Archives for February 2010

Harping, Nagging, And Just Reminding

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/25/2010 | 12:15 PM

There may be some subtle difference between harping and nagging; if there is, it escapes me.  I do know that harpers and naggers often try to take cover under the But-I-Was-Just-Reminding-You bushes.

So, why do I keep harping on the importance of well-conceived and executed business relationships in the world of supply chain management?

For openers, Chuck Poirier, Morgan Swink, and Frank Quinn have recently published Diagnosing Greatness: Ten Traits of the Best Supply Chains.  Their ten common denominators  that lead to higher revenues and lower operating costs include "collaboration with selected partners" and "high customer integration and satisfaction."

When two of the ten components of greatness are directly related to core principles of business relationships (and contribute mightily to at least four of the others), I believe that little more needs to be said.

It's time to get off the win-lose bus and on to the win-win express of business relationship management in supply chains, don't you think?

Rats Deserting Sailing Ships

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/19/2010 | 10:38 AM

This image turns the metaphor on its head, and the people involved probably aren't really rats, but in tough economic times there is a tendency to avoid risk and stay with less-than-satisfying jobs.  When the inevitable rebound arrives, the exodus of talent can blow the doors off companies that have been complacent about retaining "A" performers.

The February issue of CFO magazine (www.cfo.com) nails the issue in its All The Right Moves article, recommending proactive measures during what are usually hunker-down times to help make sure that the arriving recovery does not "inspire a raft of departures."

The challenge and consequences go, I think, deeper than simply hanging on to desirable human assets.

Consider the impacts of sudden and unexpected key employee departures on business-as-usual business relationships.  They can range from unsettling to devastating.  Who do you turn to when your major customer's go-to person has gone-to somewhere else?  Who makes good on supplier problems when your "inside" contact is now on the outside?  More than your timbers are likely to be shiverin', matey, when you wake up to that kind of news.

The argument for building business relationships that transcend personal contacts (and schmoozing as a substitute for communication and collaboration) gets to be compelling when the downside of people moving on is fully explored.

What's your take on this, as we see, like crocuses in the spring, early signs of economic recovery?

Will The Grown-Up In The Room Please Stand Up?

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/11/2010 | 9:11 AM

In the real world, partners in supply chains typically have widely varying skill, competency, experience, and maturity profiles.  That's consultant-speak for "some players are stronger, and some are weaker."  In leveraged and progressive supply chains, the stronger partners have responsibilities to lead, mentor, and teach the others how to get better, not only in raw performance but also in risk management and mitigation.

If the grown-up in the room finds that the other organizations in the overall supply chain can't or won't respond to the required leadership, perhaps they aren't the right partners.  On the flip side, if the weaker players aren't getting the leadership and instruction they need to grow and eevelop, maybe they're in the wrong supply chain altogether, and need to find new relationships.

It's sad to see the "A" players and the "B" players pointing fingers at one another like 6-year olds in the wake of a problem.  The "A" players have got to act like grown-ups, or maybe they're not really "A" players where it counts.  Size and naked power alone do not confer grown-up status on a supply chain partner.

This challenge can become mission-critical for ultimate supply chain success in the marketplace when one of the partners is a logistics service provider (LSP, or 3PL).  While it is possible that a relatively new 3PL can be manhandled by a big and savvy customer, it is frequently the case that the customer is less-experienced and less-aware than a diversified multi-customer service provider.

That's when the LSP - in a genuine supply chain business relationship - needs to be the grown-up in the room, and lead the customer to success, taking every care to not let the customer slip off the path into a dismal swamp of risk and failure.

Haiti, Again

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/05/2010 | 9:03 AM

Where to begin?  Haiti is a land in which grinding tragedy has been the norm for generations, even centuries.  Periodically, horrific catastrophes punctuate the suffocating days and nights, turning sadness into mourning.

As help tries to fight its way on-shore, we are reminded that infrastructure is more than roads and ports and bridges; the now-largely-missing organs of a functioning government are also key ingredients.

Simon Keeble has called for creation of an international organization to organizing supply chain effectiveness in coordinating and delivering relief.  Clearly, the international community needs something like ALAN (the American Logistics Aid Network) which coordinates with FEMA and other organizations when disaster strikes at home.  An international counterpart would be useful and welcome all over the globe - and should be an imperative.

In Haiti, accounts vary.  There may be 3,000 NGOs (non-governmental organizations) functioning there, although there has been one claim of 10,000.  Whatever the number of NGOs, the number of people involved is enormous, constituting a virtually army.  An army of that size would be capable of almost anything (including running the country), if its efforts were coordinated and focused on specific goals.

But, so far, putting the recent calamity aside, they've all apparently been going their separate ways, executing their individual plans, and following their own priorities.  We ought not be surprised that  - absent workking relationships, coordinated and synchronized programs, and alignment on how missions and goals might complement one another - their positive impact on Haiti for the long term has been limited.  Or, that their responses to the earthquake seem to be  spinning in independent orbits.

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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