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Six Practices for Transportation & Logistics Managers to Increase Productivity

By Dr. Robert L. Gordon | 07/22/2014 | 5:02 AM

In June, I had the pleasure of talking with transportation and logistics industry professionals from across various fields including logistics, human resources, retail, and government contracting during an Industry Advisory Council session.  We had a great discussion surrounding technology within our given companies, but more specifically, communication. 

I began to think about how communication impacts our work.  In the transportation and logistics field, effective communication is key to efficiency and productivity.  Communication comes down to the competencies and skills needed in the transportation and logistics industry and how quickly technological advances can shift business needs and environments – good and bad. 

Transportation managers must think about the most effective method to communicate and manage every aspect in the supply chain.  In addition to our supply chain partners, we must consider our employees as well.  Transportation managers need a clear and unified strategy to meet the needs of customers and also to reach and exceed production goals. 

In the end, this strategy really comes down to the IMPACT-- influence, mentoring, problem-solving, asking questions, communicating, and training-- of relationships.  I have used IMPACT practices and continue to use them in my various management roles with faculty, students, and industry clients.  It is amazing to see how these simple practices can increase commitment, motivation, and productivity.

  1. Influence:  Influence within an organization is a powerful but positive force within companies.  We all know individuals within our company that seem to always meet their goals and have a team of people willing to help them. Do you ever wonder how this happens?  It’s influence.

    These individuals know how to take the time to develop trust and build relationships across the company.  They also realize the importance of external relationships, especially in the transportation and logistics field.  The system does not work if we cannot trust in the performance levels of our supply chain.  Sometimes we have to use our influence to get that product to our end customer.

  2. Mentoring:  This is one practice I heard reiterated at a recent industry advisory council meeting.  Mentoring is lost in today’s workplace.  Mentoring is not coaching nor is it training, but it is an open line of communication and exchange for a seasoned employee to help new or low-performing employee navigate the company. 

    Topics of conversation may include the culture and underlying sub-cultures, environment, company politics, team and departmental dynamics, and formal and informal networks of the company.  Mentors are supportive, honest, open-minded, and help acclimate the employee into the company.  As an industry advisor mentioned, “it allows for mistakes in a safe environment.”

  3. Problem-solving:  We all need employees to have the ability to solve problems for successful decision making.  As transportation managers or any manager, we must foster this ability through effective and thought-provoking questions.  Asking open-ended questions elicits nuggets of information and allows the employee to find a solution.  Making the solution work solves the problem.

  4. Ask Questions:  The ability to ask open-ended questions is important during meetings, challenging situations with employees, mentoring or coaching sessions, and even to get to the heart of why an employee’s performance levels are not on track.  Learning to effectively ask questions creates a positive experience and it helps get to the core of the problem. 

    Asking questions is an effective way to guide employees them through resolving their own problems.  As they address your questions, you can ask deeper and thought-provoking questions. Again, when employees come up with their own solutions they immediately have buy-in. As the manager, you will see behavioral changes and increases in performance levels.  

  5. Communication:  Effective verbal and written communication is fundamental in any company or relationship.  A misunderstanding can have devastating results and decrease productivity because people focus on the issue rather than resolving the problem.  Again, influence, mentoring, problem-solving techniques, and asking questions become great ways to address the situation.  If you were to look at the performance levels of each department in your company, you may be surprised that the core issue is poor communication.

  6. Training:  On-the-job training and cross-training are effective practices to ensure that you have replacements for positions within your company.  Many production and manufacturing companies need individuals with specific skills that may only come from on-the-job training.  But, what happens when that person is sick, retires, or resigns?  Does the production line stop?  No, you need a replacement. This also creates a connection between the current and new workforce.  If a company has an influx of new hires, what better way to immerse them in the company, culture, and people?  Train.   

In the end, we cannot overlook IMPACT in our work.  If we cultivate and invest in our employees, we will see great things happen in our company, including increased productivity.  Invest time in your employees and they will invest (productive) time in your company.

I look forward to hearing how these practices have IMPACTed in your company.  What did you find successful?  What were some of the challenges?

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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 Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon

Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is program director of the Reverse Logistics department at American Public University. Dr. Gordon has over twenty-five years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. He holds a Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, as well earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA. Dr. Gordon has spent more than 14 years teaching reverse logistics, transportation, project management, and human resources. He has published articles on reverse logistics; supply chain management; project management; human resources; education, and complexity. He has also published four books on Reverse Logistics Management; Complexity and Project Management; Virtual Project Management Organizations, and Successful Program Management..



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