Archives for December 2015

Lose Weight, Quit Drinking, Go To The Gym

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/30/2015 | 10:02 AM

It's that time again. The time when we make solemn resolutions to do better in several dimensions, even while secretly knowing that we have an approximately 2% chance of following through and sustaining these annual pledges.

Opportunities and alternatives abound. Depending on where you are in your career, where you are in your organization, and where you are geographically, think about these kinds of things as you prepare to take on 2016 in a hand-to-hand struggle.

Find a mentor or advisor to help you plan and execute your next stage plans.

Pay it back by becoming a mentor for someone junior.

Get active in your local CSCMP Roundtable - attend, participate, become an officer, and lead. Find a way to attend the Annual Global Conference this year - no excuses.

Do more than your job; do it in the context of how it helps the business; do it in a way that makes you visible.

Build your personal professional network; don't wait until you need to find a job.

Balance family life with work demands.

And, yes, lose weight, stop drinking, and go to the gym. Your mind can't do its best if your body isn't at its best.

Purple Haze or Stairway to Heaven?

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/27/2015 | 6:30 AM

Relax, nothing involving the musician formerly known as some obscure symbol or Led Zeppelin will follow. But, you have certainly noticed that my early-onset ramblings do stray, and wander outside the carefully drawn lines of supply chain management and logistics, and trucks, and DCs, and all that.

The "Why?" of the matter is simple. Without context, we are nothing but beasts of burden, bearing heavy loads and heavier responsibilities in getting stuff from here to there, and into the hands of those who will use, apply, transform, or consume whatever it is. We are, then, simply costs to be managed, reduced, squeezed, or eliminated by any means necessary. So, we, to transform the scenery and elevate our roles in the grand drama of enterprise performance, must see, and be seen, as what we truly are: engines of success, and masters of high-payback investment, in nearly all aspects of leveraging talent, processes, assets, and opportunites for optimal return on investment, equity, and assets, and for sustainable profitability.

Further, we stand no chance whatever of rising to our potential without mastering the mission-critical tools of leadership and communications, in working with suppliers, customers, service providers, peers and colleagues, and the titans who sit in the C-level slots. In short, without full and complete attention to these non-SCM elements, we cannot be full and complete organizational business partners, or full and complete professional practitioners.

Ergo, my devious and not-so-secret tactics to keep on inserting such issues into the blog posts. Stay tuned. The fun will only continue. And, I really enjoy making people crazy by coloring outside the lines.

Sinter Klaas Is Comin' To Town

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/23/2015 | 9:45 AM

So, as you contemplate the possibility of treats in your carefully hung stocking, and face the probability of a lump of coal in the toe of the sock, consider what you have earned. Have you been naughty? Or, have you been nice?

And, either way, does it make a difference? Will your accomplishments be recognized, or have they sunk beneath the waves of urgency that threaten to swamp the ship that carries the important cargo that makes or breaks the future?

Is your organization one that lavishes bounty on all, irrespective of contributions to the profits and performance that make bounty possible - an indiscriminate, if jolly, old elf spreading joy and largess carried in a magical sleigh pulled by absolutely amazing reindeer?

What does either outcome portend for your future? If your efforts and outcomes are not proportionately rewarded, are there other factors that make a compelling case for staying where you are? If not, why are you still there?

You are nearing a decision point. Make one, and make it count.

Note: For those of other persuasions, Sinter Klaas, politically incorrect, is the Santa Claus of The Netherlands.  Worse, from a PC perspective, he is accompanied by a helper, Schwarze Piet.  The extraordinarily tolerant Dutch seem to live with the situation comfortably, though.  So, I'll continue to report history . . .

When Marketing Writes A Cheque That Supply Chain Can't Cash

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/20/2015 | 7:40 AM

OK, so we live in an era of immediate gratification, irrespective of urgency or need. Welcome to the omnichannel deluge of "I can name that tune in two notes" aka same-day/next-day/two-day delivery. Hey, retailers and carriers, we didn't ask for this; you shoved it down our chimneys. btw, now that we have it, don't even think about taking it away—if you value a future in B-to-C commerce.

The stage now set, it is time for disclosure. Mijn vrouw, with me as a willing accomplice, is more or less addicted to one particular online merchant. To protect the innocent let's call it Amazing Prime. Price—whether simply acceptable or jaw-droppingly compelling—aside, the speed and reliability of shipment is stunning—the ultimate differentiator. On rare occasions, we'll risk straying a bit from the true path. There are options—ToomuchStock, Jetspress, Gurgle, any number of traditional merchants trying to look cool for the Millennials.

Thus it was a couple of weeks ago, when we found the perfect birthday present for grand-daughter, La Diva. The source was, we now regretfully report, a largish retailer which won't be named, but which carries the fortunes of an entire state of somewhere in SEC territory with it. Their web site boldly promoted two-day delivery (and a simply amazing price) for the object of our desire, a standard item from an industry leader, available at several prices from 'most every retailer in the nation (including Amazing). So we caved, and ordered from the "X"-Mart, whose name we dare not speak aloud.

In this case, the two-day shipment was important, given a birthday target, but there was plenty of slack in the timeline. No problem. Except there was, and is, a problem. The item, per the parcel carrier's tracking, arrived in our fair city two days later than the shipment promise indicated. It may still be there—or not. Or, perhaps it never arrived.

A week after the birthday, "X"-Mart had no explanation for the failure, where the item really was, or what might be done about it—nor any backup plan to get a replacement item to us. Further, they could not make a delivery commitment.

Look, Lord of the Wings, if you're gonna play with the people who actually know what they're doing, you're gonna have to up your game. Maybe your target demographic, as lampooned in numerous YouTube shorts, thinks this is splendid. But the more desirable consumer is not going to hunker down in the ol' double-wide and wait for a bargain to show up some sweet day.

And that customer, not handicapped by genetically derived intellectual limitations, will not be satisfied with non-answers to tough questions, such as, "Where is it?" Or, "What happened, and when will it be here?"

This has been frustrating on many levels, not least coughing and looking away when the grand-daughter comes to visit (two or three times a week). That the planet's largest retailer couldn't satisfactorily ship an in-stock item in the time that I could have walked to Cupertino, bought one, and walked back is a pitiful indictment. Maybe the elephant is too big to dance.

Hello, Amazing! We're back!

Noses Pressed To The Window

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/16/2015 | 8:10 AM

It's that time of year when kids, particularly those living in straitened circumstances, take vicarious pleasure in gazing longingly at holiday treats. Sweets, baked goods—marzipan, kringles, candy canes, green sugar-coated cookies, endless varieties of toothsome goodies—enough to bring joy to a dentist's heart.

So, little gangs of skinny waifs gather in front of the nearest Sugar Shack, lovingly imagining what might be some day, maybe even next year if things fall right. Ohio State football supporters might be older versions of the little ones experiencing dashed hopes and broken dreams. Full disclosure: I am now one of those Ohio State people wishing for an eight-team playoff, and once was one of the skinny kids at the bakery window.

We face disappointments on the job, too. The project that will transform supply chain performance overnight gets axed. The funding for an upgraded WMS gets put on indefinite hold. Approval for the analyst who could weed out unoroductive inventory gets denied. Doing everything right, meeting all performance objectives, goes unrecognized. And on and on.

What to do? Suck it up. Go out and do your best all over again. Keep slugging. Take another turn at bat. There's a fair chance that the dream has only been deferred. But, maybe not. Maybe you'll never get the cupcake you've earned at the bakery in your neighborhood. Then, it's time to try a new neighborhood, and find a new bakery.

Give it your all at the new place; you will—with stamina, skill, and performance—get in the door and on the other side of the window.

Other Mandibular Challenges

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/13/2015 | 2:31 PM

Flopjaw aside for a moment, other communications elements can go badly wrong. One prime example is the disease of flapjaw. This is the condition of taking refuge in vain hopes when projects or processes go all pear-shaped, the propensity to mumble platitudes as dead certainties that will rescue fading or failing prospects.

Charles Dickens' memorable character, Wilkins Micawber, was famously and incurably optimistic in the face of endless setbacks. Confident to the end, he once again reassured that "something will turn up" as the cart took him away to debtors' prison.

Our SCM universe, all business, in fact, is overpopulated with Micawbers. They flapjaw their way into organizational oblivion with repeated reassurances. They may get away with the act for quite a while, frustrating those who know what's really happening. But, reckoning seldom misses catching these warm fuzzies on some schedule.

Long before the ultimate humiliation, however, the Micawbers lose credibility, trust, and confidence - at all levels. Internal embarrassment is bad enough, but false promises can do unimaginable damage to both customer and supplier relationships.

Here's a tip. Fix or get rid of the Micawbers as soon as they reveal themselves. You don't need to try to manage this risk on top of everything else that might go wrong.

Flopjaw - A Terminal Condition?

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/09/2015 | 2:12 PM

One of the many and essential leadership attributes is the ability to communicate effectively. Not necessarily orate, speechify, dazzle with metaphors, or use one big word when two little ones would do, but to be clear and authentic—and in tune with the audience at hand.

It is astonishing, therefore, to see persons in leadership positions who develop sudden attacks of flopjaw, a tendency to babble, when a simple sentence in the active voice is called for. The lengths to which faux leaders will go to duck the need for firm clarity is tribute to humankind's aversion to straight talk, perhaps even to the accountability that comes with taking an intelligible position.

Let's call a spade a shovel. Subordinates are not snowed by obfuscation and waffling. Superiors fall far short of being impressed by an inelegant minuet around core issues. Just maybe, the flopjawer is not a candidate for a real leadership job. Just maybe, a lack of followers and lost confidence by executive leadership signals career limitation, a train running off the track to the C-suite.

Or, perhaps with training and practice, a de facto follower can be taught and coached into skilled leadership communications. If other pieces are in place, that seems a reasonable investment. If the individual in question is missing other key skills and behaviors, perhaps it is time to cut losses before the entire organization becomes infected.

Pinky Extended, He Sipped His Earl Grey . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/06/2015 | 7:02 AM

So where lies the difference between early adoption and staking out an arrogantly pretentious position? When is it smart to, risks understood, invest in technology that is not quite proven, and when is it folly that any fool can see through to acquire the latest and greatest simply because you have enough dead presidents in your wallet to buy in?

And, whatever your decision, what is the right time? Will it have what kind of impact on your competitive position? Are your competitors likely to quake in awe, or giggle in amazement?

I'll suggest that the right decision at the right time might be seen by some as showing off. In my mind, it would qualify as falutin'. In the converse, shoving un-necessary tools in the faces of competitors, customers, suppliers, and employees would be foolish, hostile, and, my words, high-falutin'.

The choice and decision are not slam dunks. They require sober analysis, deep looks into the future - of oneself, customers, and social change, especially globally. But, investing in, adopting, integrating, and using the power of keys to the future that others have not yet seen is a platform for success and longevity.

Falutin' is a good thing, and if the industry laggards see it as high-falutin', so be it. They'll have to answer to shareholders as their enterprises near the bottom of the tubes they are going down.

Is Talent Enough?

By Art van Bodegraven | 12/02/2015 | 8:45 AM

No, it is not. We so often hear the disgruntled employee complain that "it's not what you know, it's who you know" to explain their career stagnation. In many cases, the whiner is under-qualified, under-experienced, under-educated, under-motivated, and/or under-performing in general - and possibly not much fun to be around, even on the best day.

In other instances, the put-upon and bypassed worker actually is really smart, or possesses rare experience or skills.

Today, more than ever, intelligence and knowledge are not valued as much as the smart possessors of same think they ought to be. Get real! If that's the depth of your analysis, take your Mensa certificate and play a little lunchtime chess.

What's infinitely more important than knowledge or talent or IQ is what one does with it/them. How they are used to analyze problems and conceive solutions. How they get marshalled for acceptance and implementation.

Without those outcomes, all the talent in the world is pretty much useless. So, Edison, the Wright Brothers, and others became icons, while smarter, more gifted inventors and pioneers have been lost to history. btw, as you harness skills and strengths to craft a story line that delivers results, do be sure to maintain at least on foot grounded in the reality of context.

Just because Nebraska is more or less in the middle of the country does not mean that it is an ideal location for a national distribution center, especially if you are selling containers-full of intimate apparel to the Housewives of New Jersey.

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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