Archives for July 2015

Diversity vs. Inclusion - Take Your PIck?

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/29/2015 | 9:03 AM

Difficult as it is to imagine on some particularly dark days, we are, in the collective, becoming more diverse in our institutions, corporations, social groups, and backyard barbecues. So, the government, and social engineering arbiters, and political correctness overseers take heart. Then, they update the scorecards to document that goals and targets (i.e., quotas) are being met, or are, given continuing progress, within striking distance.

How can one argue with that? And, in fact, diversity is a desirable first step. But, it is not the last step; those climbing up are not yet standing on the front porch. What is missing is inclusion.

How so, you ask? Time to get real. Diverse people get slotted for positions and tasks that reflect vestiges of old prejudices, which have seeped into leaders, managers, and colleagues as unconscious bias. Sometimes these are negative; sometimes they are positive; always they are dangerously wrong.

Not all with Asian physical characteristics are actually Asian, and they are not all mathematical geniuses. Not all persons of color in white coats are lab techs or admitting clerks; many are physicians. Not all dark-skinned persons with vaguely French accents are Haitian - not nearly. People from the Asian sub-continent are not equally divided among 7-11 franchisees and India Institute of Technology graduates.

Additionally, in the supply chain world, immigrants and others we might classify as "other" are not destined by limitations of birth to do only the dirty and back-breaking jobs, or the mindlessly monotonous.

News flash! They can think, solve problems, improve processes, lead teams, facilitate meetings, supervise others, obtain degrees and certifications, and work with suppliers, customers, and corporate counterparts. In a shocking development, some organizations have discovered that they can be marvelously effective CEOs and Board members.

That is, if we can genuinely include them in the business, rather than merely make sure that they are making our diversity numbers look good.

The "they" are also proving to be fierce entrepreneurs, not just operating taco trucks, but building successful small businesses in all fields, and creating the jobs our nation so badly needs. Many of these businesses are local and regional players in the supply chain space.

And, our magnificent profession is full,of leaders who have emerged from an immensely diverse talent pool. However they began their supply chain journeys, they are today included - they are too good to ignore or pigeonhole, or become simply statistics in the great game of political correctness.

Think about those realities as you contemplate how to elevate and energize your supply chain workforce - and how to turn the requirement for diversity into an opportunity for excellence.

Aww, Not The Basics Again

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/26/2015 | 7:45 AM

La Diva, The Kid's older sister, constant nemesis, and resident drama queen, made her public singing debut with The Star-Spangled Banner six or seven years ago. No Itsy-Bitsy Spider or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for her; she went for it all first time out.

In the ensuing years she has grown enormously, artistically speaking. Her theater (mostly musical) experience has included, Les Miz, Fancy Nancy, Into The Woods, The Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Annie, Shakespeare's As You Like It, and others.

She opened local ceremonies on Memorial Day with, of course, The Star-Spangled Banner. Does that mean that there's been no progress, that she's limited to what she first did? Not at all. The depth, maturity, and emotion of the 2015 version are worlds beyond the raw talent of v.1.

But, going back to the basics lets her assess both progress and potential. She also gets to process feedback, how audiences react and respond to what she is communicating under the cloak of poetry, a tune, and a magnificent set of pipes.

And, it reminds her of the meaning that transcends mere lyrics and music. (She, btw, calls me each November 11, happy to thank me as a veteran on that day and not commemorate me as a loss at the end of May.)

Our work, most days, is not as serious as the business of defending liberty, and not so hazardous as to put us in harm's way. But, we can benefit immensely from revisiting the basics, checking in to see how things have - or have not - changed, evaluating how we have raised our personal performance bars, considering where we want to set our next targets and objectives - and gauging how we are impacting others.

Think so?

PS: La Diva's first National Anthem brought down the house, a little girl improbably inspiring a roaring, stomping, cheering crowd of patriotic Cuban-Americans. Her latest brought tears to the eyes of those who had come to remember and pay tribute, those who had served, those who had lost fathers, brothers, and sons. It's not a matter of which is/was better; it's how she met the needs and hopes of different audiences. Maybe there's another lesson in that for us, as well.

PPS: She's 14 now.  Who knows how powerful she will be when she grows up?

Perils And Pitfalls In Vertical Integration

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/22/2015 | 7:19 AM

The Kid, having made long strides in the pursuit of culinary competence, even excellence, expressed compelling interest in learning to hunt - to extend his control over the food chain. His chosen mentor, Uncle Slick (certainly not me), signed up, and his Mom provided some useful preparation and counsel.

That exercise helped bring matters into focus. She explained that, in hunting, the obligations are to kill with respect, and to eat what is killed. The objective is, therefore, not the kill, but provision.

The Kid dismissed rabbit at once. Too small, and outside his range of taste, to date. Deer were out of the question. Venison has not yet made it to his most-favored protein list, and they are by far too graceful and beautiful. The "aha" question erupted without warning. "Where are we going to find cows in the wild?"

While trying to capture a mental image of a herd of feral cattle somewhere in the vast hinterlands of flyover country, I also pondered the come-uppance of recent university graduates as they took seats in real jobs in real corporations.

Where would they find the gritty, sweaty counterparts of the neat and tidy supply chain resilience cases they had mastered in their courses of study? How would a 300-pound IBT driver respond to their artfully crafted solutions to transport challenges and constraints? When would their 30-year veteran bosses buy into their outside the box concepts for radical inventory management?

So, we all face disruptive interruptions to our logic train schedules when theory meets practice whether we are The Kid in pursuit if a singular objective, or we are the kids who have just arrived in site, with intentions to change the world as it has been known.

The theory is vital grounding in concept, make no mistake. But, it is up to us to figure out how to translate theory in order to transform practice for a better tomorrow.

The Kid's solution? Go after boar; it is more or less like pig and pork, even if the hams don't spring forth fully sugar-cured.

Dashing Hopes And Dreams

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/19/2015 | 1:50 PM

Political opposition is inordinately fond of reminding its foes that "Hope is not a strategy." This admonition is completely bipartisan, with both sides hurling hope bombs at one another - and sometimes causing collateral damage with intra-party squabbles and random sniping. We are surrounded by evidence of the wisdom of this admonition—in any number of venues.

In politics, in government, in business, in personal lives, the kiss of death is the phrase "we can only hope …  ." The next caress of the Spider Woman is the supposition chain, as in "if A then B; if B and C occur soon enough, there is a chance that D; with D in place, no reasonable foe would continue the fight" and so on.

We, of all professionals, cannot afford the luxury of hope, or the false security of a string of "ifs." Too many jobs are riding on the outcome (including our own); too much is at stake in corporate performance and profitability; too much depends on sustaining high levels of customer engagement; and too many people and organizations are depending on our ability to get them what they want and need, when and where they want it.

So, more than hope is demanded of us. Further, dreams do not constitute accomplishment. Moving on to Step Two simply because we had planned for Step One to be complete is not even up to the standard of folly. Assuming that Step One is actually complete just because it was supoosed to be (or because it was on track when last we checked, three weeks ago) is a shortcut to a suspiciously brief entry on one's resume.

Get a grip! Hopes and dreams are for off hours, for recreational time, for speculative contemplation. They can play no part in documenting, reporting, communicating, or decision-making. Those all require—not need or want, require—plans, mitigations, resources, actualities, results, facts, and data.

Anything less starts to resemble a cannabis-fueled stream of random snippets.

Readin' Reading And Writin' Writing

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/15/2015 | 1:28 PM

We once had an employee whom we suspected might be illiterate. He seemed to understand everything, but his work was error-riddled. Such matters lead to uncomfortable and delicate coaching sessions, which test leaders and managers in their attempts to balance humane considerations with the genuine needs of the business.

Queried gently, the problem child confessed that "I can read readin', but I cain't read writin'." In the day, we could accommodate such a disability with carefully printed instruction and constant vigilance. A bit later, we could quietly enroll a willing participant in a literacy program. Today, the gap might involve a bridge too far.

Genuine literacy is a minimum requirement; the strong back-weak mind model that dominated our field a generation ago is out. Today's supply chain execution functionary must be tech-savvy, business-aware, communications-adept, and flexible in the extreme. And, the bar will get raised with every passing year.

The challenge for individuals and their personal skills development is staggering, given how simple our lives used to be. The impact on enterprises is make-or-break. We, all of us, must be ready to do more, better, smarter, and effectively - all at lower cost and higher quality. Readin' reading will be mere table stakes in an increasingly braver new world.

Where it might all end provides a daunting set of speculations.   We are already on the road to displacing low-skill individuals with increasingly compelling business case justifications for automation.  Remaining jobs will be even more demanding in literacy and numeracy basics, augmented with more comprehensive understanding of how businesses operate - and meet greater economic needs in society.

The prospect of a growing and more entrenched economic underclass is not encouraging . . .

Keep On Truckin'

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/11/2015 | 7:56 AM

I must be on to something. Even the Huffington Post, often wrong and not fazed by irrelevance, has now featured a blog that echoes one of my fears for what, how, and when catastrophe follows calamity.

We are, I submit, gonna wring our hands incessantly about the crippling shortage of long-haul over-the-road drivers that will impose horrendous constaints and limitations on the levels of supply chain performance that: 1) we have come to expect, and 2) are critical to commerce. And then, we will awaken one morning to find ourselfes awash in unemployed drivers, with middle-class lifestyles and no income to maintain them.

One of the final bastions will fall in the inexorable death march that eliminates middle-class status for hard-working high school graduates without special skills, experience, and education for a technology-dominated world. As Huffington huffs, self-driving trucks will not ever get tired, succumb to the allure of crystal meth, or demand a raise or a holiday. A shipper's dream, for sure.

The HR community may be taken by surprise as we figuratively drive off a cliff. The academic cohort will surely find itself increasingly challenged. Today, they live in a bifurcated world, with high-concept programs spanning interests from getting a BS degree and getting out, through obtaining greater knowledge and greater specialization at a Master's level, to amassing arcane and secret knowledge and joining the elite cognoscenti of PhDs.

At another point on the spectrum, they are scuffling to deliver what is essentially vocational education for basic supply chain execution functions, which are all staring at long-term vulnerability to technology advancement.

Meanwhile, and in the near term, we need all of these we can get. What we all need is additional education to take us - and them - through the transition from today to tomorrow.

Think so?

Engaged? Or, Just Dating?

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/08/2015 | 1:08 PM

A recent feature article in Warehousing Forum was devoted to the importance of employee engagement. The advantages to the employer - and to the employee, for that matter - are manifold.

Engagement engenders loyalty, which, in turn, attracts candidates of quality. Engaged individuals tend to have high work life quality and balance, with positive lifestyles. They can understand and buy into enterprise missions and goals. They create improvements, and work with a personal sense of purpose.

A 2014 Gallup research study has disclosed that only 32% of employees are fully engaged, with 18% completely disengaged. The averages might be a touch misleading; my anecdotal experience suggests lower full engagement and considerably higher disengagement. They go on to report that ztraditionalists are the most engaged generation at 42%, with millennials trailing the the pack at 29%. Baby Boomers and Gen X fall in between. Some will shrug, and suggest that no one should be surprised at the slackers' low ranking.

My own take is a 180 degree turn of the numbers. I believe that the data are really telling us thst Traditionalists and Boomers are terrible leaders and managers. They are perpetuating the sins of the past, and insulting the smartest, most creative, and most motivated by making a difference generation in our history.

Hand over the keys, guys. You can't handle the bells and whistles the new generation brings to the workplace.

Nota bene: I use the term "guys" with deliberation.  The past generations have been overloaded with traditional males in traditional roles, using traditional techniques.  The advent of more females in leadership roles, bringing more enlightened perspectives and more flexible people skills, is more recent.



Cry Freedom!

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/04/2015 | 5:40 AM

This day, we observe the watershed of a brave stand by wise patriots who freed us from the yoke of subjugation to a disconnected king in a distant land. It took an assymetric war, an ineffective false start, and reset button to craft a document that defined what our version of freedom is - and is not.

For all these we are grateful to, like it or not, a bunch of dead white guys. Their ideas and creation proved capable of rational extension to make sure that women and people of color - all colors - had a place in our big tent of a democratic republic. For those who object to the notion, please research the differences between a republic and a democracy, and the inherent unfairness, dangers, and weaknesses in the latter.

We might argue that our greatest freedom is one of speech. The freedom to call out leadership that does not lead, to savage those too weak to invest in the infrastructure that is critical to our future welfare, to criticize those afraid to adequately fund highway maintenance and construction through a use-based tax or fee, to withold votes from panderers who squander taxpayer money on bridges to nowhere or railway stations without passengers in the mis-appropriated name of investment, to force out the dim bulbs who harass business travelers and Mother Teresa in the name of national security, and to outright fire the numbskulls who invent costly security inspections that even third-world minions laugh at.

There are, of course, other freedoms, each and all important, beyond the immediate concerns of the supply chain community, and we are grateful for those, as well. And, we salute all who genuinely sacrifice in service to safeguard them.

The Plural Of Anecdote Is Not Data

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/01/2015 | 8:24 AM

The Kid rocked me back on my heels a few weeks ago.  We've come to expect sagacity beyond his years and insights that ring true in life and in business.  But, his conclusions about a tragic death while in police custody, perhaps amusing in another context, illustrated a trap ready to spring itself on those who take comfort in wading through waves of Big Data in search of the next hidden secret.

The sad situation in Baltimore coincided with news that rat poison had been discovered in food served at New York's infamous Riker's Island.  The Kid leapt to the end game - a death while in custody was obviously the result of tainted food.

Baltimore provided a tough teachable moment, in outlining the world as it is and not the way we would like for it to be, with a history of a world that actually was, not the way we might wish it had been.  On the other side of the coin, reality then and now does not mean that the entire universe was/is evil and corrupt.  Neither do a few signs of progress, even big ones, indicate that all challenges are behind us, as we sing together in harmony.

From that comes the critical learning.  An event does not provide license to define a universe.  Nor do a few events, as might be found in daily life encounters or in a barn full of data.  However inadequate several events might be in "proving" a case, they can spur serious analysis of a valid quantity of genuine data.

Do not bet the farm on the strength of an anecdote, though; leave that ploy to the political classes.  And, don't go overboard based on the first wave of data, either.  Take the time and invest the resources to get behind the appearance of data and related conclusions. 

Compelling stories and tearful realizations are for Oprah.  In the supply chain management arena we have too much at stake to act on emotion - as well as to accept the conclusions of data with shaky foundations.



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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