting into the game too early, but could fall behind if too late.  You want the temps to reach proficiency coincidentally with the big event(s) - Christmas, Hallowe'en, Valentine's Day, whatever.  The mark of really good teams is reaching a peak of performance to align with volume challenges.  And, being too early, just hangin' until the real work arrives is boith costly and creates miserable work attitudes.

In short, you want to make that check from ESPN really count for optimal impact.

Tip Of The Day: Get A Job!

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/27/2017 | 12:20 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 Washington Post periodically opines on social issues, as well as on politics, economics, and general interest topics.  Early in the New Year, an article promoted making sure of a a"fit" before leaping off the cliff with the other lemmings.  One hesitates before speculating how many people who "didn't like" their jobs are now living in the basement and/or are ill-disposed and over-qualified baristas or burger assemblers.

The Post recommends figuring out what you're good at, and what you like.  Understanding your core values, and motivation.  Motivation, btw, is internal - developed when you are in an environment that fosters active creativity.  Deciding whether you're about autonomy or committed to growth and development.  Finally, getting comfortable with a fit with the existing culture.

So, an individual needs to process his or her preference for risk versus change, for competition versus collaboration, and for degrees of diversity.  When all those stars align, it's OK, fine, even healthy, to make a job change.

When they don't, grief clouds the future.  

Don't get me wrong.  Human responsibility says that a job - any job - is preferable to living on the dole, whether public or private.  Paying the rent might force the issue of getting a less-than-hoped-for job.  But, do stop the whining if that degree in 18th-century French literature doesn't fetch much of a reward in the employment marketplace.

And, yes, I'd like fries with that.  You can work on the poetry when your shift is over.

Take Five!

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/25/2017 | 3:03 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.

 

With a nod of appreciation to Dave Brubeck, we are not into jazz piano at this moment. But, amidst the hurly-burly of our pretense of multi-tasking, our uncivil and unceasing political conflict, and a deluge of tweets from everyone from some generic Kardashian to unknown high-school illiterates, we have fundamental needs. One is for a little peace and (mental) quiet—whether we realize it or not.

There is so much going on around us, in us, directed at us, demanded of us that we spend our time constantly engaged, sometimes in trivia and sometimes with lives on the line. We don't—and can't—take input, thoughtfully critique, process, and crisply execute. First, we must deal with this multitude of voices in our heads. Second, to appear in tune with the times, we are mentally scrambling to think of what we are going to say immediately, as we leap from politics to poetry, from pleasure to business.

Somehow, somewhere we need to find a little quiet. We'll not get rid of all the competition for our short-attention-span resources, but the batteries will—guaranteed—fail early without periodic recharging.

This is not merely one living anachronism's complaint. Serious research has shown that a quiet period between "restful" music adds to the restfulness of the total experience. The unintended chaos of noise and distraction in modern open office layouts has not been offset by improved productivity and extemporaneous idea generation and sharing. Sorry, Herman Miller, but that's the real world speaking to us.

What we need is some quiet time, or focused time, to process new information, or flesh out new ideas, or simply gird our mental loins for the next assault wave of interruptions, distractions, demands, fund raisers, war stories, and emergencies (real or imagined). How do we get at this issue? Here are a few things to consider.

  • Inject a five-minute quiet time break into meetings to permit analysis, reflection, and processing. Do not demand reporting of issues, conclusions, or results from the mental break.

  • Set aside a quiet zone, free of electronics and unscheduled ad hoc meetings, every day. Meditate, if you can. (Of course you can; it just takes practice and commitment.)

  • Visit nature, for however much time you can, in whatever form is convenient for you. Listen. Thoreau didn't go into the woods to chop down trees, clear brush, hunt rabbits, or birdwatch. You can use some "me" time in a comfortable environment, free of all the hubbub, whether it is on a farm, on a path through a woods, in an urban park, at the edge of a body of water. Just get away, physically and mentally for a little while.

  • Definitely, on an announced schedule of your own choosing, declare a media blackout—no email, no texts, no TV or radio (except music, perhaps). Make it a minimum of a day, or take an entire weekend. Read a book. Practice on your bagpipes. Fish for trout. Avoid golf and keeping score. Then come back and knock one out of the park.

  • Finally, for the hopelessly addicted, with the time and money required, go on a full-blown retreat. It can be secular or religious. It can be purely recreational or educational. But if you can, just go do it.

Whatever paths you take, you can start small and build up from there. You can test what works for you, and what doesn't. But, start.  

I will suggest that, while rest is a good thing for all, SCM professionals are surely near the head of the line in terms of need, with rolling tides of change, performance and cost imperatives, multiple make-or-break customers, and M&A and automation both  costing jobs and escalating already-sparse talent needs.

But, again, start.

I promise: You'll live longer; your mental health will improve; your creativity will blossom; and the positive impacts of your work will flourish.

Putting The Cart Before The Horse: Does It Make Cleaning Up After The Horse Any Easier?

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/23/2017 | 9:56 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.

 

It seems senseless to talk about carts and horses in an age of Teslas, Google self-driving cars, driverless Uber pickups, consumer-level Fords that control themselves, and various forms of autonomous vehicles.  Nevertheless, the phrase remains in the idiom.

In a somewhat related development, I'll note that ERP is not the sound of over-indulging in turkey stuffing and cranberry jelly.

However, the esteemed journal of the green eyeshade brigade, CFO magazine has recently featured and promoted a webinar that only a debits and credits maven could get excited about.  And, in stereotypical fashion, the theme was buried in dense prose and backassward logic, lauding ERP as the key to unlocking global expansion and success.  My takeaway was that following the horse with the cart was only sensible in theory - the cart wouldn't really do the cleaning up.

Seems to me that, getting the cart and horse in a practical sequence would require a ton of prep work, such as sourcing, building supplier relationships, constructing risk management tactics and techniques, understanding products and markets, and having a set of strategies laid out for execution and tracking, for example.

If all that plays out in a good way, then an enterprise might begin to consider how the functionality and implementation of an ERP could enable super-charging the core strategies.  Now we've got the cart and horse aligned, even if the horse still requires cleaning up after - a small price to pay for the exercise of good sense.

Fierce Betty Sings!

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/20/2017 | 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.

 

More or less, but the story of Alexander Hamilton has infected a vast swath of the populace. Without children of her own, Betty has been involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters for several years, and is a Big Sister to Cara.

They have an open-ended bucket list that is constantly edited. Cara, now, and for unknown reasons, is entranced with Hamilton, The Musical. She and Betty do a running carpool karaoke with dueling Hamilton songs. Worse, they trade roles at the drop of a rap riff. One will be Aaron Burr and the other Alexander Hamilton, then Cara will be King George and Betty, Thomas Jefferson. And so on.  

Both captivated, one obsessed—the LIn Manuel Miranda effect, one supposes. The creator and composer, it appears, has lit a fire of knowledge, embracing history, musical theatre, drama, and performing arts. 

A bit more about Cara.  Betty hooked up with her when her mother was imprisoned for drugs. Her father died before reaching his 31st birthday—drugs. Her mother is back in prison for drug offenses, and her grandmother is raising her. And Betty counsels and mentors—and sings.

Some takeaways that affect interpersonal relationships—and professional prospects…  Take a good, close look at Cara. You can't project her interests, capabilities, or prospects by her circumstances, or the outward appearance of her station in life. She is not limited by the limitations of her life situation. That she was named after an orange (Cara Cara) is meaningless when it comes to her intelligence or potential for contribution to society.

You, and we all, need to get over those misconceptions. And, development of potential is a high priority—for the individual and for the organization.  

That a young person's name is Lakeisha or DaJuan and he or she lives in public housing is immaterial. We owe them so much more and so much better.

Our payback is incalculable.

When You Hit the Plateau Instead Of The Wall

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/18/2017 | 7:22 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.

 

We all live in mortal terror of facing the insurmountable, of running the gas tank completely dry, of freezing and seizing up short of the demanded target  Or, of someone in a corner office on a top floor of HQ turning off the funding in favor of someone else's pet project. Of hitting the dreaded wall—and questioning everything: career, self-worth, the enterprise, and/or the value of life itself.

Too often, sad to say, The Wall is one obstacle that may have been self-built rather than suddenly springing up as a punishment by higher powers in control of external events. But, that's another story for another day.

There are other sea changes in environment, steepness of incline, progress to date, weather, and moving targets in the distance that result in the SCM pro standing at the leading edge of a plateau—a long, wide, relatively flat—and easy—terrain lying between status quo and the next objective, beyond which might lurk a sneering Wall, ready to flatten the unwary or complacent.

What can happen when you've reached the plateau? Well, you can always coast.  

In an otherwise unrelated example, CBS News has featured a musical segment called Saturday Sessions for just about ever. It has shone a light on truly promising and ground-breaking new artists, and revisited the work of unique pioneers, some half-forgotten, some remembered for lesser works. Today, though, the feature has settled for new performers, none unique, most of limited talents, and those called poets whose contribution to the arts is being able to string together two related sentences. What will happen? Will a ratings wake-up call make them pick up the pace, find real and experienced talent, and get through the plateau before indigenous peoples rise up with tomahawks unsheathed? Or, will they wander and wither in a shoulder-high ocean of grass as vultures circle overhead?

We face challenges that are more similar than different.

Daily volumes are under control. Completed order performance beats the target every time out. Pick accuracy exceeds stretch goals. Your/our choice? Put your feet on the desk, fire up a Romeo y Julieta, knock off early for the department pizza party, and enjoy life on the plateau. Never mind what Amazon and WalMart are messing around with. They just can't leave well enough alone.

As an alternative, reform teams to innovate processes and set new tiers of performance objectives. Experiment with technology that supports today's functions and helps predict tomorrow's changes. Reward change and improvement of all types. Train and retrain associates in technology and processes; cross-train across the board for flexible responsiveness to customers and change.  Invest in relationship building with suppliers and customers. Help future leaders develop and sharpen key skills and attributes.  Spend time showing peer executives and senior leaders the talents of your team(s).

And, use the time on the plateau to get ready for the challenges and obstacles that lie beyond.  

These opposing aproaches illustrate the folly of going with the flow versus the value of being the one(s) who create the flow.

 

Syrian Shrine Circus

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/16/2017 | 5:54 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.

 

You're kidding, right?  How grim does the circus need to be to grab headlines?  Apparently, not very.  We're just now recovering from the news that Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey will take down its tents for the last time (after 146 years of operation) very soon.

Here in beautiful downtown Ohio, we are stuck with a traveling show, the Syrian Shrine Circus as a weak tea substitute for the "real" circus,which we had first seen in winter quarters in Sarasota, some 40 years earlier.  Cirque du Soleil is a spectacle, btw, of entertainment, but in no imagining is a circus.

The Feld's set the stage for superlative entertainment, but the pachyderm-less extravaganza created an unsustainable business model.

So, the stage is a bit bare, the varsity having gone on to an extended break, and the JV trying out its new acts.  Whether the troupe is really Syrian, and the audience is really Iranian, are debatable - and unimportant.  The audience clearly craves amusement and the Syrian Shriners lot all need jobs.

In our work, let us not be Iranians and Syrians.  Rather, let us be an appreciative audience, and a circus worthy of the name.  Let's be the best Syrians we can be, then live up to expectations.  Let's use the exposure and venue to showcase continuous improvement.

We've got a bag of lemons we can use for making lemonade; don't waste the opportunity, my Syrians.

New Dimensions In Professional Dodgeball

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/13/2017 | 3:21 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.

 

In the day, when autos were outnumbered by wild-eyed horses, the Dodge brothers set new lows, or new highs, depending on one's level of gentility, in hard-drinking, high-living, in-your-face excellence.

They began as a dynamite tandem of business acumen and near-genius engineering, making legendarily reliable components for Ransom Olds, then for single-minded Henry Ford, becoming minor shareholders in Henry's emerging enterprise.  Ford was wary of taking performance-enhancing suggestions, finally refusing any improvements from the brothers for his game-changing Model T.  The stumbling and combative brothers had other plans, though, for all of their solutions to the T's several shortcomings.

Horace and John, full of hubris and whiskey, announced their entry into full-fledged auto manufacture in 1914, at a frightening booze-fueled dinner that made drunken brawls look like cotillions.  I suppose that named Horace, while parents had apparently favored the other son by naming him John, I might turn to drink and fisticuffs; as for John's motivations, I've no clue.

In three short years, the Dodge had become the #4 auto marque in the country, which was awash in competing small automakers.  But, both brothers soon died, certainly from influenza, whether or not abetted by failing livers.  Their widows, who did not know a wrench from a wench, sold for a middling fortune, and Dodge became part of the emerging BIg Three, a unit of Chrysler.

Over succeeding decades, Dodge suffered the ups (some) and downs (many) - and inglorious embarrassments of Chrysler, culminating in acquisition by a corporation that can't seem to transfer the quality of its wines and leather goods to machines, especially those of some complexity and expectations for roadworthiness.  But, it did escape the executioner' song that accompanied the passing of Plymouth and DeSoto.

The cautionary tale for supply chain professionals is not to partake of strong drink, and insult the neighbors' wives.  But it should be a strong reminder that failing to develop both plans and people to ensure business continuity, lest the accomplishments of a lifetime be swept away by unforeseen events.

Rich widows, after all, become prime candidates for acquisition by those whose motives may not be pure.

Do You Really Need a Plan "B" If You Have No Plan "A"?

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/11/2017 | 12:08 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 am as guilty as anyone of universally recommending that everyone have a Plan "B" for every situation.  And, that one shouild never walk down a dark alley alone without knowing exactly how to get out - and how long one has to make the move once a decision to decamp has been taken.

Of course, those presume, imagine, suppose, that there is an "A" plan beng executed, or that going down the alley was a conscious choice.

Too many of us, I fear, are purely reactive in doing our jobs, SCM or otherwise, just going with the flow.  Many will, to their shock and awe, lose their jobs.  That's the fallout from a personal decision.  Perhaps the laggard is merely reflecting his enterprise's culture.  I'd not advertise that fact, but I'd surely polish up the ol' cv and crank up the personal contact network to help gain entry to the new real world out there.

Unless you think there is something noble and uplifting about going down with the ship.

La Diva, as you might suspect, has a strong Plan"A". It's to perform, with possibilities for huge success and probabilities of low earnings and disappoinrtment.  Her Plan "B" includes writing and directing - content development and management in performing arts.  It does not rule out opportunistic Plan "A" elements.  

Yep, there is a Plan "C", as well.  It involves teaching, and probably not untold riches.  But, it permits that opportunistic borrowing, too, from, both "A" and "B" for professional and economic reasons.

She's miles more talented than most competitors, yet has two layers of backup for the future.  I'm betting that someone so determined will be successful, perhaps in fields not yet revealed to us.

And, how much time, money, and thought have gone into your plans?

Realistically, strategies sometimes fail; plans can go all pear-shaped.  Part of each needs to be exit triggers, conditions, and processes.  When a shortfall or sea change interferes, the solution is not to throw everything into the air and ad lib one's way into bankruptcy or acquisition.  It's a matter of making - and  - executing - the next plan, personally, professionally, and/or organizationally.

I'll suggest - strongly - that even a plan that doesn't pan out is superior to bobbing like an errant champagne cork on the open seas.  Weaving is not a useful skill, btw, when bobbing no longer works.

Hello, My Name is Bobby; I Live In Bangalore; Would You Like To Upgrade?

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/09/2017 | 8:40 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.

 

CFO magazine has fired the opening shots in the war of 2017 with a blatant promotion for business process outsourcing (BPO) in India.  Their whitepaper's premise?  India has become the world leader in BPO, and has 25 years of building excellence in the field.

With a huge - and well-educated - workforce, strong language skills and attractive government incentives and investment, outsourcing to India is a CFO's dream.  That is, if the CFO has no interest in developing transferable skill bases in the US (and doesn't much care about people getting and keeping decent jobs, unless they are angling for an improved lot in life in, say, Mumbai).

There may be a false premise or two involved in the aregument.  That is, highest body count might not translate to best and most appropriate.  Further, technical skills in English might not indicate a cultural readiness to communicate, or be empathetic - or the initiative to move off-script when needed.  And, these (hopeful) core strengths might not sustain or improve over the next generation, especially as more resources really ought to be devoted to elevating living standards in a land of sacred cattle, free range monkeys, and armies of religious beggars.  But, CFO is ready to squeeze pennies out of operating costs, and decamp for a celebratory 18 holes topped off with a heart-healthy jelly glass of Oban.

Is the Indian shift an effective customer service toolkit?  Is all English the same around the globe?  Do mismatches create false economies and unrealistic expectations?  No; no; and yes.

Sobering up moments . . . The Indian BPO model is 30 years old and more.  It grows, to be sure, but so does a tumor.  The Hero CFO who saves, on paper, truckloads of money while customers fume has a brief half-life.  It may be time to get creative in training and scheduling a flexible US call center workforce to realize the full benefits of cost and communications.  

CFOs, wake up!

 

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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