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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.

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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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