Archives for November 2015

They're Still There, Doc!

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/29/2015 | 6:44 AM

The Kid attended his annual physical last week, and is at a stage at which having a female pediatrician is a blessing that generates increasing reservations. Examinations of the reproductive machinery do little to mitigate the tension.

At the moment of truth, The Kid acreamed out, "You don't have to do that! They're still there, Doc! I'd tell you if they weren't!"

In our world, the equivalent of The Kid's pediatrician might be a 25-year old savant masquerading as a big time consultant for one of the mega-firms. In any examination, our first impulse might well to shout out that they're still there, and that no touching, let alone probing, would be required.

Sensitivity is understandable, to be sure. But, it is all too easy for us to rationalize that things are okay, that those mysterious twinges are random quirks of the organizational anatomy, that everything that worked last year is both still in place, and still working just fine, thank you very much.

But, that unwelcome intrusion by a fresh set of eyes and a different view of the supply chain universe - not to mention familiarity with new technology and emerging best practices - might just be what nips a fatal condition in the budding early stages.

That's as true in pediatrics, geriatrics, and pulmonary or cardiac realms as it is in supply chain management. Be smart, starting now, and check in with your supply chain doctor.

Thanks, Again . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/25/2015 | 8:13 AM

So much to be thankful for, with, and about . . .

Mijn vrouw, gorgeous, funny, smart, a force of nature, a gifted health care professional, super-Mom, wise, uber-cook, the brains of the outfit, and my constant inspiration.

Our children, no longer kids, of course. Extra-bright, ambitious, talented, resilient, accomplished, motivated - and also funny as all get out. Their Mom's genes clearly dominate. Each is a winner in his or her own way, and in their own circumstances.

Grandchildren who mirror and model the best of our several parts; light up the room bright, funnier than any of us, talented beyond reason (more genes from other sources), caring, and insightful.

A magnificent profession to be a small part of, a collection of great minds making a difference every day - and sharing knowledge and experience gained the hard way with anyone who is looking for help.

A network of friends and friendly acquaintances who enrich the minutia of daily life.

A desperate publisher who tolerates rants, raves, bipolar swings, and intemperate opinions with grace and style - what a privilege to have a venue for free and random expression!

My health care team, world class, as well as tolerant of eccentricities.

No, it doesn't get any better than this, and I want it to never end.

Trustbusting In The Worst Way

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/22/2015 | 1:05 PM

The last great progressive in politics was, arguably, Teddy Roosevelt. Ol' Teddy was a pit bull when it came to breaking up the power of collective business interests.

How the progressive movement was hijacked by an academic intelligentsia, fell into thrall to global Marxism, and learned camouflage tactics to re-emerge as a benign modern force is another story for another day. But, we are not, for the moment, looking at capitalism run amok.

The trust that is taking, or should be, a significant share of mind, is the trust within organizations, and critical to business relationships involving customers, suppliers, and sundry service providers. And, trust outside the organization cannot, by definition, be sustained without a foundation of internal trust, with peers, with subordinates, and with chain of command superiors.

That internal trust is based on simple things - walking the talk, developing and elevating associates, keeping one's word, delivering promised results, and being consistent. Unfortunately, far too many modern managers (NOT leaders) act as if trust and its components are as optional and disposable as the staff about to be riffed into panicked impoverishment.

They lose, in the end, but human beings pay a terrible price in the meantime.

How are you doing in the walk the talk department? How far do your employees trust you? Your company? How much do you trust your peers? Your executive team?

Should you be someplace else, someplace with genuine values intact and active?

Tim Kight Comes To SCM

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/18/2015 | 2:26 PM

Who? What? A secret weapon in collegiate athletics?

In the past year, teams at The Ohio State University have won four national titles: football, wrestling, pistol, and rowing. A common denonimator? Tim Kight.

Tim Kight is a psychologist. His shtick? E + R = O. Those teams that buy in prove two things. One is that the singer might be more important than the song. That is, acceptance of the message is no sure thing without a marvelously effective messenger. Another is that those who accept, adopt, and embrace the message can play with greatness.

The equation is simple enough. Events plus one's Reactions equal the Outcome. Events happen. You cannot predict or control them.

The only thing you can control is the Reaction, how you handle the events. And that is what generates an Outcome - how you handle events.

OK, the core concept has been around for a long time, maybe well over sixty years. Kight just may be an extraordinary singer of the song. It's hard to argue with four national championships for the Ohio State adherents, especially in the face of so-so results from non-believers.

Hey, it works for us in SCM, too. We cannot control or predict random events. The only thing positive we can do is react within our capabilities - planning, containing, learning from, plugging the gaps, and using the challenge for motivation. How well we do those will create the best possible Outcomes.

Whether we are accomplishing the impossible in on-time and complete shipments, overcoming supplier bankruptcy, or managing transition to a new 3PL, we have the power to create best possible outcomes - by dealing with what to do versus what happened.

We can define and win our own national championships.

Ruckus At Toad Hall

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/15/2015 | 4:46 AM

Kenneth Grahame's classic, The Wind In The Willows, very nearly crashes and burns when the amiable, aimless, and wealthy - and imprisoned - Toad's manor is taken over by gangs of weasels and stoats. The unprincipled squatters looked out only for their own interests, and partied hearty all the livelong day.

Politicians of this later age may wonder how it is that they are held in such low esteem. I'll note that they are, with a few exceptions, weasels who occupy our nation's manor houses. They party, irrespective of party affiliation; they look out for their own interests. None of them can seem to do much but natter on about desperate needs to rebuild the national physical infrastructure (including pipelines).

While they are willing, in the aggregate, to spend the people's money (tax revenue) on almost anything that makes little sense, they refuse to invest in actually useful programs that could save lives, and more with each passing year.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. The 10th is World Pancreatic Cancer Day. Pancreatic cancer is the #10 cancer diagnosis in the US, and the #4 cancer killer; it is projected to become the #2 killer within a very few years. Things could get worse; it is linked to Type 2 diabetes, now approaching epidemic status.

The stereotypical anecdotes center around diagnosis, followed by death in a couple of months, and diagnosis, ending in death following grueling treatment in a couple of years.  But, the weasels in Washington refuse, year after year, to fund pancreatic cancer research the way they do breast, lung, colon, prostate, skin and other cancers. Why?

Too few votes involved. Virtually no survivors to march in parades. Too few grieving widows and tearful children to make up a power bloc. It took an uprising of sober, moral citizens (Mole, Badger, Rat) to take action while the weasels were drunk with power, among, one supposes, other things, to clean up and clear out Toad Hall.

I'm one, rare, conqueror and survivor. My small family and I are ready. Let's take care of business.  I get that we are supposed to play nice when entreating our entrenched political class for a little relief, but that is getting us where, exactly?

Weasels.  Take back Toad Hall!


Note: Wednesday's post was bizarrely out of sequence.  This was completely totally my error, cursed with fat thumbs and confused thinking.  The content remains valid, however, and appropriate when we stumble into the early morning hours of 2016.

Christmas In February

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/09/2015 | 9:06 AM

We've survived another holiday season, slightly bloodied by the PC Wars, and still limping a bit from tripping over a late-breaking demand surprise. Both popularly and within the supply chain profession, we talk about the coming crunch, the inavailability of transport capacity, and sundry seasonal issues.

What many of us forget, don't know, or pay little attention to is the actuality of how long the season really is. It is a convenient shorthand to focus on the movement of a humongous percentage of the year's business in the 30-60-day window around the holidays formerly known as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Being effective in-season, demands, though, very nearly year-round planning, preparation, and execution in a multitude of dimensions. See, the foundational processes need to begin immediately following the old season's close, building from the recently-experienced learnings involved.  It's not nearly just about corralling how ever many temp workers for a month or two.  That's important; what's more important is building the semi-permanent relationships with seasonal workforce resources, which is an on-going process.

But, you need to start figuring out how many you'll need come next season. Then, plan the hiring ramp, and design training, along with a plan to make the workforce ready to roll in time. Major new SKUs and product families must be understood months in advance. Space - forward picking and reserve - needs to be estimated and planned. Then, there is the question of whether you'll need a transition plan to clear out old season merchandise, and sequence the integration of high season goods.

More questions. Are your systems scalable for expected volumes? Will you need more automation and material handling equipment? Is there a need for pre-season temporary storage. What is the contingency plan for breakdowns, late inbound shipments, demand spikes. Is added recirculation capacity needed? How are order profiles likely to change?

The list could go on - and on. The point is: Make a comprehensive plan; fire-drill test it. Tweak processes months in advance of needs.

The price of failure is too great to put off the hard work of getting ready for the harder work.

Creative Or Clueless?

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/08/2015 | 7:15 AM

We, in the abstract, prize creativity. We applaud those who are brave enough to color outside the lines (providing they don't get too far beyond the boundaries). At least we do in many enlightened progressive organizations.

Other, more staid enterprises, falling farther and farther behind in the Great Game of Commerce, work overtime rooting out heresy and shunning the free spirits who break through the shackles of convention and mediocrity. It's a right brain/left brain thing, and the dextrous are emerging as winners in the longer term.

But, the grounded and perceptive non-conformists, if gifted with high EQ and motivated by sustainable success, know that they need—desperately—good soldiers who are laser-focused on staying on the path, and thrive on making sure that others toe whatever the line may be. They are so deep in the box that there is no chance of them thinking outside of it.

And, that's a good thing. (It is vital that others are not permitted to make fun of them; they are people, too, and have feelings.) That said, one must be careful to not confuse talented and committed conformists with the gistless, who surfaced in last week's blog.

They are the ones who aren't even in a box that they might think outside of. And, if they were and if they did, they would not realize their accomplishment in so doing. In short, not being in a box and deliberately getting outside a box are not at all the same thing. Send the not-in-the-box cadre off to your competitors, along with letters of recommendation.

Hey, Forrest Gump was only a movie; real life is not nearly so kind and serendipitous.

Alienation Nation

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/04/2015 | 12:20 PM

Entrepreneur recently published a few mission-critical Don'ts for leaders who really do not want to alienate their associates. For the moment, forget the Do's - perhaps, they are the opposite of the Don'ts.

As we hesitantly navigate the roiling waters of supply chain management, transforming ourselves into new-century models and becoming leaders rather than managers (or deputies making sure that no one on the chain gang escapes), we need to be sensitive to how fatal committing the Don'ts can prove to be. Master these issues, and you'll have both time, motivation, and incentive to work on other leadership behaviors.

Don't rely primarily, or worse, solely, on email to communicate. It gets ignored, misinterpreted, or into the wrong hands. Tailor communications, styles, media, and messages to the situation and to the audience(s).

Don't fail to build relationships with employees. You don't have to become BFFs, but you do need to understand what makes them tick.

Don't discourage feedback. Walk the walk of leadership. Have a forum for comfortable exchange. Demand, through behavior and technique (not direct orders), that truth be spoken to power.

Don't defer conflict resolution, not if winning respect has any value to your ambitions for the future. Coach, as needed. Excise, when the toxins must be purged.

Don't be anything but transparent; keep people in the loop and in on the plan - and on teams that can change the status quo, and the future. This is more important than pay and perks in establishing yourself as a leader - and keeping your best talent.

Are you noticing how different recommendations from different sources tend to converge on a few common core principles? Becoming a better supply chain leader relies on internalizing, keeping front of mind, and acting on the new models that can create new generation success.

Can't, Won't And Performance Management

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/01/2015 | 2:55 PM

Mijn vrouw, aka The Brains of the Outfit, recently identified a condition sometimes known as Clueless in Columbus, found among those who regularly don't get it. No matter how simple the concept, they just fail to grasp the gist of things.

These unfortunates she refers to as "the gistless". Our workplaces are full of the gistless, and they often baffle their supervisors, who are charged with making the right things happen - on time, under budget, and seamlessly.

A companion condition all too often is included in a package deal with gistlessnes, rendering the subject listless. In classical performance management parlance, these two are known as "can't do" and "won't do". "Won't do" can sometimes be overcome with a Big Gulp of motivation, but the odds are not encouraging, and a sugar high is no substitute, in the long run, for a genuine epiphany.

"Can't do" might be a matter of training, or of finding the right fit of skills and assignment, but can be limited if accompanied by "won't do". The leader's job is to figure out the won't do/can't do balance in the equation, assess and apply remedies and mitigations, and know when to let the afflicted sleep with the fishes.

I hope you got the gist of that . . .

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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