Archives for May 2015

La Donna E Mobile

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/30/2015 | 2:05 PM

Giuseppe Verdi could scarcely imagine how powerfully evocative his brilliant aria from Rigoletto would remain over the ensuing centuries. La Diva, our nearly-resident aspiring singer/dancer/actress (or actor in this more gender-equitable generation) has revealed her true nature.

To think that, all this time, we thought she was simply preparing for a lifetime of public drahmah, compounded with a heavy veneer of being a teen-ager. The condition may be thought of as Grandparent's Revenge, as the children who drove us to spiritous beverages now experience the ravages of raining Cain in the hope that he will slay Abel.

We had come to expect a steady diet of eye-rolling, muttering, weeping - all the accoutrements of premature angst, young love lost forever, fatal slights by mean girls, poetry taken to extremes of deep meaning, and dreams of escape and rescue from the dreary, unsophisticated, and unfeeling realities of life among ordinary mortals.

We were gobsmacked, as a proud but generally puzzled set of folks old enough to be thought of as ancestors, when the otherworldly object of our affections outlined a nested set of really smart plans, for:

  • Life
  • Career Preparation in High School
  • Effective Approaches to Professionally Desirable Universities
  • Extra-curricular Professional Alternatives, Choices, and Opportunities
  • Academic Progress in Areas of Personal and Professional Interest
  • Selected Service Commitments - Paying Back and Paying Forward

Our self-teaching moment was simply this: stop selling the newest - or any - generation short. Give them a little credit for being somewhat North of half smart, for having meaningful goals, and for being committed to achievable plans - in all areas of their lives. While you're at it, apply the same consideration to the younger generations in your supply chain workforce.

Let me ask another question.  This is the approach taken by a 15-year old young woman.  Have you put as much thought into your life, career, objectives, and relationships?  Might the future appear less-frightening if you did?

Reel In The Best And Keep The Keepers

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/27/2015 | 8:00 AM

Even today, when most everyone under the age of 100 may think that fish is caught at the supermarket, deboned, cleaned, flash frozen, and sometimes dusted with pistachio bits, the concept of keepers remains with us. In the day, when Norman Rockwell magazine covers reflected near-reality, little kids and old codgers knew where to cast or troll to find fish where they lived, or simply hung out at certain times and temperatures.

They also knew to throw back the undersized, i.e., underaged, specimens, serious about not depleting future years' stocks, and fearful of the wrath of the occasional wandering game warden. And, so it is in Supply Chain Management in these parlous times.

Despite endless yammering about the Great Talent Shortage, few have done much substantive and/or sustainable to remedy the problem. So, the trade press, the business press, conferences without end, and water cooler conclaves continue to cry wolf, not a warning of approaching danger, but an expression of terror while being devoured.

Forty percent of employers are now reporting difficulty in securing talent. My opinion? Another forty percent don't have a clue about how serious their problem is, and the remaining ten percent are lying.

Not enough hard skills, not enough soft skills, a general shortage of suitable candidates, suitable meaning: speaks in sentences, has shirt tucked in, and refrains from weed during working hours. So, as a leader, as a manager, as a reponsible experienced professional, how do you woo the talent, skills, disposition, and experience you want - and need?

Start with throwing out what's important to you and your generation. It's not that the new wave is made up of space aliens, but that the new talent pool is different. It has different interests and priorities - and values. It has different expectations, motivations, and hot buttons. They may not be 180 degrees off from your positions, but generational sensitivity looks askance at even 5 degrees of variance.

Get over it - fast. Or the good ones will get away and get snapped up by the more emotionally intelligent competition - fast. Understand, and believe, whatever the strengths of the new crop of candidates are. The stereotypes are worse than misleading.

The new kids on the block are not all dopers, slackers, entitled spoiled brats, unrealistic seekers of fast tracks to riches without work, accomplishment, or responsibility. In fact, we in prior generations have much to learn from them about tools, techniques, analysis, and critical thinking. We'd be fools to fail to leverage the combination of what they and we bring to the table. And we are too often guilty of foolish misconceptions that lead to poor decisions, negative actions, and closing doors that must be left open if any fresh air is to get in.

Making a short story longer, these hopes for the future can be attracted by a culture that is open and diverse, that invests in talent, and plans how to manage building and maintaining the talent foundation. They can become orgasmic about possibilities for meaningful assignments as opening tests and not secret pathways to acceptance ten years down the road, when they are "ready" or "seasoned".

They are big on self-development and continuous learning. They adore appropriate and applicable technology, and exploring how the unknown can become useful. They are committed to making a difference, and they treasure freedom, including the latitude to learn from failing. The ensuing and continuing payback from this generation is immense for those who can show trust and take a leap of faith.

Keeping these building blocks for future success is largely a matter of authenticity, of delivering on the promises extended in the recruitment process, making good on walking the walk after being persuasive in talking the talk. Not that money means nothing, but it is generally merely a differentiator in the talent's decision, and not the sole objective of having a job, in a traditional sense.

After that, part of the retention effort is doing the little things that make talent from all generations happy. Positive feedback, more often with little things than once in a blue moon with one big thing. Events and activities, again frequently, to continue building and strengthening bonds with peers, team members, other functions, senior leadership - with variety being as valuable as frequency. The time spent on these is not "lost" as the CFO might crow, but adds to sustained performance and productivity over time.

Experiences rather than objects make a positive difference. Watches, plaques, tchotchkes, pennants? Meh! Ziplining, wine tasting, plant tours, museum visits? Maybe not all are everyone's cup of tea, but ultimately everyone will have a favorite, and most of the events will entertain most of the group.

Little things, small investments; it should not cost a fortune for everything done to make associates happy in their work and happy in their employment. How much is involved in better lighting, or background music, upscale coffee, and the like.

Pay attention to, recognize, celebrate achievment and accomplishment. Constant focus on fixing problems, preventing things from going wrong, correcting errors, and missing targets is demoralizing, enervating. Not that all should not be addressed in an organized and prioritized series of initiatives. But the real motivator is paying attention to what went right.

There's more. All the administrivia needs to get done somehow, and at some point, but it must never overtake what really matters in enterprise success and the emotional wellbeing, and attachment to the employer. As usual, easier said than done. And, it takes practice to get good at new ways of thinking. The utter inadequacy of training and educational efforts to build a sustainable supply chain talent base has complicated, made more intense, our challenge. But, we risk massive supply chain failures if we cannot get ahead of the wave in talent attraction and retention - reeling in and keeping the keepers.

Objects In The Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/23/2015 | 8:32 AM

If you can read that in your outside mirror, maybe you are not watching the road closely enough.  And, you need to process the flawed image to imagine its probable reality before planning a reaction.  Business relationships are a little like that, too, in that what we think we see may not be either the whole, or an accurate, perception.

On the other hand, it is vital to get some view of what might be gaining on us, so as not to be completely blind-sided when the future zooms up out of the mists of a murky present and confronts us head-on.

Here's one thing to be thinking about, based on fragmented images.  Minimum wages are on the rise, partly out of raw economic necessity and partly out of political posturing and pandering.  Irrespective of those motivations and movements, entry-level wages are leaping significantly beyond minimum wage pressures, with burger flippers extorting, based on fundamentals of supply and demand, $13 an hour and up, with retail associates getting on to tracks that will get them to $15, then $17 in a matter of months or a couple of years.

Meanwhile, our industry can't get enough warm bodies to fulfill orders, and we'll be forced into a cost-busting wage war with those who are woefully short of the skills that are needed in our world, even at the most elemental execution level.

Ultimately, the end game cannot be anything but more, and more complex, automation as shortages continue, or worsen, and cost justification gets progressively easier.  That means a greater number of less-skilled workers unemployed, and a horrendous shortage of the brilliant analysts, designers, engineers, and other STEM-types.

So, are we over-investing and over-focusing on training the forklift driver/order picker population that will be going away over the next decade or two?  And, are we continuing to peck away at the STEM challenge without really solving it?

I'll repeat.  Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/20/2015 | 2:10 PM

"The wise man learns more from the fool's question than the fool learns from the wise man's answer." Raymond "Red" Reddington on Blacklist, 2015. Love that quote, and love discerning the intents and motivations of fools during feeble dialogues. But, I'd never use it without attribution; that would be some form of plagiarism.

Those are murky waters, though. So many things have been said in so many ways over the centuries that it is easy to innocently make what sounds and feels like an original expression your own property without realizing that it first appeared in the literature decades or centuries ago.

The recent musical dust-up involving Tom Petty and Sam Smith apparently illustrates the innocent side of possibilities; Brian Williams' shameless appropriation of real or imgined experiences of others seems to cross the line, then erase it.

The fool/wise man statement echos an admonition from the titanic scholar, thinker, teacher, and humanitarian of the 12th century, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon of Cordoba. Maimonides was a legendary influence on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and a contemporary (and acquaintance) of Thomas Aquinas.

In another illustration, we make much of the so-called Golden Rule, as promulgated in the Christian New Testament scripture. In fact, the core of the Rule was expressed by the great rabbi, scholar, and commentator, Hillel, before the advent of the Common Era, and more than a century before the issue of the relevant Gospel of Matthew. Without that common foundation, we would not be able to get cute with the notion of a Platinum Rule in customer/client relationships, or the obverse of the Platinum, the Silver Rule.

Our working world is filled to overflowing with time-worn and time-honored concepts that have been retitled, rebranded, and repackaged for new audiences. Lean, for example, bundles up several proven concepts into a neat package, but contains elements of many traditional programmatic approaches to quality management, cost control, consistency, flexibility, continuous improvement, Deming, Juran, and more. And, much of what makes up lean comes directly from long-dead Henry Ford in his book of some 90 years ago.

Fulfillment, pooling, visibility, pay for performance, labour management - all have deep roots in traditional practices. What's different? Principally, the availability and power of technology enablers for the concepts.

So, we need to have our antennae up at all times, to recognize what is truly new, and different, and game changing - and adapt and build to leverage the advantage the breakthroughs can bring. At the same time, we need to identify what among the new and improved offerings in the marketplace is merely yesterday's poisson du jour now masquerading as cioppino.

In a corollary, what's new is not necessarily the silver bullet we've been looking for, and what's old might just be exactly what we need. Meanwhile, back at the plagiarism ranch, borrowing from the observations and writings of the past is encouraged, and gains respectability by donning the cloak of research. That is valuable, and not a sin, a moral flaw appearing only when the researcher copies the syntheses and conclusions of earlier research in place of forming his or her own summaries and key findings from examining the work of others.

All in all, our supply chain management responsibility is to do right - for suppliers, for service providers, for customers, for associates, for peer executives, for enterprise success, and for the brave investors and shareholders who have risked much.

The rest is commentary, to cite Hillel.

A Hearth-Warming Tale

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/13/2015 | 8:37 AM

The Kid, just days ago, was projecting himself into the future. He was mapping out his to-be life, career, and family. Perhaps, The Kid is no longer a kid - or is poised, teetering, on the edge of premature seriousness.

Whatever, he, affairs of the heart in order, began to contemplate real life. He wanted to know now much money I make in a month, and was disappointed to learn that independent consulting is very much like unemployment, without the government stipend.

Then came marriage, and, in his opinion, the importance of having a kid or two of his own. The rationale? "They really warm up a home, know what I mean?" I knew - and agreed.

That a self-centered pre-teen would get this is beyond the powers of my limited vocabulary to deal with. But, his perception led me to think about our workaday world. Is there someone in your organization who really warms up the place? Someone whose happiness makes everyone happy? An individual who is looking out for the others? A better question might be, "Is that person you?"

If not, why not? This is definitely not about any requirement to carry a resident goof-off as overhead. Or, to have a court jester to amuse the boss. Everyone in every organization needs to carry his or her own weight. But, any group without a leavening agent is poorer for the lack.

Life is tough enough, without having some periodic break in the drudgery, without some indication that we are human, and can laugh as well as perform miracles on-demand. In the end, it's about deliberately creating working groups with complementary skills and attitudes - and gifts that contribute to collective success, well-being, and quality of work life.

It's also about creating an environment that satisfies people's needs, and helps you keep the keepers. So, go thou and warm up the place.

The Rest Is Commentary

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/10/2015 | 8:30 AM

The great teacher and revered rabbi, Hillel, was once asked the meaning of the Torah.  He responded with an early exposition of the so-called Golden Rule, and added, "The rest is commentary."  I will note, to the side, that Hillel survived some ten years into the Common Era, but lived 90% of his life in what is referred to as BCE.

So what "everybody knows" about the origin of the Golden Rule - who said what and when - ain't necessarily so, despite what was taught in Sunday School.  But, to Hillel's point, that is merely commentary.  What is important, what we should observe and practice, what we should focus on, is the Rule itself.

We face examples in our workday world, as well.  Almost any new technology or concept will attract and hold evangelists, followers, demonizers, and opponents.  On all sides, they display distressing tendencies to take positions and make arguments based on what is commentary rather than the core of the matter.

Some fought - and still  fight - the notion of universal RFID tag applications.  Chips cost too much (although technology costs always plummet with time and volume).  It is only good for big-ticket items (even though the ultimate value lies in application with vast quantities of inexpensive items).

You are not doing lean if you are not doing all elements of lean - no compromise, for lean is of no value if the precepts of the holy writ are not fully adopted.  Any initiative that does not embody Six Sigma is illegitimate, even if it reduces operating costs and/or avoids capital expenditures.

Dim weight pricing for parcel shipments is the brainchild of spawn of Satan.  No matter that the wolf lurks under cover of sheep's clothing, departing from past practice is a sin, probably of the mortal variety.

Beginning with supply chain and logistics issues, continuing with general business decisions, and thinking about applications in personal life, take a moment to concentrate on the real core of the matter at hand, sift through the commentary, and seek solutions that are practical, possibly imperfect, acceptable through compromise - and right.





Watching My Head Explode!

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/06/2015 | 11:14 AM

Every so now and again, a dozing Congressperson stirs long enough to remember that terrorism periodically vacations from its customary habitat and visits Boston, or Paris, or Madrid, or wherever. Obviously, palliative legislation and regulation are just the ticket to dampen the ardor of the crazies and lull the populace into returning to their jobs and neglecting to vote. In consequence, we have the faux protection of requirements that all inbound containers be examined at seaports of entry to detect dangerous goods. You know, bombs, radioactive materials, dread disease agents - our worst fears.

Never mind that land ports, far more likely pojnts of ingress, are exempted from the requirement. Never mind that the technology to fully detect dangerous goods from outside the subject containers has not yet been invented. What we do have is technology that cannot determine if shielded radioactive material lies inside a container, for example.

By the way, even the champion Pollyannas of the planet in Europe have determined that what we have proposed cannot work. Worse, even if it did, it requires the bombs, etc., to be detected must arrive at a port before they can be discovered. Trust me, no port operator wants to risk nuclear holocaust on-premises as a result of a flawed security program.

Comes now promotion by a respected and widely-read trade publication heralding new technology that can help us reach our stated goal of 100% container inspection. Take off your rose-colored specs, guys. It's just more sizzle, with no steak.

All is not lost (but could be if we cannot take new paths). There is in-container technology that can overcome many of today's shortcomings. Laws and regulations can be changed to plug the gaping holes in today's entry points. Detection can be conducted before dirty bombs are dockside at ports (sea, air, and land).

Can you believe that we are willfully ignoring these prospects? Sadly, I can.

Note: Some subject background was provided by Dr. Jim Giermanski, the renowned security guru.

Leave Me Alone; I'm Not A Leader!

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/03/2015 | 3:50 AM

Somehow, we have acquired the notion that leadership is something reserved for high priests, captains of industry, titans of technology, intergalactic supply chain executives, or other exalted beings breathing rarified air. Hello, Lee Corso: "Not so fast, my friend!"

We can all be leaders, wherever we are and whatever we are doing. In fact, we should be leaders at all times and in all places, if we aspire to, at the end of the day, lead. See, being a leader is not about being a boss, or the boss of all bosses.

It is about getting things done, using the talents of others. About persuading constituencies to at least consider, if not commit to, change. About creating and realizing transformational visions. About elevating good team members to great contributors, and belping all associates get better, and get better rewards and satisfaction.

Once the attibutes of successful sustained leadership are understood, they can, and should, be exercised in almost any situation: running a Girl Scout troop, chairing a volunteer group, heading a project team, managing a small organizational unit, whatever. Guess what? Demonstrated leadership accomplishment in these settings can yield personal reward and advancement faster and better than doing a solid technical job year after year.

So, study up, practice your techniques, hone the rough edges, and go out there and lead - every day, in every way.

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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