Archives for March 2015

Clean Air Goes Beyond The EPA

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/25/2015 | 1:23 PM

The Kid has been struggling mightily in the turbulent wake of moving on in his affairs of the heart. Little Ripley was not only his one-time hope for the future, she was a friend, easy to be with and good fun at whatever electronic game du jour was rotting the brains of children all over America. But, the friendship door slammed shut when the love boat sailed.

Last week, The Kid laced up his sneakers and announced that he was going over to Ripley's, and clear the air. It was apparently an awkward process, with the lad confessing that he missed the fun and games, and wanted to restore that part of their relationship. Ripley understood, and admitted that she wanted the tension and awkwardness to go away. And so, they are back together, as friends.

The Kid has announced that "a great wave has been lifted from my shoulders". Once again, we can learn from The Kid, even if his linguistic gifts sometimes slightly miss the mark.

How much easier would our supply chain lives be if we took the time to clear the air when things are not quite right? How much tension and awkwardness could we avoid if we spoke timely, plainly, and completely about where things really stand with service providers, suppliers, associates - and our bosses?

Imagine how much taller you would be with that great wave lifted.

Fake It Til You Make It; Shake It Til You Break It!

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/18/2015 | 8:12 AM

Here in the parallel universe of supply chain management, we are still in the awkward, sometimes painful, transition from handling piles of transactions in siloes of functionality to synchronized processes that are embedded in organizational DNA, integrated parts of a powerful whole.

Pulling that off demands high-quality relationships and genuine collaboration (as opposed to grudging co-operation). And, that requires people skills and emotional intelligence of the highest order to be both successful and sustainable.

But, mastery of the skills involved does not come naturally or easily to many individuals. As we, either reluctantly or enthusiastically, embrace the emergence of trust, likeability, and acceptance as the coin of the new realm, we are faced with choices.

For those already so inclined, working consciously at getting even better. For those disinclined, who would have us shot as weaklings a generation ago, learning and practicing new skills. For those hardwired 180 degrees in the opposite direction - what?

Look, this is not about just the superficialities of "book" intelligence, or personal attractiveness, or gregarious outgoing natures and behaviors. What makes people likeable, persuasive, and achievers are traits of sincerity, transparency, and empathy, the capacity for understanding.

The manifestations of these traits are found in behaviors. These current-generation high performers: ask questions, put away or turn off their phones and tablets, postpone or prohibit passing judgment, self-deprecate and/or share credit, display positive body language, remember and use people's names, make strong and positive first physical impressions, touch people appropriately, and are consistent.

Can these be learned? Yes, with time and effort and focus. Can they be sharpened? For sure, with focus and practice being prime enablers. Can they be faked? Welcome to the real world.

Some consultants and motivational charlatans make a handsome living by promoting the notion that pretending the behaviors will make them become real. Codswallop!

These highly desirable attributes have little value without authenticity - and audience sizes in the range of 1 to 1,000 will see through the fakery almost immediately. Sadly, their checks (or credit card transactions) will have already cleared. Ultimately, to succeed in the complex relationships involved in supply chains, your behavior must be true to who you really are.

There's nothing wrong, and a lot right, in creating a better you. But, there's a lot wrong with jerry-rigging a pretend, an inauthentic, you.

Actually, the only people who are really good at creating and sustaining plausible false personas are sociopaths. The rest of us have to make the best out of what we've got, of who we fundamentally are.

But, recognizing that, we can achieve and succeed beyond where we are now by being aware, by practicing, by targeting, and by being real.

Elementary, My Dear Watson:

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/11/2015 | 1:37 PM

Whether you picture Basil Rathbone or Benedict Cumberbatch (or Jonny Lee Miller, for that matter) when hearing or seeing the signature patrician and dismissive phrase, there is no question that the arrogant and supercilious super-sleuth is involved. Whenever something either obvious, self-evident, or already genrally accepted is delivered in the "right" annoying tones, the appropriate response is a choice of the silent or the plain-spoken rebuff, "No (insert pejorataive implication here), Sherlock".

With the awkwardly stilted prose of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in mind, comes news of a well-known university's latest deep thought. The institution cannot be named, but its color is essentially Gatorade orange. And, its research breakthrough is devoted to the notion that some logistics locations and facilities may be a touch fragile in a world of geopolitical and natural upset.

As amazed as the university appears to be by this realization, I am even more amazed that its crack researchers are amazed by the findings. We need not go far back in time to be reminded that MIT's Yossi Sheffi treated the subject definitively in 2005, unrelated to but immediately following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. With our collective attention span of a not-quite-bright two-year old, we have magically rediscovered the core of risk management and The Resilient Enterprise in the past couple of years. What happened? Was the then-landmark publication a work of fiction? Or a children's chapter book?

Look, this is all part of an endless continuum. 9/11, some fourteen years ago, taught vital lessons, which we promptly forgot - or ignored. Perhaps the exemplars were not free-standing distribution facilities, but, putting location aside for a moment, we faced Herculean efforts in restoring logistics and supply chain infrastructures in physical movement and connectivity.

But, these are only recent illustrations of tragedies and disasters with logistics and supply chain consequences. The Kodiak earthquake and tsunami of some fifty years ago are apparently beyond memory and recall. No wonder the more recent Asian tsunami and its frightening lessons have been out behind us.

It goes back farther. The legendary Johnstown Flood obliterated a great swath of Pennsylvania in 1889. A few years earlier, John Brown led a raid on a government armory. Talk about vulnerability - a store of arms subject to seizure by a ragtag band of social activists untutored in the arts of combat.

A never-ending story, so to speak. The folly of building a city in the shadow of a volcano. How did storehouses in Pompeii make out in the aftermath? A sea parting long enough to swallow a Pharoah's armies? That a level of planning to recognize facility and access vulnerability has not been a critical component of preparation for several generations is what is truly remarkable.

That, for example, events in The Levant and surrounding neighborhoods exacerbates risks is a puny excuse to begin paying attention. The War To End All Wars began about a hundred years ago, with a proximate event being the assassination of an obscure noblemen. The planet, at least the portion we considere to be civilized, was consumed by the conflagration, and suddenly everything was vulnerable, and nations and economies wwre staggeringly fragile.

How many researchers looking in the rear-view mirror seeking insight into the future will it take to put "new" discoveries into context?

Doing The Backstroke In A Septic Tank

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/11/2015 | 9:37 AM

For those who don't know what a septic tank is, ask your grandparents.  For those who do, contemplate this.

A respected executive in a leading regional economic development agency was recently asked how important the oft-lamented SCM talent shortage is, in attracting new business to the area.  His response, " Number One!"  A natural venue for national and regional distribution is losing out for want of associates, managers, and executives in the profession.

So far, so good, but he went on to say that the shortage is the biggest obstacle facing every development agency, so " we are on a level playing field."  No one gasped in horror, but my head exploded in public view.

How difficult could it be to grasp the straightforward concept that educating, training, and preparing the young workforce of tomorrow, whether university-bound or ready to go to work immediately, for the range of opportunities SCM offers is the key to economic competitiveness and success?

And, what on earth would be morally corrupt about creating an un-level playing field for the betterment of all residents of a given geography?

But, time slips away, excuses pile up like last Fall's leaves in corners of the yard, and jobs erode.   Enterprises seek greener fields, and the same drivers that put the wagon in the ditch in the first place are re-elected or re-appointed.

It really doesn't matter whether the fundamental weakness is stupidity, ignorance, complacency, or arrogance - or cowardice - we are all being led to a bad place disguised as a swimmin' hole.  We wind up flailing and stroking like amoeba possessed to escape the inescapable in  a glorified chamber pot.

Maybe we need to start a pool on how long it will take us to figure out the obvious solutions  - and hope against hope that an epiphany does not arrive too late to evade the honey wagon, as it is called in some nations.

Cash Implosion!

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/04/2015 | 1:14 PM

Cash Explosion is a sorta phony local TV production that doles out money to minor lottery winners.  Imagine Cash Implosion, which punishes losers by taking money from them - and not just chump change.

I've railed incomprehensibly in the past about marketplace factors that are going to make achieving low-cost supply chain solutions more difficult in the future.  We may be hurtling there at something approaching warp speed.

The in-your-face between-the-eyes news was Wal-Mart's announced plan to raise its internal minimum wage to $9/hour.  That was followed in a mere two days by the TJX bombshell of going to $9 in year One, then moving to $10/hour in Year Two.

What do you suppose this means for competitive wages in logistics operations?  Right!  More cost, unhappy customers, frustrated bosses.  Inevitably, some loose executive cannon will decide that layoffs are the only sane way to cut costs.  How insane is that?

Plus, fuel is a wild card.  Effective risk management will require significant investment, especially in an era of global terror.  technology solutions to reduce labor will get really popular, really fast - but their business cases will be challenges and the CapEx demands could cause hernias in the C-suites.

In the bigger picture, it is one thing to face workers who will  move to another role in another industry vertical for a buck or two (small, you think, but a huge percentage of the base starting point.  But, are we going to risk further diminishing the attractiveness of our profession, reducing the talent and skills pipeline to a smaller diameter than even today's insufficient capacity?

Hang on; things are getting interesting.

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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