Archives for October 2013

Zombie Crawl

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/24/2013 | 8:47 AM

Denver is among a growing list of cities featuring a festive night out for anyone who is up to dressing up (or down, as the case may be) as if auditioning for a walk-on role in The Living Dead (or Grimm).  My challenge, as I pushed my way through the throng of ghost brides and their bandaged and bloody consorts, was distinguishing the revelers from the "regular" street people in that portion of the Mile High downtown.

On a side note, "Mile High" has taken on new meaning in the wake of decriminalization of personal consumption quantities of marijuana.  Who let the doobies out, one wonders.  Naturally, it is only a short segue from these observations to some thought about organizational cultures and workforces.

Sadly, it is not rare to find zombie workforces, with staff lurching, limping, and straggling in at the beginning of the day.  They may not be sporting horrific scars od fresh axe wounds, but there is a ,look on their unsmiling faces that brings a dose of prudence to even the most rash among us.

But, the trance state does not last forever.  Come five o'clock, the morbid horde springs magically to life.  Smiling, laughing, moving with purpose, they bolt for the parking lots and bus stops.  A genuine milagro, don't you think?

So, the question of the day may be: Do you have a zombie workforce?  If so, the next - and more important - question is: Do you know how they got that way?  The odds are that they are not evil at the core, plotting the enterprise's ruin day and night.  Something or somebody is sucking the life out of them every single day.

Payback time comes as the economy continues its painfully slow recovery.  The best and the brightest of the zombies will move on to places where they can be alive all day, performing, contributing, and making their new employers fierce competitors and winners.  Their replacements are not likely to offer a fresh start on zombie-dom.  There is an option, though.

Can you transform your organization into a zombie-free zone?  Can you make it a place where associates come to get something done and make a difference?  Or, are you a carrier (no, not a truck), harboring and transmitting the zombie virus that ruins poeple and can kill entire organizations?


Is It Time To Bring Out The Wrecking Ball?

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/17/2013 | 10:53 AM

Just yesterday, a teacher lamented the difficulty of teaching high school students about supply chain management in a business course.  The principal obstacle? The subject is just "not sexy".  Hmmm.

I ventured the suggestion that perspectives might brighten up a bit if students were asked to draft plans for the logistics of transporting Miley Cyrus on a multi-city concert tour.  Then if that weren't sufficient motivation, contemplate an image of  Lady Gaga with a whip.  Perhaps I had chosen the wrong venue in which to add a little creative juice to the learning process.  The response was about what I would imagine would ensue if Louis C.K. were to do a stand-up routine in church.

Even if the message were one that the audience needed- perhaps wanted -  to hear, amens would be in short supply, lest the reverend persons officiating would be roused from their slumber and be able to identify the sinners and backsliders who were open to, if not new, merely gently used thinking.

I'm still quivering - and not in a good way - at the thought of mentioning Miley Cyrus in two successsive blogs, but it was someone else who brought up the sexy quotient missing from supply chain management.  Let me essay another stab at what constitutes sexiness in a post-secondary education environment.

How about a dose or two of reality?  One is that supply chain management is not only about having to drive, load, or unload trucks, or wandering through dirty, cold, wet warehouses filling orders for everything from hazardous materials to underwear.  The range of really interesting, challenging, and superbly-compensated jobs in the full range of supply chain activities is staggering.  And, those who come out of post-secondary education with supply chain educations experience jaw-dropping employment rates. 

How good is the money?  There is apparently no ceiling, and, at worst, the most mundane positions pay some multiple of what a dedicated burger flipper can command in the marketplace.  Not to mention, the supply chain professional seldom goes home reeking of fries and dead chicken.

Did I mention that there are career paths. and a multitude of progressions that can be pursued?  Or, that, while nothing is totally recession-proof, supply chain jobs suffer less than in some other fields when the national economy goes South (and rebound quicker, by the way).

In the ultimate display of corporate sexiness, supply chain management, done right and done completely, has a greater effect on enterprise performance than any other organizational element.  When the CEO is happy, everyone is happy (and the CEO usually knows who and what is making him or her look good).  We sometimes forget that it is supply chain management that physically delivers on the promise of the brand.

That is not to say that we want our teachers to persuade Breaking Bad's Jesse Pinkman to get on the supply chain train.  But, even in the realm of Crystal Blue Persuasion, the differentiator of pure and blue product would not have been fractionally as powerful, for good and for evil, as it became without a superlative supply chain behind it.  Walter White may not receive any awards from CSCMP, but he was - even fictionally - a power in our universe.

Sexy enough for you, yet?


Good Golly, Miss Molly!

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/12/2013 | 8:32 AM

As an acne-riddled kid with an uneven flat-top, I was transported to another world when legendary Little Richard fire-bombed the pop music world with this breakthrough hit in 1958.  Jerry Lee Lewis, among hundreds of others, had a knockout hit with it, too.  We reveled in the knowledge of what the lyrics really meant, while our parents were clueless, unfamiliar with the language of another, parallel, universe.

Times change, and today the over-hyped and under-clothed Miley Cyrus' Molly is a popular club drug among those who do not reside in the real world.  For my money, though, Little Richard's work was far sexier than Ms. Cyrus' twerking.  I must confess, the young woman can sing.  But, she can't dance, she can't deliver lines, and her demeanor and appearance are more "head for the hills!" than "come hither".

What all this means for us in the professional arena, is that good sense indicates that glomming on to the latest concept or product based solely on a first burst of flash and dash might lead to disappointment.  Especially if the lights are low, and twerking is in progress.

No matter how momentarily exciting, and superficially enticing, the opportunity might appear to be, it is worth taking the time to think though risks, consequences, and probabilities.  Not to mention taking a close look in broad daylight, with the subject not slathered in makeup - and with no body parts hangin' out.

These basic notions apply to songstresses, sirens, software, and other solutions.  Do not be blinded by sequins in any of those cases.

Jerry Lee, of course, was old-fashioned and believed that twerking was an invitation that required marriage as a gentleman's obligation.  But that's another story for another day.

Too Big To Fail? Maybe Not.

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/04/2013 | 8:35 AM

One of the dubious advantages of life in beautiful downtown Ohio is its abundance of drivers who have no earthly idea of where they are going, and do not care a bit how long it gtakes to get there.  On the plus side, it does generate plenty of time for contemplative examination of many of life's mysteries.  One of those is the latter-day popularity of the phrase "too big to fail."

The magic words reached public consciousness in the wake of panic embracing financial institutions of all sorts in the meltdown that jump-started the Great recession.  But, there are plenty of other examples. 

One that comes to mind is the case of the late Andre the Giant, a staple of the WWE (nee WWF) for decades.  A one-time singles and tag team champion, reportedly never being pinned (even in losses) in that peculiar theater of the absurd, Andre weighed in at something over 500 pounds, and was thought by some to be approaching a light-on-his-feet 700.  He exemplified the cliche immovable object, and was credited by a reliable source with downing over 125 beers in a single sitting.

But the disease that made him also brought him low, and he left us prematurely, which rendered the sport one character short of an asylum.

Comes now the not-so-shocking news that the much-ballyhooed Big Data phenomenon may not be the silver bullet that some early adopters had hoped.  A recent study by one of the mega-consultancies raises questions about the payback on investments to date, with several survey respondents expressing disappointment in results, and a small percentage branding their commitment an utter failure.

I've written before about the importance of Big Analysis to give Big Data a shot at being genuinely useful.  We, as a professional community, really need to get our heads around the undertanding that a pile of Big Data is not, all by itself, going to automatically make our lives easier and our decisions wiser.

Actually, there is no amount of data that will answer all of our questions and clarify our uncertainties.  All it can really do, is give us increasing stacks of ammunition to ask better and better questions.  In all cases, with either a little or a lot of data, the next steps are up to us, the hard work of finding out what is behind the messages the data seems ro be sending.

Its a sortation exercise, understanding what are the reflections of special cause variation, which are the random outbursts of lumpy demand, how much is universal systemic change, and which elements are systemic but local.  No army of analysts, with only mathemetics in their arsenals can hope to effectively categorize these nuggets plucked from the data pile without the cultural, behavioral, and business model grounding against which they are playing out.  

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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