Archives for February 2014

Zoning Out In The Zone

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/27/2014 | 12:55 PM

The notion of playing a zone offense was inspired, I confess, by our grand-daughter, The Kid's older sister, who recognizes no zone boundaries whatsoever.  She apparently has never considered that there is something she cannot do, if she chooses to.

Never, to anyone's knowledge, having sung before, she volunteered at age 9 to open her school's annual program with The Star-Spangled Banner.  The immensely patriotic Cuban-American audience shook the rafters at her conclusion.  Today, her dream is Broadway, and she sings, dances, acts and writes.  Everything from Willy Wonka to Shakespeare is fair game.  She also boxes, blogs, and challenges her teachers to challenge her.

She obviously doesn't know about coloring within the lines, or staying inside the box, or comfort zones.  And, she even inspired me to jump into another zone and audition for a musical.  (I didn't make it, but, hey, I got a callback.  And, going into another zone didn't hurt a bit.)

So, once again, I'm encouraging everyone to not overthink it, but to resist the urge to stay in (or retreat into) the comfort zone when there are new problems to solve and new challenges to meet.  Here's a quick boooster shot of reality: if you stay in your zone and things go wrong, youve got no place else to go.  It's too late, and you can't get out in time.  Admittedly things can go wrong when you leave the zone, but the human tendency is to over-imagine what might not go quite right and under-appreciate the good things that might develop by using new tools in new ways, or looking at the world around you from new perspectives.

Meanwhile, I do wonder (and occasionally worry) about how we are trained to stay within yesterday's boundaries, how we are neither encouraged nor recognized for moving into other zones, daring to think differently and be different.  When do we have our inborn curiosity surgically removed?  When and from whom do we learn fear of the unknown?  How do we forget the joy of discovery and accomplishment?

Love And Marriage

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/19/2014 | 8:46 AM

The Kid and his younger cousin offered contrasting approaches to dealing with the opposite gender over the weekend. As usual, The Kid showed himself to be wiser than his years, an example to his worshipful cousins and an inspiration to us all.

The cousin, a first-grader and knowing in the ways of the world, was on the receiving end of a Grandma quiz on his love life. Specifically, (we'll call him) Tino squirmed when asked about little Carmella. "We breaked up," he confessed. "She was always complaining." A good enough reason, I suppose, but she was only the latest in a long line of heart-breaked young ladies. Tino goes through them like Jay Leno through cars, and the newest model in the showroom is Angelita.

Sooner, rather than later, they all turn out to have flaws beyond repair - but there is always another hopeful waiting in the wings. The Kid intuitively figured out early that talking through problems is a good way to right wrongs, clarify misunderstandings, right the ship in the tunnel of love, and keep the one in the lot who may turn out to be the keeper.

He and Ripley have had a fair amount of practice. Maybe as a result, or perhaps because of surpassing charm on both sides, they exchanged valentines - again- with smiles that lit up the room.

So, where are you in your relationships with customers, suppliers, and service providers? Breaked up, again? Still crazy after all these years? Are you looking for the next warm, brief relationship? Or, are you working to make what you have the best that it can be?

How do you stack up against The Kid?

Playing Zone Offense

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/14/2014 | 8:09 AM

We usually think of zones as defensive schemes. In American football, secondaries may employ zone coverage depending on individual match-ups, on philosophies, or, especially, to contain opponents' gains when they trail toward the end of a game, and a spectacular pass might steal a victory.

In basketball, the zone defense is more often a component of an over-riding philosophy, but may recognize individual match-up challenges. It is often used to vary the pace and tempo of a game, and to force an opponent into using a different set of offensive tactics. Or, it may be as simple as just interrupting the opponent's scoring run, and giving the defense a chance to gather itself.

But, the zone terminology is also used to indicate scoring - offensive - possibilities, as when a football team finds itself in the Red Zone, within twenty yards of the opponent's goal line. In our supply chain environment, we have a tendency to operate within our comfort zones, using the tried and true, applying what's always (as far as we know) worked.

The family pet also has a comfort zone, generally a few feet this side of the invisible fence line, and understands that there is discomfort involved in violating the zone's boundaries. But, a lovesick Labrador is often willing to venture, with some pain, into the unknown in search of its heart's desire. To its amazement, once past the pain point, freedom to explore, to seek, to wander, to discover, to reach goals spreads out - without pain and with every chance for reward - ahead to the horizon.

So it can also be for us, if we are willing to risk a little pain and face the unknown. Ultimate success is not guaranteed, but it is a reasonable possibility. We'll never know if we don't make the leap.

Down the road, we'll discover that the future belongs, not to those who stayed within the lines, but to those who dared - and dared again until they succeeded.

Umm, What I Meant To Say Was . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/06/2014 | 8:38 AM

Forsaking musical references for the nonce, let us turn to the written and spoken word.  Aww, c'mon, we've got to face up to this sooner or later, and today is nearer to later than it is to sooner.

You may have tired by now of reading and hearing about all the things that supply chain professionals must master in our brave new world.  But, adding all these burdens to yesterday's primary tasks of toting barges and lifting bales is the reality of how our roles and responsibilities - and the tools we use - have evolved to create our singularly demanding and rewarding profession.

It turns out that there's more; there's always more.  A very noticeable gap in our tool kit lies in the too-frequent absence of strong communicatons skills.  We could overcome that perception (and reality) a few decade ago, but competing for corporate capital, promoting change - even transformation, telling others what we are about, crafting PowerPoint presentations, addressing 4th grade classes, giving facility tours, or writing about plans, projects, and performance - all of these require, for most of us, elevated competence in commnuications.

Most of us just are not all that good at executing the basics in this area, and, these days, that can have career impacts.

The total topic needs a longer article, or a book, to cover in depth; keep your eyes peeled for a Basic Training column on the subject.  But, here are some of the components that can make or break our communications:

    - Have a point, a conclusion, a call to action

    - Stay focused on purpose and core message

    - Build a story line that guides the flow of either writing or speaking

    - Take care with language - spell correctly, pronounce accurately, use the right word for the right situation, use big words and little words (for specific purposes)

    - Know your audience and its motivations

    - Practice, practice, practice (both writing and speaking)

    - Never let 'em see you sweat, literally or figuratively

    - Forget you ever saw emoticons or Twitter-speak

There's plenty more to get into, but the objective here is to get you to begin to think about how you can communicate to get results, or fail to communicate and get disappointed.  Remember, almost no one is a born communicator; it's not, like physical attributes or dread diseases, embedded somehow in the DNA.  The art, science, and skills are learnable and made more useful through constant employment and experimentation.

Take a moment and look within.  Are you comfortable in communications situations?  Could you improve your work life with better communications?  Are people with lesser operational skills, but elevated communications abilities passing you by?  Is this the time to shore up that part of your total package?

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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