Archives for March 2010

Is Everybody Happy?

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/26/2010 | 11:09 AM

Few of us actually remember Ted Lewis' signature line, but the question has even more relevance today than when the pride of Circleville, Ohio sported a top hat and a clarinet while soft-shoeing his way across America's vaudeville stages to the gentle strains of Me and My Shadow.  Oregon State University's associate professor Zhaohui Wu has recently published a research paper in The Journal of Business Research that suggests: 1) supply managers should be wearing several hats in the course of their work; and, 2) the ability to do so ought to make supply chain partners happy.

The opposite turns out to be true, according to the study.  When the supply manager successfully executes roles as a buyer's negotiator, a buyer/supplier facilitator, a supplier's advocate, and an educator for internal customers, he or she is seen as a many-faced phoney.  The outcome?  No-to-low trust, doubt of good intentions, and eroding relationships.

Professor Wu indicates that the situation is even more difficult in a tough economy, and that being the middleman in a supply chain relationship is more complicated than ever.  It shouldn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure those out.  But, he goes on to indicate that the answer lies in more research.  Catch these: "Maybe some . . . supply managers are just naturally good . . ."  ". . . perhaps there are tools that can help . . ."

Even Doctor Watson knows that the answer isn't hidden in more research.  The research has been done, and the results have been well-documented.  There are demonstrably successful tools and techniques in how to build strong business relationships, as well as decades of existing case work that demonstrate the importance of interpersonal skills - genuine people skills - that relationship leaders and practitioners use routinely, and with powerful measurable impact on the strength of relationships and supply chain performance.

Barbarians At The Gate?

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/20/2010 | 8:43 AM

CFO magazine is poaching on our turf - again.  Or, maybe they're beginning to get the importance of supply chain management, with a more-or-less regular supply chain column.  This time out, they've promoted supply chain strategies as tools to improve cash flow.


A favored technique appears to be for companies to shift away from traditional products and methods, and toward a different set of core products, more sophisticated, higher-tech, and higher-margin marketplace offerings.  Interesting, and valid, at least from a CFO's perspective.


But, who fills the vacuum when trading partners can no longer rely on long-time suppliers for nuts-and-bolts parts or commodity materials?  Who builds business relationships with new supply chain partners?  And, how long does that process take?


Can the companies in question quickly convince their old supply chain partners that they are the right partners for a new population of recently-developed and more complex set of offerings?


Ironically, the same issue of CFO suggests that it may be time to accelerate the pace of advancement of CFO's to the CEO's corner office suite.  Coincidence?  Perhaps not.


I'm not saying that these strategic moves are wrong, and I'll cheerfully acknowledge that the companies are appropriately in business to make money.  I am suggesting, though, that they're not as easy to execute as a snap of the fingers in the boardroom.  And, they might not be, contrary to the received wisdom of newly-minted B-school graduates, right for every company.  In the event, no organization contemplating such a strategic restructuring can afford to lose sight of the reality that supply chains are far more involved in their complex dynamics than any one company's insular focus on itself alone.

If Cats Played Basketball . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/11/2010 | 8:07 AM

Local rec center; youth basketball league.  An opposing player launched a wobbly satellite, missing backboard, rim, net, other players, innocent passers-by, the works.  Our five-year old grandson immediately began the chant: "Hairball!  Hairball!"  Close, but . . .

I've been struck by how often those who honestly think they're managing supply chain relationships use words that sound almost right, but that miss the mark when execution is closely examined.  Business relationships, collaboration, open books, strategic alignment - all those seem to be the right stuff.  But, when what they turn out to really mean are "Kiss me quick, I'm off to the next key account dinner," it's time to ask hard questions about the depth and quality of commitment to differentiated and sustainable mutual efforts.

Close, but not quite on the mark, isn't nearly as amusing, or harmless, in supply chain business relationships as it might be with earnest kindergarteners.

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/05/2010 | 11:18 AM

Cue the music and wait for Frankie Lymon.  Why do birds sing so gay?  And lovers await the break of day?  And bloggers carry on that way?  What does motivate bloggers, anyway?  Fade music.

It's painfully obvious in wandering about the web that blogging is cathartic for some, venting and getting even with the forces of evil, or high school nemeses, or arbiters of fashion - whatever.  For others, blogging is a never-ending ego trip, a ride on the fantasy railroad of self-absorbtion.  Some, in truth, do try to educate and inform, on an incredible array of topics.

Still others, though, blog with the intention of provoking people to think, or to think in different ways, about events and conditions that bear on their daily lives - either personal or professional.  If our occasional poking at the anthill with a sharp stick generates a little dialogue, whether in dispute or in agreement, so much the better.

For me, blogging has been a way of sharing how the things I've serendipitously stumbled across relate to the promise and power of business relationships, especially those in the world of supply chain management.

The good news is that there's more going on than I can possibly keep up with and comment on.  The bad news is that I'm going to keep trying.

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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