Archives for May 2012

Hatfields and McCoys; Shippers and Carriers - You Know How This Ends

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/31/2012 | 8:06 AM

The History Channel is currently airing a fact-based mini-series about the definitive family feud in American history. We are frequently reminded that "fact-based" and "factual" are not quite the same thing. The stars are Kevin Costner, who couldn't act his way out of a jaywalking ticket, and is happy to have the paying gig, and Bill Paxton, who is a very fine actor, and is happy to be completely disguised by a beard and slouch hat.

Sadly, the epic unveils some stereotypical attributes of the population along the Kentucky/West Virginia border, principally a proclivity to marry cousins and a recurring chromosomal deficiency that could limit impulse control and the capacity to imagine the consequences of actions.

The more popular of leisure time activities among the natives, Hatfields and McCoys being among the most notable, appear to be spitting the effluent of chaw terbacky and shooting at one another. In neither is accuracy attained with any regularity.

The mayhem and lawsuits, interrupted by the occasional intermarriage (or worse, failure to intermarry), continued for decades following the War Between The States. Peace was not an option as long as Devil Anse and Ol' Ran'l lived, or were fresh in memory. The ferocity of the struggle made the Montagues and Capulets of Verona (no, not Verona, Kentucky) look like amateurs auditioning for the school play.

Who won? No one. A case might be made that the Hatfields lost less than the McCoys, who ended up with a noticably higher body count, but that hardly constiututes victory.

But, in later generations, wounds were healed, intermarriage may have picked up a little steam, and reconciliation was acheived. Annual reunions were arranged, and the two families collaborated on the establishment of parks and trails to commemorate the bloody events of the monumental, if small-scale, war. Representatives of each even appeared together on TV's Family Feud. (The Hatfields won, but not by much.)

So, the next time you get together with old adversaries to negotiate volumes, performance measures, rates and discounts, with thoughts of getting even for what happened three years ago, or of recovering lost profits from the past, or putting your boot on the neck of a weakened supply chain partner, you have choices.

You can throw back another glass of a whiskey of questionable provenance, wipe the spittle off your beard, draw your pistol, and press your point in dramatic ways.

Or, you can bring a covered dish to the reunion picnic, clasp hands, and come to a reasoned agreement, confident in a symbiotic relationship that has a past, to be sure, but also has a long and bright future.

It would not seem to be a difficult choice, but we still have too many players in our supply chain universe who are playing the dangerous game of Hatfields vs. McCoys instead of adopting the more sustainable strategy of Hatfields and McCoys.


Now Boarding: The Bedlam Express

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/23/2012 | 1:20 PM

Not everyone remembers that our current word, "bedlam," is based on street pronunciation of the name of a lunatic asylum in London, Our Lady of Bethlehem. The connection came to mind as I considered the plight of people stuck in toxic organizations, or being held hostage in dysfunctional supply chain relationships.

Our daughter has a differnt name for the scenarios involved. "Oh, no," she proclaims. "I am not getting on the bus to Crazy Town. It runs 24/7, and makes no stops, not even for restrooms." She's right. There are no stops, and there is no destination; the bus is Crazy Town, careeening through the back streets of the mind.

The only way off is to jump if this particular Voyage of the Damned slows just a trifle. Tuck and roll, and hope for mere abrasions from gravel at the side of the road.

That's the answer for anyone who needs for the sake of health, mental or otherwise, to find another copporate home, or another supply chain that values silly notions of trust and collaboration.

Jump. It may hurt for a little while, and the scrapes on exposed parts of the body don't look so hot at the beginning of life off the bus. But, pain dissipates and cuts and bruises heal. And, both business and personal life are more worth living as the tail lights of The Bedlam Express fade into the night.

Think about it. And, see if you can wrap yourself in a blanket as you leap into the dark unknown.


Sprechen Sie Finance?

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/18/2012 | 8:24 AM

CFO magazine's latest issue features an article about Marsh, the insurance brokerage behemoth, teaching its 25,000 employees the fundamentals of finance and accounting. In the words of the quirky Gunness commercial, "Brilliant!"

For them, it's all about getting everyone in the organization on board with understanding how maney is made. Not to mention giving the sales force ways to better relate the value of their products for customers, in a meaningful bottom-line way.

So, why aren't more companies in the supply chain management space, or supply chain components of larger organizations, doing the same? We tend to focus too much on the nuts and bolts of execution in our dirty-fingernails workaday world, I think.

We spend too much time trying to wring blood out of the inventory turnip, and, maybe we devote some attention to squeezing a little more on price out of suppliers. But, in general, we have very little idea of how much of what we do touches many, many elements of financial performance - and of how much impact supply chain managment has on overall enterprise health and success.

As a consequence, we don't communicate effectively with CEOs, COOs, CFOs and other higher orders of beings. They aren't interested in inventory accuracy, and we don't know what Return On Equity means. But, ROE, ROA, ROI and other strange terms are what they do relate to - and run the business with.

So, it's way past time to get serious about business reality, and the business relevance of what we do. When we do, and when our communications show that we do, the boss is more likely to get serious about us, and see the supply chain as a strategic investment instead of an erosion of costs.

I'll have that Guinness now, thank you.


Calling All Dudes - And Dudettes

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/14/2012 | 9:35 AM

My, how the pendulum has swung.  Once upon a time, the notorious and dapper mafioso Frank Costello was elevated and immortalized by Damon Runyon as "Dave the Dude."  John Gotti before his time, and with a soft heart.

Then, the dude ranch was popularized as a sissified experience for wanna-be cowboys with pale skin and soft hands.  Still later, "dude" became a catch-all appellation for co-conspirators in The Slacker Nation.  Today, it seems to be used indiscriminately when addressing anyone of any or any gender.

The eight-year-old was having friends over to play a week or so ago.  Preparing one of his female confidants for an imminent arrival, he said, "This guy is a real dude, so you've got to be smooth."

Wise counsel, actually in many settings.  The kid continues to amaze me with his business insights.

In our world of ever-shifting supply chains it makes loads of sense to do a little homework before getting in front of customers, clients, suppliers, service providers and the like.  Figure out what makes them tick, what motivates them, what it takes to establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect.

Frank Costello, btw, insisted on respect, but that's another story for another day.  Our challenge is to prepare ourselves for success in business relationships by being able to separate the dudes from the sheep.

The Little Supply Chain That Almost (Chugga, Chugga) Could

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/06/2012 | 10:04 AM

We all remember the inspiring kid's story about a little engine that defied the odds and succeeded. This is about a somewhat bigger engine that failed to understand the context of customer service, supply chain execution, and the totality of the customer experience.

Recently our fairly large (and costly at the time of purchase) flat screen TV began to entertain us with the spontaneous appearance of little dots of light sprinkled across the screen. Amusing once; maddening as a permanent attraction. A little stroll down internet lane with Google showed that the manufacturer, Mitsubishi, was experiencing this problem way too early in the life of sets featuring their marvelous DLP technology.

Further research disclosed that the company, recognizing responsibility for a defective, and mission-critical, component was replacing the offending part at no cost. No cost, that is for the part, with replacement service and labor costs the responsibility of the owners. And, replacement was definitely a "kids, don't try this at home" exercise.

Sound fair on the surface? Not really. Mitsubishi had who knows how many defective products in the field, and made the decision to not issue a recall, which would have been the responsible thing to do.

To be even-handed, their physical supply chain execution was flawless. The part arrived, they scheduled the service call, and the process was relatively fast, even though the on-screen starburst display continued to grow. But, the entirety of the customer experience was not at all satisfying.

In my professional life, I contend reguarly that customer service functionality and supply chain execution are - or should be - inextricably entwined, hand-in-glove in the total solution, contributing as one to great experiences and very satisfied customers. That contention should be true in both b2c and b2b relationships.

It is the laggards who separate supply chain from customer service, who look at customer service as an annoying cost of doing business, and cannot conceive of the value of investing in service, support, and delighted customers. Clearly, in this case, someone made a cost/benefit decision to find a balance between doing the right thing and the money involved in doing so.

It did not help that the customer service rep made Tilda Swinton's evil queen in The Chronicles of Narnia sound like a flower child of the 70s, breaking another cardinal rule of satisfying customer service. So, Mitsubish saved a few bucks by making me pay for their problem.

That's their right in running a business. But, literally the next week, we bought a 70-inch flat screen set for another application. Guess who was not even on the short list in making the selection? if you said "Mitsubishi," go to the head of the class.

Now, I know that the TV folks aren't the same ones as those making Mitsubishi automobiles. But, do they come from the same gene pool? How would they handle - or not - a recall? Could I run the risk of customer dis-satisfaction (and a failure to fairly correct a product defect) when we consider our next car? Would you?

Ahh, the power of cost savings when measured against the value of satisfying customers . . .





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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