Archives for July 2013

The Unlikely Return Of The Amazing Mustache Pete

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/31/2013 | 11:27 AM

The four-year old implored me to hold him up to the "mirrow" so that he could check on the status of his mustache.  Fortunately, I was able to point out the slight darkening over the upper lip on this, our littlest Latino, and he was visibly relieved.

A little probing and some chocolate chip ice cream uncovered the basis for his concern.  When he had a real mustache, it turned out, he could be a Dad, do whatever he wanted, and eat in the family room.  Laudable aspirations, all.

I thought back to a place and time far away and long ago, before the neighborhood was desecrated by expressways, when one could walk the streets, nodding and greeting the Mustache Petes who sat in judgment of the passing parade on their front stoops, retreating indoors from time to time, to refill their glasses with home-made red wine from the basement.

Wanna-be wise guys deriseively called the men of that generation Mustache Petes, but their attire of undershirts and droopy trousers belied their status as heads of their families, kings of their castles, and, for some, greater roles (and respect) based on affiliation with powerful organizations that provided both security and recreation to the area.  They had earned their status and esteem.  And, yes, many of them had mustaches.

But, a mustache alone does not entitle the bearer to high position.  It takes life experience, and intimacy with joy and heartbreak - and making tough decisions - to gain admission to the realm of respect, or, perhaps even better, admiration.  We are still trying to communicate that learning to our little guy without crushing his spirit.

And, so it is, too, in supply chain management.  A mustache alone does not guarantee free admission, and a degree from a prestigious university, upon which the ink is not yet dry, is not a gate to the shortcut to vice-presidency.  Success is a long-term proposition, a journey with twists, turns, obstacles - and opportunities - in which continuous learning in both technical and social aspects is demanded.

Some newly-minted knights in white satin don't get it, or choose to not believe those who have gone before and learned that pow-wows are better than an exchange of gunfire.  They pomade their metaphoric mustaches and plunge ahead.  When that doesn't pay off in the way that they had imagined, they might try for an advanced degree, and/or a prestigious certification - the equivalent of thinking that the combination of a mustache and a beard might overcome the lack of experience.

Sorry.  Tough news.  The mustache is only an option once you've done all the hard work, paid your dues, and got a good start on handling responsibility.  Don't believe me?  Ask any Pete you run across how much comes with the mustache and how much comes with doing the job.

Identity Confusion And Operational Chaos

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/25/2013 | 9:12 AM

So, I was watching and listening to Tegan and Sara, but was disconcerted, and concentrated more on trying to figure out which is Tegan and which is Sara, than on getting into the music.  For those who don't yet know, the Canadian indie rock duo is sorta hot at the moment.  Maybe it's a generational thing, but when I learned that they had seven albums out I puzzled over the possibility that they had issued seven different releases, or perhaps had sold only seven of one.  By the time that I do get things straight in my mind they may, or may not, still be around.

We face similar challenges in our supply chain world.  The Tegan/Sara conundrum is borderline understandable, in that they are identical twins.  Our choices present options that are merely somewhat same-looking or same-sounding.

For example, how is supply management the same as or different from supply chain managment?  What are the distinctions among supply chain management, value chain management, and demand management?  How are certification programs from professional organizations related to certificates of functional proficiency from any number of sponsoirs and issuers?  How do supply chain certifications from various institutions compare, and which are more current, valuable, and practical?

In a shopping cart chock full of "comprehensive" supply chain software solutions, which products are truly comprehensive, with equivalent quality and functionality in the various modules that constitute end-to-end planning, analysis, and execution?  What are the qualities and attributes of the companies behind them - background, staying power, continuing investment, key talent resources, financial stability?

Hmm - maybe solving the Tegan and Sara questions is the easier task, after all.

PS: As a devotee of Lady Gaga, a little monster who was born this way, I don't think it is a generational thing. 

Grapes And Purple Stride

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/18/2013 | 9:28 AM

I began the week more curmudgeonly than most times.  Irrespective of one's perspective on the case, the Zimmerman verdict: 1) provided an excuse for wanton violence under the protective cover of understandable protest, and 2) opened up national platforms for expression for people (on both sides of the argument) who would need extra training to operate a wheelbarrow.

The latest, but, sadly, not final insult to our collective sensibilities has been a person with the IQ of a grape making the rounds of the talk shows.  The several hosts (and hostesses) involved have hung on every word, giving credence to inane utterances as if they had come from the late Dame Margaret Thatcher holding forth on geopolitical issues, or the even later Eleanor Roosevelt crusading for human rights and dignity.

Mijn vrouw recently encountered a person who makes this crowd look like Nobel laureates, even though her principal asset is a handbag full of big words used to intimidate lesser (in her eyes) beings.  She opined, in front of a large audience, that I have not had pancreatic cancer, the proof being that I am still living, and that some sort of endocrine imbalance had led to a mis-diagnosis.  I offered to show her pictures of my 7-centimeter figment of imagination, and raise my undershirt so she could examine the apparently permanent scars that make my torso look like an autopsy gone horribly wrong.

No matter.  As my LinkedIn contacts already know, we are preparing to celebrate five years of survival, a milestone reached by only about 5% of diagnosed cases.  One third of those, btw, will not make it to ten years (think of Steve Jobs).  Myself, I am gunning for 25 years, but the future is always a little shaky.

Our observance will include extended family participation in Purple Stride, a major fund-raiser to help with awareness, education, and research, sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  No grape stomping is involved, unfortunately.  I'll do a 2-mile walk, while others skip off on a 5-k run.

If you can help the cause financially, that would be great.  For the moment, I'm personally more interested in the outreach and awareness needs.  The incidence of this #4 cancer killer is rising, and may jump up to #2 in the next couple of years.  We are on the precipice of an epidemic, fueled, I believe, by obesity-driven Type 2 diabetes.  And, the disease gets no directed funding for research at the NIH level.  Amazing, and we are working diligently to get legislation passed to remedy that.

Meanwhile, I''m grateful for every single day, and get really motivated when I can check off another anniversary.  Maybe, I can even get over the exploitation of dimwits that provides fodder for talk shows.  At least for the moment.

Supply Chain Lessons from Nancy Reagan

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/13/2013 | 8:02 AM

The former First Lady took some grief, albeit with grace and style, three decades or so ago when her chief weapon of choice in the ongoing War Against Drugs was the mantra of "Just say no."  A debate about the efficacy of a deliberate decision not to use continues to this day, and we, as a society, have arguably developed an increasing and positive tolerance for the recreational use of selected mood-altering substances.

In other arenas, though, notably supply chain management, we may have more latitude - and more logical underpinnings - to just say no.  For some understandable, and some incomprehensible, reasons, we seem to seldom exercise the option, though.

Ask yourself about a few scenarios after a little reflection.  Have you ever told the boss "no" to a ridiculous demand to: outsource, slash inventories, cut essential staff, or meet patently impossible performance targets?  Or, have you averted your gaze, muttered obscenities, and flogged the employes until they have once again done the impossible, or fallen short and are in fear for their jobs?

Have you ever had the courage to say "no" to new business from a good customer that is beyond your competence to deliver?  Have you had the integrity to say "no" to doing any business with a customer that is a complete mismatch in culture, values, objectives, and strategic direction?

Be honest.  Why not?  

And, think about Nancy's example - and the power it gives you over the long haul.  Why take on incremental business that is a headache on a good day, and a resource cannibal the rest of the time?  Why risk, when fast is the imperative, being only half-fast? 

Why sell your soul, and damage the hearts of those who report to you, by grabbing the first dollar that waves in the wind, when waiting for (and organizing and targeting the right prospects) can bring you ten, over and over again?

What might have been the wrong way to approach the downsides of crack, heroin, meth, bath salts and such just might be the right way to be smart about rising to the top as a persistently peerless supply chain practitioner and service provider.

Thank you, Nancy Reagan.

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/05/2013 | 10:03 AM

Bear with me just one more once, and I'll get off the leadership rant.  But, I was struck at a recent conference by how constant and consistent the behaviors of leaders is.  Not that they don't change with the shifts of tectonic plates in the realities of what's happening in supply chain management; there's every chance that they are the forces behind some of those shifts.  Whatever the circumstance, they do tend to stand out from the crowd, though.

Take the case of the trucking CEO who put aside the temptation to stick it to customers in our capacity-constrained initial recovery from the Great Recession.  Rather than join his contemporaries in getting even, price-wise, with the customer base, he announced that good past customers, essentially, would receive favorable treatment as they faced the swing of the pendulum in another direction.

Very recently, he publicly advocated for a mighty mode shift from TL to rail carriage, a rank heresy in the trucking world.  In sum, his position was: 1) customers should make the right cost and service decsions for their own business models and relationships; and 2; more freight movement by rail is one of the keys to mitigating - the difficult - and escalating - challenges we face in driver shortages.  His analysis indicates that even the best operators are not going to be able to get drivers sufficient to support looming volume growth. 

Meanwhile, his competitors, who are more focused on short-term managerial approaches, are trying to woo more drivers with penny-ante per-mile rate increases.  The resulting circus would be amusing if it weren't so sad, with the perennial problem of driver turnover significantly exacerbated by tempting professionals with peanuts.

So, genuine leadership can be a lonely calling, with far more managers busy watching the wrong ball, and precious few at the top who can formulate and move toward visions of the future.  Let us be grateful for those we do have.

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.


Popular Tags

Subscribe to DC Velocity

Subscribe to DC Velocity Start your FREE subscription to DC Velocity!

Subscribe to DC Velocity
Go digital