Archives for August 2015

Midnight In Buenos Aires

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/30/2015 | 6:24 AM

Tango is arguably the national sport of Argentina. Futbol involving Boca Juniors and River Plate is strong, but a distant second.

Tango clubs are musts for tourists, but are the real deal, favored with the presence of the mighty, including the occasional President. Fights break out when the merits of tango orchestras are debated, and tango musicians, notably bandoneonistas such as Astor Piazzolla, are worshiped as major deities.

And this relates to having fun at work and making work fun how? The Kid has surfaced once again with a concise expression of what's important.

On a recent trip to our local city market, he asked his Mom if they were going to stop for smoothies. As he put it, "There's no tango without my mango!"

Forget about well-intended tips for finding happiness in an otherwise stultifying job. Look for your mango, and you may well find your tango. If you don't find it straightaway, take another look; it's worth the search.

Look, the decision might be different during the depths of a recession. But in a rebounding economy, with desperate needs for genuine supply chain talent, you don't have to endure indentured servitude.

If your mango supply is depleted, or, worse, was never in stock, leave immediately for a reliable supply. At about a buck apiece, the investment in fun is de minimus, and the payoff is huge.

Now, get out there and tango. This is your Scent of a Woman moment.

Paying Forward; Paying Back: When Simple Thanks Are Not Enough

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/26/2015 | 6:00 AM

Regular readers will know that I am beyond fortunate to be alive today. Of course, every day of verticality is a plus among life's vicissitudes and uncertainties.

So, I participate in fund-raising for pancreatic cancer awareness, promote community and governmental understanding of the disease and needs for even marginal improvements in diagnosis and treatment, and, when asked, talk with affected individuals, their caregivers and families.

I am also on a one-guy crusade to stop calling people survivors, and to cowboy up and stop talking about "waging hope". We are not helpless victims; we are fighters and sometimes conquerors. It is time to wage war against this horrific killer, whether the medical bureaucracy is on board, or not.

I remain grateful to my gifted surgeon, who doffed his Gryffindor robes long enough to remove the offending tumor, to my phenomenal wife, an equally gifted and educated caregiver (sort of a 24/7 live-in PA), to our family, who rallied in support (even the younger grandchildren), and to all manner of strangers who offered prayers and good wishes throughout the adventure.

As my withered corpus recovered, semi-amazing things happened. Creativity in problem-solving and solution design reached an all-time high (imho). A passion for teaching, and provoking critical analysis, emerged from a slough of self-absorption. Writing, and either annoying or aggravating readers, became a consuming activity. Today, I grow more dangerous in my thinking with each passing day.

It's been a helluva ride, and I continue to thank all who set me free and turned me loose. Not least, Edward Scissorhands, MD, who finally fired me as a patient. After seven years of only normal aches and pains, he - in an excess of caution - could find no earthly reason to continue probing for a no-longer-existent condition. That was fine by me; I lived in mortal terror that he'd try one of those abducted-by-aliens probes when all else failed.

Burn, Baby, Burn!

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/23/2015 | 10:57 AM

The tired mantra, word from on high, is that—surprise, surprise—we are once again being expected to cheerfully do more with less. CEOs and CFOs never seem to tire of thinking that this rallying cry is a powerful motivator that will magically energize the sweat-drenched workforce.

Yes, we live—and should—thrive in a continuous-improvement environment. But the kaizen notion rests on an intelligent and focused set of improvements, not on pressing on until one drops from exhaustion. People at all levels in all roles are having the do-more anvil dropped on their feet regularly.

We are not alone. But, the universe of supply chain management is particularly afflicted with burnout, with extreme requirements to perform for the company and for customers, and to make up for the shortcomings of upstream partners.

Look, burnout is not simply a convenient excuse or a manifestation of fatigue. It is a chronic psychological condition, with manifestations of exhaustion, cyncism, and diminished job performance. It is not about being tired, even continually, but about having a terrible attitude, too. And the ultimate cause could be, not only workload and pressures to perform, but immersion in a toxic work environment, with no help from their leaders.

The conditions that nudge an individual closer to burnout include: too much work, too few resources, erratic workflow and volumes, lack of control or management of one's tasks and commitments, negative feedback without positive offsets, lack of overall recognition, unsupportive surrounding facilities and people, unfairness, lack of respect, favoritism, and compromised personal values.

How to put out the fire? Collaborate with like-minded colleagues, focus on possible correctives, hang with the positive and jettison the whiners to create new relationships, find and focus on meaning in your work, take breaks—shorter or longer—to gather yourself for recharging and refocus. When all else fails—and the odds are not favorable—change jobs within the company, or better yet change companies.

Burnout could mean that there is no reasonable way to do the job and have fun and fulfillment. Life is too short to confine yourself to residence in a cage.

Can't Buy Me Love

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/19/2015 | 9:43 AM

So sang the Beatles in the 1964 Lennon-McCartney (principally McCartney) hit single, which also appeared in the album, A Hard Day's Night. In the department of employee happiness, we find the premise to be stunningly true.

Research consistently shows that employees are simply not much motivated by wages alone, certainly not beyond the $70,000-$75,000 range. Some ascribe this to generational differences. Perhaps. But, what managers (largely baby boomers) fail to understand is another long-standing staple of research, the Herzberg Motivation Theory.

Herzberg divided factors into: 1) Hygiene, and 2) Motivators. Hygiene factors are made up of such things as: pay and benefits, policies, physical environment, status, supervision, and job security. Managers typically think these are motivators; they are not. In fact, they, subject to falling short of needs and expectations, are often demotivators. This is illustrated by the persistence of bad bosses as the principal cause of employee turnover.

Motivators are such factors as: achievement, recognition, responsibility, meaningful work, promotion, and growth. Going back a week or two, these are what introduce and maintain fun in work.

In summary, no, you can't buy me love. But, you can buy me an environment of role and relationship that leads to love - and it costs virtually nothing.

Timeless Values And The Hot Sardines

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/16/2015 | 7:35 AM

Returning to the importance of holding fast to practices, concepts, and values that have served us superbly for decades or more, while considering and integrating new truths for creating powerful business models (including supply chain management breakthoughs) for a new century … Consider the example of The Hot Sardines.

While you gasp, let me explain, as the song goes. We have passed through many generations of popular music evolution, along with the co-existence of several genres in each generation. From Nat "King" Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Janice Joplin, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Supremes, Michael Jackson, Madonna, et al, to Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and hundreds more. How much lasts, how much new will stick with us, how much will collapse overnight?

The same questions pop up with each new craze. How much explodes, how much is fireworks, how much stays on as a slow-burning and warming fire? The Hot Sardines may provide the toughest test yet.

Flash in the pan, or a revival of slow-burning embers? Some context: The Hot Sardines are dramatically leading a classic jazz revival, giving all due respect and full-tilt performance to the hot jazz of the '20s, '30s, and '40s. Big brass, dynamite rhythm, old-timey but new stride piano, and vocals channeled from another age.

Oh, yeah, and a tap dancer, who also plays washboard, and can tap with the best whether sitting on a chair or up and on his feet.

Somehow, the finished product sounds as if it had been written this morning, not a century ago, and the new twist and turns feel as if they have been there all along. That, my friends, is how things ought to be when the time-tested gets spruced up to meet new challenges—in life, in music, or in supply chain management.

btw, the Sardines' blow-the-doors-off signature piece is Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, the get 'em-outta-their-seats-and-on-their-feets breakthrough from Benny Goodman's legendary 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.

Check out both Benny and The Hot Sardines; you won't be sorry.  Just don't forget the supply chain message that makes knowing about them relevant.

Ain't We Got Fun?

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/12/2015 | 9:19 AM

In my eclectic readings, I recently lurched into a feature that dealt with how to restore fun- feeling good - into one's work. I am passionate - if you ain't havin' fun, you ain't doin' it right - about fun being one of the principal reasons for working. So, I was intrigued.

Then, depressed. Each and every recommendation was some feely-good, self-centered activity. Take a walk. Try a brief nap. Get a hobby. Adopt a pet. Smile more. Get off social media and get into social encounters. Sure.

Not crazy. But, what has that to do with work and the job itself? What is the outcome of feeling personally better? How are customers, co-workers, the enterprise that provides sustenance better off because you are feeling okay? Do you really think that the company puts money in your pocket because you have achieved some sort of Zen state?

In the real world of performance providing rewards, it is the job itself that holds the seeds of contentment, the knowledge that you have done your best, and that your efforts have made some positive difference.

There's the fun, having a purpose that is achieved, that makes life better for others, and makes your employer more successful. Bottom line. If your employer, leader, manager, and environment don't stimulate your positive motivation - and emotional well-being - run.

Run like the wind. No number of yoga positions and unconditionally loving pets can bring you deep and true happiness if you are doing the breast stroke in a septic tank.

Lethal Panhandling

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/09/2015 | 7:18 AM

Overwhelmed as we are with ceaseless funding requests each election cycle, I could not help but think of those who pretend to be homeless and hungry as they approach each stopped car at high-volume intersections.

Of course, these are professional beggars, with proprietary territories to protect. They'll perform open heart surgery on interlopers with any rusted sharp object at hand. How different are politicians of any party affiliation? Not much.

They have the effrontery to ask us to pay to protect the turf from wich they practice humbuggery and confidence games on the rest of us. And they really don't care about our well-being.

The current crop of frauds refuses to find ways to fund the very infrastructure of our economy, the highways that make the movement of goods possible. Why should they care about us and our jobs? They already have secure jobs, made possible by our gullible payments of tribute - not to put them in a position to help us and the nation, but to arm them to fight off any threats to their job security.

They can only fall from grace for misadventures with interns or unusual relationships with underage farm animals. No only do they not care about our individual and collective economic well-being, they have no interest in whether we live or die.

They, for example, avoid directing existing Federal dollars toward solving the fourth-leading cause of cancer deaths, soon projected to rise to the Number Two spot. Why? Not enough votes involved - the prospects are already dead.

Consider these realities in daily life and in supply chain management when you receive the next solicitation, not to solve our desperate problems, but to keep someone else away from the feeding trough (where they would not solve the problems, either).

Kiss Me, Cait?

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/05/2015 | 8:46 AM

Full disclosure:  The Kid has not, and never will, watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians - even when he is old enough for his own Kredit Kard.  Nor is the nascent Caitlyn Jenner reality show on his DVR playlist.

But, he did watch the ESPYs.  His take?  "It would take the courage of five hundred men to do that!"

So, while a cohort of old pros harrumphs its way toward the shuffleboard courts, a newer generation (newer than the maligned Millennials, entitled slackers in the eyes of many) takes it all in stride and keeps moving toward the next objective.

There are some takeaways from all the sideshow aspects of this scenario.  One is that our world is filled with timeless truths, which we should treasure and keep in mind as change swirls about our ankles.  Another is that some new developments are both inevitable and desirable in the long haul.

Our challenges, in any dimension of work or life, remain to avoid embracing the new just 'cause it is the latest, but not to hesitate to incorporate the genuinely valuable into our daily routines - and to hold fast to the bedrock foundation of core values and processes, without blindly continuing to excel in the manufacture of buggy whips.

LGBT presence and acceptance?  Emerging recognition of transgender reality?  Political correctness?  Understanding that diversity is not remotely close to inclusion, and that we will not be permitted respite until inclusion is commonplace?  Get over it!

In life, in work, in affairs spiritual, in supply chain management, in business relationships, in crowded elevators, in everyday encounters, it is time to grow up. 

Those who may seem "different" are critical parts of the talent gap solution, and are worthy of - not merely acceptance or tolerance - but of full embrace, without reservation. 

Gee, even The Kid has figured that out.

Don't Mess With The Talent — Redux

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/02/2015 | 9:22 AM

Taylor Swift, who might, in another age, have been characterized as "that little gal," recently brought titanic Apple Music to its knees. Executing a nifty 180, the streaming service agreed to pay the artists whose work it was playing, while it pursued the crafty maneuver of a free trial to eclipse the competition.

Good on ya, Taylor — another powerful demonstration of the folly if disrespecting those whose efforts make enterprises rich. You may choose another verb beyond "mess" more to your style and liking, but treating the shining stars as simply more hired help has proven over and over to be limiting at best, and disastrous at worst.

Meanwhile, back at the supply chain train, the talent wars rage. Can't get 'em; can't keep 'em; can't make 'em happy. And yet some  too many — are all too ready to treat their show horses like candidates for the glue factory, confident that there are plenty more out there, just like them, all willng to sell themselves short — and on the cheap.

Or, they may conduct thinly disguised reverse auctions, seeking disposable human capital ar the lowest imaginable wage. Never mind the hidden costs of inevitable turnover, diminished quality, sagging throughput and diversion of real talent into reworking the dreck produced by the lowest common denominator.

Wake up, Ebenezer! That may have worked in the depths of the Great Recession, if only briefly. But, no more. Squeezing costs out of wages is a sure-fire way to ravage prospects for future success. Learn to leverage the contributions your talent can make — or turn over the reins to a real leader.

And, for the wanna-bes out there, be sure that you are actually 21st-century talent before you mke your play. Today's coveted supply chain professional is required to walk and chew gum at the same time, executing the basics and keeping the business perspective front of mind at all times. Twenty-five years as a drone, and a hankerin' for the good ol' days, will not unlock any doors you really want to go through. Nor mark you as a franchise player.

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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