Archives for May 2011

Born This Way

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/27/2011 | 12:32 PM

As taken as all of us Little Monsters are with the day's pop culture highlights, some of us are also contemplating other cultural highlights, believe it or not.  My developmentally-arrested mind began to wander into the thicket of considering the considerable challenges of touring logistics for mega-stars, their gear, and their associates.  Daunting, even when only legal substances are in the mix.

The logistics get more interesting - and risky - in some other cultural applications.  I recently flew with a gentleman who acocmpanies his organization's traveling exhibits across the country.  He, in a coach middle seat, wasn't being handled with nearly the care that the priceless artifacts he cared for were.

Sometimes the cargo might be dinosaur bones - and displays; other times treasures of the Pharoahs would be on the move.  Begin with the premise that what I think of as "event logistics" is a more difficult practice than recurring replenishment of fast-moving consumer goods.  In this world, one doesn't have the advantage of relentlessly repeated execution to hone pratices to perfection.  It's got to be right - completely right - the first time.  And, on time, as well.

Add to that terrifying prospect the idea that moving the exhibits isn't as casual an exercise as calling a freight broker to find the cheapest, nearest carrier.  The folks delivering the goods must be uncommonly capable, amazingly trustworthy, and as committed to excellence as is the sponsoring institution. 

Thre's no way that the carrier keeps the busines - or my new friend keeps his job - if everything but King Tut's jewellry shows up in Indianapolis, or Honolulu, or wherever.  People who excel in this specialized logistics niche can certainly benefit from development over time.  To some extent, though, they succeed in their uncommon supply chain relationships because they're also born this way.

Cigars And Scenarios

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/21/2011 | 11:48 AM

The linguistically challenged might suspect that a coroner and a panatella could be somehow related.  Close, but no cigar (unless the coroner is actually smoking a panatella).

For those who suspect that training and learning are quite similar things - again, close, but no cigar.

I spend more time than is probably healthy creating and delivering workshops that are intended to be educational.  That is, with the end objective of learning for the participants.  In the course of these ventures, we occasionally encounter corporate "training" types, who don't seem to be able to distinguish that learning is directed to the development of capabilities, especially in thinking, while training is generally directed toward processes, or how to do things, and do them consistently.

The trainers believe that tests and quizzes are vital indicators of whether (or not) learning has taken place.  Wrong again, multiple-choice breath, as Ed McMahon might have said.  Quizzes only assess recall, which, while useful, is not at all the same as learning.  I'm in the camp that believes that the case method (even in limited, simplistic application) is a far superior means of determining if students have grasped, and can apply, the concepts being taught to real-world situations.  Or, scenarios, if you must use bigger words.

In sum, training is an event.  Learning is an experience.

Is it possible that we are short-changing the rising generation of supply chain professionals by training them instead of teaching them?  By "certifying" them based on their ability to remember key phrases and titles, rather than making them figure out how to metaphorically swim in a supply chain sea filled with eddy currents, rip tides, and shifting winds?  Does this help to explain why we struggle so with the human interactions - individual and organizational - that make supply chains successful?

You can guess where I stand on the questions.  What are your thoughts?

Pick me Up On Your Way Down

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/13/2011 | 7:11 AM

Sitting in my jammies and working on my second mug of joe (a preferred working style) gives me too much time to contemplate the arcane.  I'm thinking we ought to re-title Harlan Howard's 1958 country classic "Pick Me Up On Your Way Up." 

As economic recovery inches upward, we're seeing interesting developments in the department of "what goes around comes around."  When times were tougher, too many shippers beat their carriers and service providers unmercifully to obtain desperation pricing.  But, recently the COO of one of the US' largest truckload carriers announced that their best customers - the ones that didn't unrelentingly send contracts out for re-bid - would have priority as volumes pick up and capacity becomes even more constrained than it is now.

It's not a matter of payback being sweet; it's a reflection of the value of maintaining strong business relationships through thick and thin.

In a somewhat related case of value triumphing over price, a well-known specialty retailer has been bailed out by its primary carrier going the extra mile, both figuratively and literally, in getting off-schedule containerloads of goods out to the stores in time for critical sale dates.  Those in the company who had been grousing about the carrier's rates have now had the good sense to go silent.

Other senior executives are apparently catching on to the long-term promise of collaboration and fair treatment, but, honestly, we have a long way to go.  I suspect this topic will be coming up again.

btw, Faron Young recorded the definitive version of "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down."  Hank Thompson, Charlie Walker, and Patsy Cline also did it (with Walker having the big hit).  Check it out on YouTube.

UBL Enters The Ninth Circle

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/06/2011 | 12:35 PM

If you're unsure about what the ninth circle is, Google Dante Alighieri and count your blessings.

All domestic concerns and geopolitical issues aside, the recent unpleasantness in Abbottabad involving Usama bin Laden is beginning to be hailed as a triumph of logistics.  True enough, but superb logistics execution is only a part of the story.  In fact, that superb execution would not have been possible without some core enablers.

Even when US Navy SEALS are involved, this kind of thing is not as simple as a gang of really talented people meeting at the airport and plunging into Plan A, Phase I.  Collections of all-stars have been known to disappoint when the final score has been tallied.

What makes team performance greater than the sum of its parts are the same relationship atrributes that make integrated supply chains perform better than they might have as a loose collection of "A" players.  Planning and practice, practice, practice are givens.  Having a Plan B and a Plan C in reserve are merely prudent details.

It's really about five things: 1) trust, absolute confidence that all the other team members know what to do, have your back when things go pear-shaped, and are ready to turn on a dime as conditions change; 2) communications, oral and/or silent, in real time as events unfold, and as change is required; 3) intimacy, knowing strengths, styles and capabilities of all team members; 4) shared vision and values, common commitment to objectives and outcomes; and 5) respect and inclusion, valuing the roles and contributions of all members.

We talk often about high-performing teams and high-performing supply chains in our world; the factors that make groups high-performers seems to be more pervasive - maybe universal - than we might have imagined.

The Dog That Sang Pagliacci

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/02/2011 | 7:51 AM

As we appear to emerge from the worst of the Great Recession, I am seeing a little more talk about relationships among supply chain partners, particularly involving shippers and carriers, and companies and their logistics service providers.  Heartening in general, the talk might be just a touch over-optimistic.

That is, calling buyer/seller or provider/customer dealings "relationships" implies a depth of trust and collaboration that may or may not exist.  Regrettably, the relationship terminology gets tarnished when it is applied to transactional commerce.  That, even more regrettably, makes my life more difficult when I try to talk about genuine business relationship building and maintenance as  drivers of success in supply chain performance.

The dog in qustion, btw, has been a disappointment, too.  With high hopes, I named him Enrico Caruso, based on what might have been a fine tenor voice.  Alas, he cannot sing a lick, even to this day.  But, I've got a new pup, and I'm thinking about him as a possible Placido Domingo.

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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