Archives for January 2011

In The Tail Of The Comet . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/27/2011 | 5:38 AM

Whatever your politics, there's little doubt that the November mid-term elections were events of some significance.  Of course, at the moment, it wasn't at all clear that all the talk would turn into action.  History is generally not encouraging in that department.

Here in beautiful downtown Ohio, our brand-spankin'-new Governor, having actually taken office, has shown a personal and passionate interest in efforts to improve the supply chain's physical infrastructure.  Passenger rail pipe dreams, attractive as they can be, have been overtaken by freight rail initiatives.  Important as moving people is, congestion reduction that helps trucks move to and from factories and warehouses has risen to the top of the list.

Patting myself on the back, this does illustrate my contention that government at all levels is a key element of supply chain infrastructure, driving - or inhibiting - physical development and creating - or stifling - positive environments for elevated supply chain performance.

In a related move, Ohio's Department of Transportation is now - listining carefully to the new Governor - positioning itself to be positive and proactive, rather than reactive and reluctant in infrastructure project initiation and approval.  It has promised to be a collaborative, communicative, and open partner with public and private stakeholders in infrastructure development and supply chain planning and execution.

More evidence of the power of organizational relationships, and validation of the premise that business relationships go well beyond mere private company linkages with one another.  We could use more of this metaphorical sunshine in the cold dark of winter, but I'm comforted by the early signs and signals.

Cherry Picking vs. Selective Strategies

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/20/2011 | 6:53 AM

I was seriously ill a couple of years ago.  The search for a surgeon unearthed a specialist with an amazing success rate  - almost unbelievable.  As it turns out, he hand-selects candidates based on several criteria for success.  Not that he's looking for slam dunks or an easy "A."  But, he won't do procedures for the sake of doing them in cases that are too far gone to make the pain worth the short-lived, at best, gain.

Importantly, he does make exceptions for cases that fall outside his medical criteria if and when the patient has the right attitude, and is as committed as he is to conquering the disease.  (Happily, I fell into that category, with a condition twice as bad as his key criterion, but possessing  a mean streak that won't quit.)

The point?  We face  - or should - issues like this all the time in relationships with supply chain partners.  It makes no sense to take on a business relationahip with a partner who is too far gone to advance your cause - or his.  Further, it is not a moral requirement to stay in a relationship that is ineffective, or toxic, or an obstacle to success and profitability.  Pick the candidates who have the right stuff.

The exception(s)?  Partners who, despite weaknesses and failings, have the right attitude, who are committed to getting the act together.  To not only surviving, but to succeeding.  As in all cases of building supply chain relationships, a key is to not sit back and let things happen as they may.  The risks and paybacks involved demand thoughtful and organized proaction.

Watch Your Language!

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/15/2011 | 7:46 AM

Mark Twain is much in the news, thanks to the release of the first volume of his uncensored autobiography and to the well-intentioned proposal to turn Huckleberry Finn into Dick and Jane See Spot Run.  Twain was a stickler for using the right word or phrase, differentiating between "lightning" and "lightning bug."

I thought about that when the resident six-year-old asked his grandmother to shovel the cards so they could play Go Fish.  He made up for it later by helping me shuffle snow from the driveway.

Business examples abound.  The financial advisor, for example, who could guarantee increased prophets.  Hey, between MSNBC and Fox News, we've got just about all the prophets we can tolerate.  Then, there is the otherwise-respected systems house whose web site promises services that "span the gambit."  From what?  The Sicilian to Blackmar-Diemer?

Point is, in business relationships, supply chain or other, words matter.  You've got to know what they mean - and what they imply.  And, your words must be rooted in hands-on experience.  Using the latest cliche simply because it sounds elegant, and looks good in the brochure won't cut it for long.  Your language, in business and in all facets of life, needs to be authentic, reflecting your true self.  Attempting to build relationships without authenticity involves risks of: if you are skilled, being perceived as a con game; or, if you are less-practiced, being seen as a wanna-be poseur. 

Either way, the relationship potential is in jeopardy, and you lose.

Squabbling Siblings and Supersonic Supply Chains

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/08/2011 | 1:16 PM

When our children were younger, and prone to public misbehaving in the way that small competitors will, we would make them hold hands as we went about the business of shopping or whatever.  Egregious infighting could result in a command to hold both hands of the nearest opponent.  The resulting group progression through Macy's or Kroger was lurching, awkward, painful to observe, frustrating to be part of, and comical in appearance, but we did manage to complete the task at hand, however ineffectively.

I recently recalled those little life lessons in the context of supply chains competing with other supply chains.  What if all the energy being spent at present as shippers try to squeeze carriers and as carriers poke shippers with the sharp sticks of capacity and rate challenges - or all the effort being put into disputes with logisics service providers  - were instead dedicated to building stronger, better integrated, more seamless, and faster, smoother supply chain relationships?

Where do you suppose the lurching, awkward, squabbling supply chain will wind up as it tries to compete with its collaborative, cooperative, and customer-focused competitor?

When the kids were little, the group had to disband, each retiring to his or her own room when we returned home, with a promise to get a fresh start on the morrow.  Unfortunately, a broken supply chain may not live to see a morrow with the luxury of a clean slate and a fresh start.

Not so comical as our years-ago family farces.

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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