Archives for March 2011

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/31/2011 | 9:54 AM

A long-time logistics and supply chain industry observer and journalist recently noted that "companies are desperately looking for relationship managers" up, down, across, within and outside their companies, and notes that management messages to make more cuts direct energy and creativity into "less-productive" directions.

Regrettably, he's right on, and being way too polite.  At a time when we need more and better relationships, too many managers are taking the Nurse Ratched approach, and seem surprised that even more punishment will be needed to get the results they're after.

An overload of the resulting continuing cognitive dissonance surely drives people to a bad place with bars on the windows and a phalanx of burly orderlies.  Little Mary Sunshine turns into the Queen of Hearts and Horatio Alger becomes Ambrose Bierce.

Serious relationship building and management, investment in the human infrstructure needed to make them work, and the realization of sustainable and differentiating cost and profitability performance can't be accomplished with a world-view that considers six months the long term.

Bad enough that companies that don't get it will lag the best in class, if not fail outright.  Worse, the people involved pay the real price.  And the "managers" who drove into the ditch will list the experience as a triumph on their resumes and move on to the next asylum.

Rolex, Schmolex

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/28/2011 | 7:35 AM

I recently came into posession of a handsome Rolex Daytona timepiece.  Full disclosure: my daughter picked it up in Shanghai for less than $20.  But, it looks great!  And, focused examination found all manner of signs of authenticity.

Alas, it is a faux Rolex, referred to, in some circles as a "Folex."  But, the uninitiated might not discover that sad fact until it no longer kept time, or it began to rust out.  The reality is that intimate knowledge of what constitutes authenticity is required to determine whether the watch is a lifetime companion and heirloom for coming generations, or is merely a superficially adequate device for telling the time of day, with a limited life span and "close enough" accuracy.

We see parallels in the world of supply chain business relationships.  Suppliers and service providers that look good on the surface might be candidates for decades of successful collaboration - or might not.  Two things are necessary to gain confidence in the potentials.

One is intimate knowledge of the real keys to authenticity; the other is intimate understanding of what your requirements really are.  If all you need is "close enough" for a short time, by all means spend the $20 on a Folex.

But, if what you are after is a long-term relationship and continuously improving performance, invest what it takes to get the real thing.  Btw, if you don't know how, it's worth getting some help.

March Madness

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/15/2011 | 10:28 AM

Cheap trick, bait and switch; this has nothing to do with the NCAA basketball tournament.  Rather, the focus is on the staggeringly horrific events in Japan - earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown - with eventual outcomes that may only be speculated about at this point.  While we wait, anxieties mount, talking heads carry on endlessly - possibly mindlessly, financial markets tremble (or worse), a nation wrestles with finding a path, and the rest of the world tries to find ways to help in the face of their own concerns.

Supply chains have broken down, both domestically and globally, in the aftermath.  MIT's Yossi Sheffi pinpointed the need for comprehensive planning and the development of alternatives and mitigations in 2005's The Resilient Enterprise.  The core premise was that the likelihood of any single catastrophic event occuring is minuscule, but the likelihood of some catastrophic event is quite high.  That near-certainty demands that organizations get clear-eyed about identifying worst-case situations and impacts, then putting remedies in place.

Dr. Sheffi's focus was on supply chains and business continuity, but that addresses mere stuff.  More than stuff is at stake in the present case.  It seems that countries, as well as corporations, need to think the unthinkable, then align relationships with other nations and agencies to cope with the impact of "impossible" scenarios.  Think of these relationships as geopolitical versions of the business relationships that supply chain partners must build for success - and continuity - in the realm of stuff.

Seems like we ought to not put this off at national and regional levels.  Maybe we'll re-visit the importance of the process in our supply chains and supply chain relationships.  Perhaps we'll even consider the need for a parallel exercise in our personal lives. 

In the meantime, please don't hesitate to donate whatever you can  to assist with relief for Japan. 

A Kiss Before Dying

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/07/2011 | 1:54 PM

I'm not quite sure what that means, but I've been wanting to use Ira Levin's debut novel title for a long time.  it's just the noir in me, I suppose.

Or, maybe it relates to this ill-starred "expert" site I've become entangled in.  The ostensible panel consists of experts that no one has ever heard of, answering questions from what appear to be rag-tag marchers in the Children's Crusade.  The queries seem to cluster around the Inane and Ridiculous bands on the Naive-o-Meter.  Possibly they represent weak stabs at obtaining free consulting.  I've got to get out of that role and relationship - certainly before dying.  The kiss part might be problematic.

The latest wanted to get some "tips" on reducing logistics costs.  Oscar Wilde came to mind, a worrisome trend, with his observation about knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.  Have the minds of our young and impressionable up-and-comers become corrupted by the short-term and retrograde focus on cost alone?

Look, I understand the need to manage the profit-and-loss equation about as well as anyone.  But, anyone who doesn't understand that price does not equal cost, and that cost does not equal value is riding a unicycle way too close to the precipice.

The real questions to ask center on value, spending wisely, and leveraging investment in long-term and sustainable performance.  That's the right approach in individual relationships and personal life, as well as in business relationships and organizational success.

if you doubt, line up companies that: look at profit/value centers vs. cost centers, manage investment vs. spending, see that customer service is a business-builder vs. a cost of doing business, and treasure relationships with customers, suppliers, and service providers vs. treating all comers as adversaries to be drawn and quartered after the last dollar has been squeezed out of them.  Now, line up winners and losers.  Then line up those you'd like to work with  and those you just don't want to do business with. 

My guess is that the lines will look pretty much the same.  That's my tip for those who want to make their spending count for more than how this month's P&L looks.

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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