Archives for October 2015

Bam! Our Leader Shoots Hisself (Or Herself) In The Foot.

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/28/2015 | 11:13 AM

Well, it can happen. Perfection and omniscience are fantasies, delusions. Harbored primarily by wanna-be leaders who are not willing, or emotionally capable, of putting in the hard work of leadership.

The supply chain management circus still contains a number of these often earnest bosses who have become wedged into the 21st-century square peg/round hole trap. The more they squirm in an attempt to escape, the easier it is to become even more tightly gripped.

Even those who are mostly on-board can make leadership blunders, which undermine and discredit all the good things they have done. Successful leaders avoid, according to the very perceptive Leadership Freak, these self-sabotaging behaviors.

Believing that others see you the way you see yourself. Blind spots make you less credible, and checkpointing the mesh of your perspective and theirs is essential to effective communications.

Forgetting how your power influences how people behave, communicate, and trust you. You are probably not ever getting the plain and simple truth from associates.

Relentlessly winning every debate/discussion, and controlling every decision. You will create low-energy performers, who shut down, back down, and quiet down. Your strength weakens the team or group - and its outcomes.

Always speaking first and most often. Now, your associates sense that they need your permission to speak, so they go along to get along with meander along results.

Giving staff and team too many options, and making too few decisions (and not making them timely. This is not empowerment; this is avoidance and procrastination - not hallmarks of leaders on the rise.

So, how to you stay out of these pools of quicksand, or minimize their incidence?

Actively and continuously ask for feedback - straight talk, tough love, respectful candid evaluations.

Aggressively seek out and cultivate associates with insight and the courage to speak. Go outside the organization, if necessary.

Give control to trusted others whenever you are tempted to seize it. Draw out, even if awkward and initially painful, the opinions, observations, and assessments of others; live inclusion.

Pose questions with quantitative and specific content instead of giving marching orders and getting the followers aligned.

Invest in developing staff and associates, in functional skills, in new concepts, in interpersonal capabilities. Make them better; make them future leaders.

And, above all, always keep your cool. Be rationale, dispassionate, empathetic, focused, fair, and firm. (And, apologize for blunders and admit error whenever appropriate.)

Do You Have To Be A Space Alien To Probe Earth People?

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/25/2015 | 10:21 AM

There's a tough, tight band playing in The Greater Chicagoland Area these days, Just South of Heaven (JSOH). Focused on the sounds of country and Americana, the immensely talented Heather Wood does lead vocals. This ginger powerhouse will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you sing along.

If all you do is knock back a couple of pitchers of warm Hudepohl and crawl to your car, you'll never know that Heather is also the motivated, energized, organized driver who makes all kinds of good things happen at world headquarters of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP). On the obverse of the coin, if all you have done is hassle Heather over arrangements for the Council's Annual Global Conference, you'll have no clue what it feels like to be transported to another place in another time through the music of JSOH.

Translate this concept to your workspace and your workplace. Whether you are a senior executive, a manager, a line supervisor, a group leader, or a working associate, get to know the people around, over, and reporting to you on a little deeper basis. Understand what moves them, what makes them tick, what gives them a tic. Unearth their desires, their aspirations, their hopes for life and career.

Then, to whatever extent you can, help them. Help them develop the skills they'll need to reach their dreams. Give them opportunities to learn and succeed. Publicize their accomplishments. Go to bat to take obstacles to achievement and execution out of their way.

Maybe you'll discover a hidden yearning to uncover secrets buried deep in data. Perhaps a buyer would like to move into logistics execution. A Customer Service rep might be motivated to apply core skills in communications and relationships in helping manage suppliers and contracts, or service providers. A hands-on do-er might be ready for a crack at managing a project. Or, in a wild burst of seeking outlets for expression, someone might want to entertain—on stage, in a band, whatever.

You'll never know how the person might benefit from your understandings, or how much your organization might profit, until and unless you ask—and invest just a little time in working with people as people, rather than as chess pieces to be moved about the board.

OK, it's probing. It's what real leaders—and people who will someday be leaders, too—do.

The Hits Just Keep On Comin' . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/21/2015 | 1:19 PM

In this case, the hits are body blows to those supply chain (actually to all) leaders who persist in making people decisions based on assumptions that were dead wrong, even when everyone thought they were right. Despite all evidence to the contrary - not just anecdotal glimmers, but rigorous analytics - these anachronism are still staggering around the ring, upright and going through the motions, but on the cusp of being revealed as used-to-was bosses just about to topple, never to fight at the top level again.

Talent Culture recently spoke to what truly motivates workforces. Once again, a solid 2014 survey validated study after study done over the past thirty years that should hit those managers operating on auto-pilot smack between the eyes with the news that thay are watching the wrong ball - again and still.

See, the lackey bosses think that what really matters to the simple-minded, limited-vision working class are: money (decent wages), job security, and promotions (titles). Think about it. If your biggest complaint is that workers will leave for a measly dime an hour, it might mean that something bigger and deeper is wrong.

If the job is rewarding, and the team is compatible, and the boss is genuine, no one will leave for a dime. Unless the workforce is so underpaid that they can't feed a family.

Job security is, of course, in the modern world non-existent. It can't be promised or sustained, so what's the point of making people decisions with security as a "motivator"?

And, promotions? In an age of flatter organizations, matrixed working relationships, and cross-functional teams? Get real! The workforce already understands that 21st-century work and success are not defined by moves up an invisible ladder.

What people really want, and have for decades, even generations, are: appreciation, being "in" on things, and an interest and understanding of them as individuals with problems, aspirations, and ideas.

Today's workforces are about team or group performance and success, not Darwinian competition. They want opportunities to grow - in skills, in responsibilities.

Those managers who think that cash equals motivation need re-education - or another role in life. Ditto those who think that cash can make up for shortcomings in the areas people genuinely care about.

You think not? Check it out. Get to know your workforce on an honest individual basis first.

Then ask them.

Sometimes Band-Aids Just Ain't Enough

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/18/2015 | 12:55 PM

The sweet harmonies of First Aid Kit were featured on one of Dave Letterman's final shows. The Swedish sisters were OK, but would not make me forget any of my personal favorites. They surfaced again on CBS' Saturday Sessions in August.

It's hard to argue with three albums, a maturing sound, and some continuing buzz. But, for me, there's nothing here that grabs a person by the throat and makes him twist and shout. First Aid Kit is, he muttered snarkily, more like two six-year old Band-Aids in the family truckster's glove box, useful to help level a wobbly table leg, but not much help with arterial bleeding.

Here in Supply Chain Central, we are in desperate need of something more than plastic strips, veterinary salves, and mustard plasters. We are afflicted, beset, and victimized by collapses above, below, and on all sides.

The highway/bridge infrastructure is a giant sucking wound. The technology infrastructure is a makeshift collage of old parts. Power/energy costs are apparently scheduled for a launch to Mars, as coal gets regulated into infeasible costs, and nuclear perishes slowly of EPA leprosy, dying in stages as plants shut down and die off.

Basically, we are trying to save our globally competitive lives with two dried up Band-Aids. Good luck with that.

Is there a real doctor in the house?

Challenging Authority; Speaking Truth To Power

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/14/2015 | 6:57 AM

Like it or not, people in authority, sitting in seats of power, make the big decisions, make the tough calls, decide who gets raises, bonuses, promotions, and put others in positions in which they can succeed, fail, or disappear.

How they got the power, who gave it to them, whether they are capable, and what kind(s) of power are involved is a discission for another day. For now, deal with it. They carry the biggest sticks.

In the end, to get what you want and need, and what's best for the organization, depends almost entirely on your ability to succeed with them on an individual level. So, what are the key points? For some insight, I have adapted great input from the very popular Leadership Freak to frame up how to be on their team, and how to get them on yours.

1. Add value, not complaints. Make (and publicize) positive and measureable/observable contributions every time out of the gate.

2. Respect and observe their value definitions and priorities. Your values may not be at all the same as theirs.

3. Align with their goals—and help achieve them. Until then, your goals are meaningless.

4. Use their time carefully, sparingly and to defined purpose.

5. Cloak as much communication as possible in data. Facts and figures matter exponentially more than your opinion—or hope.

6. Disagree aggreeably, with respect, and not so often as to dilute the impact.

7. Always proffer alternatives for a course that carries undue risks of failure; opposition alone is an invitation to a bloody brawl—and you cannot puch above your weight.

8. Get on the team and work cohesively, especially when you have disagreed with the decision process. There are no protections for a sore loser who sulks in the corner.

9. Be the first to propose how things can be made to work; let those with lesser career aspirations sing in the chorus of those who endlessly find ways that things can't work.

10. Don't waste or devalue their political capital; it's theirs and you have no claim on it. Your failures and your shortcomings silently use it up.

11. Keep your head; don't feed your emotions. Be cool, be dispassionate in the face of obstacles. Never let 'em see you sweat.

12. Serve others; demonstrate potential for servant leadership. Stay out of the fiefdoms and silos business; it's an overcrowded field.

There you have it. A cure-all? No! But, practicing these points is a terrific start on tilting the playing field in your direction.

Never Underestimate The Power . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/11/2015 | 12:16 PM

Back to CSCMP's AGC for a moment . . .

One of Track IV's energizing and inspirational sessions was a panel, led by Nancy Nix, devoted to AWESOME and the possibilities for women in supply chain careers.  We have come a long way, baby, since the days when SCM was physical distribution and Traffic Managers - all men - were fat, mostly bald, loosely principled and reeked of cheap whiskey and cheaper cigars as they exchanged loads of freight for tribute of various forms.  Booze, hams, and stogies were the currency of that not-so-long-ago age.

Today, the emerging face of the profession is frequently feminine, and the talent equation is heavily skewed toward the smart and the tough.

Mijn vrouw maintains that the future may be predicted by observing children of any generation.  The boys are slow, follow circuitous routes, may never arrive, are easily distracted by shiny objects, and are prone to punching and arm wrestling when they think they have arrived.

Girls, in contrast, walk with purpose, pursue objectives, maintain focus, and develop evolving strategies on the fly.  In short, they are serious when it is time to be serious.  And don't care who thinks singlemindedness is a sign of something other than the taken-for-granted qualities of maternal nurturing.

Contemplate the contrast.  Are bowling, da Bearss, and Hot Tub Time Machine fantasies really more important than solving problems, knocking down barriers, going the extra mile to satisfy a customer, and making those around you better?

If the answer is not self-evident, perhaps a career in pulling sodas at the nearest Jack in the Box drive-through is a more appropriate life choice.

Zinn And Tonic

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/07/2015 | 8:14 AM

Walter Zinn, the astute supply chain professional who leads the Marketing and Logistics Department in Ohio State's Fisher School of Business was recently quoted extensively in Supply Chain Management Review magazine. He carefully led us through the maze of attempting to balance industry's need for training with the contextual education in critical thinking, core concepts, and practical adaptations of learning to different - and changing - environments and situations.

The issue is, indeed, a challenge. We need people who know how to execute functions. We are also desperate for analytic capability and big-picture visions and thinking. We further need 21st-century empathetic situational leaders.

And, turning out young people who can match up with the full spectrum of needs is probably impossible, and outside the models, paradigms, and range of individual educational institutions.

My own take is that C-level powerhouses throughout industry want it all, and are perhaps disappointed that top-tier universities are not taking on the vo-ed aspects of functional training. To be blunt, spoiled by talent too frightened to jump ship during the Great Recession, they want someone else, besides them, to train people at all levels, and someone else to pay for it.

Opinion: The universities aren't going to dilute resources by doing operational-level job training, the vocational institutions may try to train and do a slap-dash educational job on the critical thinking and contextual issues, and the in-between facilities may struggle with identity and focus, finally siding with where the money is.

Two things should be clear at this point. One, we need to develop cooperative programs among the institutions involved to determine who does what, where, and when - in alignment with industry needs. These should be local initiatives, responding to local market demands - definitely not national (e.g., Federal) programs or requirements.

Two, for industry, there must be a general realization that the free lunch cart has left the building. They could get away with low-to-no training when chaos, confusion, and doubt kept the workforce shackled.

Starting now, those enterprises that choose to not invest in initial training, and skills upgrades and maintenance, will be left with the dregs, and perform competitively accordingly. Both organizations and individuals will prosper as we restore business-relevant personal development to its natural role in attracting and retaining the best.

Companies need to choose their paths and strategies now, if they want to stay ahead of Pamplona's raging bulls.

Take A Ride On The Bi-Polar Express

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/04/2015 | 7:22 AM

It doesn't seem to take much to derail me from the manic exhilaration of the perpetual joyride. There is no thrill in the plunging descent into a depressed perspective of surrounding developments. Here's where we seem to stand (with no particular political position implied or intended).

The American health care system has been cast into confusion and costly mandated paths. People have lost access to trusted physicians, despite promises otherwise. The middle class has been bushwhacked into skyrocketing health insurance coverage costs, and forced to accept insurance for which they have no need, given age or circumstance. Those without health insurance largely continue without.

The Department of Veterans Affairs cannot provide adequate, or promised, services to veterans, especially in health matters, and lies about the condition.

The IRS claims to need more money to track down tax cheats, or punish the mostly innocent offenders - and lies about it.

Homeland Security has created an army of incompetents whose apparent mission is to make things difficult for Presbyterian grandmothers at airports - and now require a small fortune (OK, a large fortune) to be retrained.

The military, in general, is being reduced at a time at which we face more peril than ever before - and we cannot muster enough recruits to meet even reduced targets.

Our tax rates put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining business headquarters (or profits) in the US - and some see business as an endless source of new government revenue.

Channeling Vonnegut, and so it goes . . .

Meanwhile, no one seems to have the mother wit or the courage to figure out how to keep our physical infrastructure from falling down around our ankles - to maintain highways, to save bridges from collapse, to create capacity for traffic volumes. And, the railroads are required to fund their own build and maintenance needs. All this while well-intentioned intellectual knuckleheads promote passenger rail solutions that would be excellent in Switzerland, but not so much in places like the US, Canada, and Australia.

Then, there is the rush to promote solar energy to the exclusion of other alternatives, and accelerating the collapse of traditional energy sources, which creates artificial drop-deadlines for the adoption of high-cost, low-efficiency alpha and beta versions of newer technologies.

All of this has profound impact on the performance and cost of supply chain execution. On our people.  On our incentives to build businesses.

Our lives are not about to get any easier, but our attention will be diverted by additional regulation and penalties, no doubt.

Paradise Lost; Paradise Regained

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/02/2015 | 11:28 AM

It is admittedly a hardship tour, having to go to San Diego while storms build up in the Atlantic, and Putin fiddles while Obama burns.

But, this year was a powerful reminder of why we attend CSCMP's Annual Global Conference in highly desirable venues, then sit in learning settings all day rather than partake of the several sun-drenched delights available to "normal" tourists. We did, it is true, mightily enjoy assorted canapes and sufficient potables to reach a Zen-like state of tranquility while promenading on the USS Midway's flight deck on Saturday. And observing fireworks while enjoying a late dinner on another night was a nice touch.

But, the real draw was the content of knockout General Sessions, stimulating mega-sessions, and sixteen tracks chock full of content, advice, cautionary illustrations, and teachable moments. And nearly 3,000 attendees from all around the planet took full advantage of these offerings, staying tethered to the friendly confines of San Diego's very fine convention center.

It's this simple: if you go only to one supply chain event in any given year, this is the one to attend. It is worth pushing hard to get your organization to send you. And too much happens in our speed-of-light changing world to go only every two or three years.

The Council, I confess, does not always get everything exactly right. That is one consequence of never quitting in the quest for continuous improvement, always trying something new. Learning from experience, there will be changes next year and the year after - and the year after that. And, the event will keep on getting better.

I hope to see you in Orlando next year. It'll be better than ever.

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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