Archives for March 2016

Better Call Saul

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/30/2016 | 11:46 AM

Slippin'Jimmy McGill has been struggling. Seeking the approval of his esteemed, if eccentric, older brother, he has labored to master an ultimate left-brain profession, and has joined a quintessential left-brain law firm. The stresses on a joyfully right-brain spirit are too much to endure, especially when he runs afoul of left-brain power, and is sabotaged by his brother, who cannot tolerate right-brain deviance.

And so, Jimmy becomes Saul Goodman, and uses left-brain tactics to execute right-brain strategies. That they sometime skirt the law, and sometimes ravage conventional morality, becomes an easier and easier price to pay for career and personal gratification. We saw what Jimmy/Saul could do and had become in his Breaking Bad work with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman; now we are seeing what led him into that path.

We face the right-brain/left-brain conflict in our professional lives, too. What should we, short of abetting the crystal meth trade, do about it? We seldom find those rare organizations that have learned to value - even treasure - diversity of style and thinking. If we get really lucky, and land in that sort of enlightened spot, we should do anything legal to stay on board.

If we find that we have landed in a culturally compatible situation, we have choices that need to be considered. Is the entire organization so completely left-brain that it is likely to be eclipsed by disruptive competition? Is the outfit so creative that no one is watching the cash drawer - is it likely to innovate itself into oblivion?

Myself, I was fortunate. Oppressed and dismissed by the army of left-brainers who were taking up valuable space, I compensated with the victories that came from helping clients, from touching and changing lives, from solving tough problems, and from getting sustainable results from making changes.

But, for many, the squarepeg/round hole dilemma results in a career-long frustration, from which the only escape is a gold watch and shuffleboard in Naples, Florida. Only you can figure out where you are in these scenarios - and what you're going to do about your now, and your future.

Whippersnappers Rule!

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/27/2016 | 11:49 AM

As life weren't tough enough, we've got all these slacker stoner layabouts clogging up the pipeline. Worse, these self-absorbed Millennials want to manage stuff, when they can barely get to work on time.

Like many others, I've assumed that these admittedly talented resources could and would benefit from learning leadership lore from more seasoned executives and managers. To my great surprise, research is showing that the younger generation are, in general, better leaders than their predecessors. Gulp!

An HBR article reported a rigorous study that showed younger (<30 years old) managers were superior to an older cohort (>45). 44% of the younger group fell into the top quartile of leadership effectiveness; a relatively puny 20% of the older gang were in that same top quartile.

There's a message in there for a not-so-older generation: Get your act together! Get current. Show some energy. Don't begin any sentence with "Well, when I was… "

What's propelling the new generation into leadership excellence? It's obviously much more than an entitlement expectation, a quest for undeserved recognition. Some things, are, in fact, learned over time. And, strategic context comes with experience.

But, some factors that seriously differentiate the new kids from the old pros are:

Younger leaders welcome, embrace, seek change, even when courage is required to implement new proposals. They inspire others, through their own passion and energy; they pull followers toward objectives.

But, older leaders more often push and drive for results, which then turn out to be transient.

  • The under-30s take feedback well, even asking for it—then acting on it. The over-45s are less willing to both ask for and respond to feedback.
  • Young leaders are enthusiastic about challenging the status quo, and committing to continuous improvement. They are all about innovation, efficiency, and quality.
  • Not only is the next generation focused on results—results with meaning and enterprise relevance, not just mindless performance numbers, they are really big on stretch goals, even undocumented personal stretch-plus goals.

We have our work cut out for us to keep up with this game-changing generation.

The Arnold And Restraint Of Trade

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/23/2016 | 1:34 PM

Flying from our fair, and beknighted, city is seldom reminiscent of the glory days of air travel, with passengers dressed for success, thirsting for the inevitable martini, and enjoying repartee with what were then called stewardesses. Nowadays, as those standing on the brink of eternity like to say, not only is the glamor gone, the experience can become downright ugly.

It gets even tougher in that awkward period between Winter and Spring, when Arnold Schwartzenegger's Sports Festival comes to town. Our little airport, served primarily by commuter sardine cans designed around the ergonomics of indigenous Jivaro peoples of the Amazon Basin, suddenly fills with 300-pound behemoths, who overflow available seats while partaking of carry-on repasts of super-healthy fruits and nuts.

I've given up traveling during these events - the muscles and I have little in common to chat about.

Actually, The Arnold is a smashing success story. From an intimate gathering of disfigured human beings, oiled up and clad in attire that would get them arrested in any Islamic nation, the event has become the country's largest multi-sport festival, with 18,000 athletes, 70 sports (including fencing and chess), a fitness expo, and a kids and teens expo, which includes a talent component.

The activities can no longer fit in our convention center, and spills over into buildings on the State Fair grounds, as well.

So the vision continues to take shape and get fleshed (no pun intended) out. But, here's the takeaway for those whose life's work is leading an organization. Having a grand vision, some picture in the mind's eye of an end state, does not mean blowing the doors off to get from now, Point A, to Utopia, Point Z by this time next year.

The more sure path is to build slowly, gaining confidence and credibility incrementally. Progress continues, year on year, to reach an end state - and what is learned along the way may well refine how the final stage looks and acts. Think about it.

Little Dorothy and her cohort of a Lion,a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and an ornamental dog knew they needed to reach Emerald City; they could even see it from Munchkinland. But, it took time, challenge, setbacks, and a Yellow Brick Road path to follow.

Our journey is not all that much different, is it?

Allah Akhbar, My Sweet Patootie!

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/23/2016 | 7:12 AM

The world has once again been visited by madmen with dreams of virgins and a delusional faith in the inevitability of the return of the caliphate. The human toll among both victims and perpetrators is unfathomable, but is surely less than humane - or rational, or excusable in any way.

We lived the impact on one horrific 9/11, and the residual effects continue to this day, even obliterating the memories of smaller tragedies that passed with little sustained outrage. Other acts of subhumanity by these demented zealots, cheerfuly misled by spiritual "leaders" and self-appointed scholars, some of whom can even read and write, have poisoned parts of Europe and Eurasia. England, Spain, Russia, Turkey - all come to mind.

In the contemporary, imams and mullahs rub their hands together and gleefully jig as they contemplate how to take further advantage of the bloody clown show that the Middle East has deteriorated into, and plot the destruction of the nation of Israel and the extermination of an entire people (if only they could rally enough martyrs to take on Jews determined to survive, succeed, and prosper. They are actively working to pollute the pitiful tide of refugees from Syria and elsewhere, and make them unwitting Trojan horses covering the infection of the West with jihadists.

Not so long ago, we linked arms, held hands, and proclaimed, "Je suis Charlie Hebdo" as an unthinkable outrage was perpetrated upon the French and Paris. Today, we might say, "Ik ben Brussel" or "Je suis Bruxelles" in the same spirit, as the capital of the European Union and a linchpin of NATO, the UN, and the financial Eurozone, crouches in fear, counts its dead and wounded, and contemplates the cancer living within its social organism.

So, politics aside, rhetoric put away upon a shelf, mindless bluster silenced for a moment, I'll risk asking, "When and how do we at long last declare jihad against the jihadists?" What will who do to whom to win, and take the mental defectives who pursue jihad out of the gene pool forever." Enough is enough, and we, collectively, have already had too much from this cohort of lunatics.

Not least of those suffering are the Muslims, those who are being intimidated or slain by ISIS, the Taliban, Boko Haram, whomever seeks power and domination within Islam. My Muslim friends, neighbors, aquaintances, and service providers are aghast. Pretty much like our other American neighbors, they want a job, a decent wage, good achools for their kids, possibilities for home ownership, prospects for advancement, and freedom to speak and worship.

Does all this have day-to-day implications for supply chain management? You betcha! But, rather than rattle on about crippled and dangerous global activity, or prospects for world-wide economic slowdown, I believe it is important to abandon naivete and deal straight up with the root of the challenge.

The path to the top of the mountain is likely to be difficult, unpleasant, challenging to our core values, bloody, and rife with opportunities for sacrifice. But, if we do not undertake the risk and danger, we are sure to court death by staying encamped at the base of the peak, hoping to reaon with, or metaphorically bribe our way through the tough people and the tough times involved.

It's a fight against a form of cancer. Praying is likely useful, but is suboptimal without: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, immunotherapy, appropriate diet, exercise and fitness. Praying takes many forms, and is expressed in different ways by different faith traditions and individual practitioners.

A plus? It is relatively easy. The other weapons are not a bit easy, and can be life-threatening on their own. But, guess what is necessary and prudent in the war against a soul-less foe? You're right: All of them.

When EQ Turns To The Dark Side

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/20/2016 | 1:50 PM

I've written a few times, with enthusiasm, about the importance and value of Emotional Intelligence (EI) and EQ (versus IQ). But, EQ is not always a panacea, nor is it always benign.

Daniel Goleman's seminal work in the field found that persons with higher EQs do better at work, have relatively few health problems, and have greater life satisfaction. However, other studies have found correlations of higher EI and narcissism, with strong possibilities that charming and seductive qualities could be used for malicious purposes.

A 2014 study linked EI and exploititativeness - those prone to manipulating others were better at reading them. This should be no surprise to anyone familiar with mentalists and self-styled psychics. It goes on and on, tying EI and EQ to Machiavellian behaviors.

Finally, high EI types are often likely to be scammed or duped, perhaps because they overestimate their ability to read others. So, look at EI/EQ in a balanced way, neither over or under estimating them.

Mind reading is still more fantasy than reality.


By Art van Bodegraven | 03/16/2016 | 10:19 AM

It's a matter of context and points of reference. When the Beatles sang, there was some wiggle room. Yesterday might have been as much as a week ago.

When I say (not sing) yesterday, it probably means yesteryear, possibly even a time before World War II. When we say "yesterday" in the galloping world of supply chain developments, we mean anything that has whack-a-mole popped up since midnight.

With some exceptions that range from the laughable to the heart-rending, we get that the WW II yesterday is museum quality, providing the well-springs for many commonplace practices. Late last century's yesterday is full of booby-traps and minefields, lulling one generation of practitioners into thinking that they have today's solutions in hand.

But, execution reality is that each new today brings opportunities to solve problems and overcome challenges. One of our dilemmas, in satisfying both our leaders and our customers, is that real-time yesterday's solutions might well not be today's escape hatch.

It's not so much that the rules have changed; they do that often enough. But, the context, the environmental subtleties, the unique circumstances that have shifted ever so slightly from one yesterday to the next, can make the optimal - and ultimately successful in cementing the customer relationship - solution a little different from what worked, was the right thing, just a day ago.

So, relaxing with a cold one at day's end, consider how lucky we are to be challenged each and every day in our jobs.

Beats insurance underwriting, doesn't it?

Hoes And Hookahs; From Garden Sheds To Smoking Bars, And Beyond

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/13/2016 | 7:37 AM

The Kid has been undergoing some trauma, a blue nevus that requires a biopsy and plastic surgery repair. Completing his last consult visit, he asked if he were going back to school. His uber-Mom thought it over, and said, "Let's just play hookey today!"

At breakfast, the perky server expressed surprise that the lad was out for a late breakfast. The Kid responded, "Oh, we're just playing hooker today." The server rushed off, and the sounds of unrestrained laughter soon erupted from the kitchen. His Mom snorted a quantity of wretchd coffee through her nose, and The Kid, unperturbed, continued to study his menu.

Our work lives are pressure-packed, deadly serious, and sprinkled with trauma, both greater and lesser. As much as I promote excellence and dedication, the elusive work/life balance demands - for physical well-being and sound mental health - that we occasionally play hookey.

Common sense and prudence dictate that we choose our days in the sunshine with some care, but never quite getting to the task is a short cut to a dangerously unsatisfying life. So, get over it, and get out of the trench warfare for a bit.

An afternoon at Wrigley Field, for example, could be the best investment you've made in yourself for a while. And, a day at the zoo with the kids wouldn't be a bad choice, either.

Probably best to forget the hooker option, though.

For the curious, hookey (also spelled hooky) comes to us from the clever Dutch, whose word "hoekje" (pronounced similarly) meant a form of hide and seek. Our language would be noticably poorer without the infusion of Dutch that was rooted in pre-English colonial times.

Aesthetics, Prosthetics, And Packaging

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/09/2016 | 5:03 PM

In the salad days of my youth at university (John Purdue A & M), a couple of years into the game, our somewhat perverted band director decided that Western civilization would not last without a besequined Golden Girl, who immediately stimulated young men who had unwittingly taken a vow of frustration. The provocately named Addie Darling, an early exemplar of the concept, became the stuff of dreams thanks to a insufficiency of sequins, a permanent death-mask smile, and a penchant for twirling her - ahem - twin batons with heedless abandon.

While others were entranced by the spectacle, I dealt with the reality of a requirement for regular meals and the desirability of having a little walking around money.  Thus, I took employment as a waiter in a women's residence hall, and was envied the side benefit of being able to gaze daily upon the early morning version of our celebrated Golden Girl (this being a last gasp of a politically incorrect generation).

The sunrise surprise was not a sight for the weak.  Dull and matted hair, ravaged by harsh chemicals designed a blonde appearance visible form the topmost rows of venerable Ross-Ade Stadium.  Sallow skin tone, and a freakish bad attitude, cloaked in a chenille robe that might have been purchased at a roadside stand on some desolate tourist byway.  Ginormous curlers with the power to tame wild hair into curls that were less appealing than the designer perhaps imagined.  Standard heterosexuality was put to an ultimate test in such circumstance.

Somewhat parallel, but even more extreme, measures are de rigeur among Las Vegas showgirls, whose silicon content is sufficient to coat many, many Teflon cooking utensils, and who can calculate the odds of a prospect having enough ready cash to engage in social research in the bat of a (faux) eyelash.

Their careers tend to peak early, and seem to take a downward spiral beginning on Day One.  Language gives clues, moving quickly from "Ooh, Daddy!" to "How about it?" as they work their ways down the hotel lounge ladder to oblivion.

The point is not to make moral judgments, or cast aspersions on those in a state of declining fortune.  Hey, everybody's gotta be somewhere at any given moment. But, I would suggest that anyone with whom you might be considering a relationship - either personal or professional - be evaluated to assess the depth and quality of what lies beneath the surface.

At work, the new peer, the entering staff member, the newbie on the team - all need to be seen in the light of whether they walk the talk, that the talk and walk are consistent, and that either or both match up well with you and your organization.

Those who fail the assessment can take you to bad places, and introduce you to the wrong people and practices.  None of the opening attributes - aesthetics, prosthetics, or packaging - can substitute in the long run for ethics.


Dirty Fingernails - A Badge Of Honor

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/06/2016 | 9:57 AM

We moan and carry on endlessly about the talent shortage in SCM. It's real, make no mistake.

But we seem to have a hard time looking at the full range of issues. That'll happen under stress to under-commit, over-deliver, and do it all with steadily diminishing resource pools.

Swept under the rug, the leadership shortfall is a looming crisis which won't be solved with more MBAs. We also have cascading demands for analytic skills, largely unfulfilled, and too often populated with under-experienced budding geniuses.

We do pay a lot of attention to the reality that few new entrants show up each year, while death and retirement eclipse the gains. And, vocational education and retraining initiatives tend to concentrate on pick-and-shovel workers who learn through OJT what it takes to pick and pack orders in distribution centers.

We, in SCM, tend to forget that we are in a death struggle, competing with manufacturing, and operations of all kinds, for a woefully inadequate workforce pool. Let's look at some frightening numbers that affect us all.

Given the workforce's average age and pace of retirement, we will need 10 million new skilled workers by 2020. Over half a million skilled jobs are going unfulfilled today. Over half of US employers are having trouble filling jobs.

Even CFOs are slowly figuring out that we need more workers, that there is not an inexhaustible supply of interchangeable parts to work in factories and DCs.

Societally, we have a dichotomy. Over 85% of Americans believe that workers, skilled workers, tradespeople are important to our national economic prosperity and standard of living. But only one in three of Americans would encourage children to pursue a trade - not just a job assembling Big Macs, but a well-paying trade. And, well over half of Americans claim lousy repair skills.

In the rising generation, the post-Millennials, over half have no interest whatsoever in manufacturing. Over 60% want a so-called "professional" career.

Meanwhile, the four-year university degree that costs $100,000 more than a technical school sees staggering unemployment rates among prestigious career graduates. At the same time, skilled trade employment growth is projected to much more than offset the idle educated numbers. Said another way, plumbers will be in huge demand and make good money, while architects will go begging, and find safe haven in their parent's basement rooms.

I have two questions for you. Are these factoids enough to keep you up at night? And, what are you doing about them?

My Dog Could Be President; My Dog Should Be President!

By Art van Bodegraven | 03/02/2016 | 12:15 PM

So many reasons,so many qualifications, so few drawbacks . . .

For openers, she is a she, which takes one big issue off the table right away.  Further, she attempts to mark by lifting a leg, demonstrating a male capability enhanced, as we used to say about Ginger Rogers, by doing everything backward and in high heels. 

Second, she is 35 years of age, at least in dog years. Third, she was born in the USA of US-born parents. So much for the basics; now for the cosmetics, the optics of a campaign.

Her hair is stylishly long, and of a color one would not think occurs in nature. Generally even-tempered, she has a tendency to occasionally go barking mad. She is friends with all, but will defend her territory, and our safety, with a ferocity and tenacity that gives mullahs the willies and door-to-door con artistes the shakes.

She admittedly is shameless about cadging gifts, treats, and other inducements from anyone, even investment bankers. On the plus side, she cannot remember the next day who gave her what, so reciprocates with zero in the quid pro quo department.

She is not skilled in duplicity, which is a handicap in campaigning, but compensates by bringing together all camps in a friendly romp. And, she especially captivates the young, securing an advantage with a new generation that ought to pay off for several election cycles.

An ecumenical agnostic, she wins over evangelicals without becoming captive to theologies that turn away those of other persuasions. In short, her future looks bright, and the benefit to the Republic is readily apparent.

She is not prone to evil or slander, although she borrows others' bones, given sufficient temptation.  Loyal beyond all reason, she also knows - senses - when it is appropriate to give comfort and sympathy.

In short, I am confident in her judgment with a paw on the nuclear button, and in her recognition as a worthy player on the global stage, among a multi-national cohort that, if musically inclined, might be known as Casting Clowns.

Perhaps politics is not your thing. I'll not suggest that you need to channel canine behavior in all aspects of professional life. But, I would ask that you consider how adopting a few of my dog's techniques in relationships and collaboration might help make the daily grind a bit smoother.  Not to mention easing the path to greater prominence and warranting a higher regard for skills in relationship management.

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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