Archives for April 2016

Is That A Blue Unicorn In The Garden?

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/27/2016 | 1:14 PM

Now that the reality of the drivers of cost in transportation are grimly settling in as a new normal, much belated attention is being paid to knee-jerk actions designed to control costs.

Look, only those who believe that anything 80 proof is one of the FDA's basic food groups are going to turn to last century's common sense should-have-been-done-long-ago solutions to this century's newer, more potent, challenges to profitability.

One of the trade publications recently pandered to the slightly dim practitioner by characterizing the inexorable forces at work in the industry as "runaway" freight costs. Further, they identify freight costs as the single greatest cost component in the supply chain. No stuff, Sherlock.

Here are their solutions.

Improve packaging design. What!? This hasn't been done already?

Maximize cube utilization. Dude, what did you think that optimization software was for? Full employment for the IT staff?

Centralize transportation procurement. Or continue letting the janitor in a remote facility make plans, carrier portfolio definition, and load assignment? Really?

Control inbound freight. Like should have been done thirty years ago. Shift modes. Hello, intermodal knocking. Anybody home? Dang, there goes that annoying train whistle again.

Use a TMS. Too much trouble? Costs money? Owners happy with what was saved by not going that route?

Become a shipper of choice to attract drivers and gain favorable position in tight capacity markets. A little late, don't you think, to mount a multi-year campaign to become something you've never been.

Use 3PLs. Surprise! They might not have all the answers you haven't come up with, especially when you try to beat them down on a commodity pricing level.

News flash! If these are what you haven't done years ago, you may be too late to save yourself. And, handing off all of your problems and expectations to a third party. Maybe, just maybe, you need to recognize that huge cost challenges will remain even if you do the easy fixes - and figure out how you are going to deal with the longer term implications and complexities, building them into your pricing structure and communicating with your customers.

Nope, that was not a unicorn - just a passing Best Buy truck.

Intimations Of Mortality

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/24/2016 | 2:53 PM

A recent wake-up call startled me into contemplating the sobering reality that one's natal day is the banal "first day of the rest of your life".

In essence, we begin to die the moment we are born. Bummer. As infants, we are in no great position to assess what that means. Lots of growing, learning, and introspection are absolutely necessary to consider such deeper meaning, if such ever does cross our Kardashian-rattled minds.

But, fellow supply chain toilers, there are career parallels that might make their way into our consciousness.

Once grown, then educated, we enter our first welcome-to-the-world job. And, who then thinks about the trajectory thereafter?  But, reality is that the first job is also the first step toward the end of a career, whether retirement, a second career, greeting refugees from Jerry Springer-land, or worse.

This arc is one, though, that can be approached with plans, tools, and techniques to help find a soft landing location. But, discovering this slap upside the head later in life is not a welcome learning. It deserves - you deserve - better, earlier, and more comprehensive planning.

After all, you are no longer a freshly delivered yowling neonate. It's all downhill after that birth date and after that first job. You need to learn how to steer your toboggan as soon as possible.

As Teams Go To Seed

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/20/2016 | 9:16 AM

Teams, particularly high-performing teams, don't necessarily close down at the conclusion of a focused effort. Bruce Tuckman's team stage model of Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing ends with Adjourning. I prefer, and use in its place, Transforming.

The team regroups, reconstitutes to whatever extent, and moves on to tackle the next challenge. Someone leaves the troupe to return to their day job. New people, representing the new assignment's constituency, get added. The team once again passes through the four active stages of Tuckman's model.

A preponderance of seasoned high-performing veterans will make the overall process shorter and smoother, but no omissions can be tolerated. And, each stage must reach closure - no shortcuts allowed and no status can be assumed. So, the odds of reaching the success level of Gen 1 are reduced (although they may be exceeded).

The magical enthusiasm may or may not get generated. But, the success history of the majority of retained team members says that trying to replicate yesterday's victories is worth the gamble. Imagine what is at stake when an NCAA football champion is expected to repeat, or worse, three-peat.

Every year sees the departure of 20-odd highly experienced team members, and the insertion of another 20 or so brand new (i.e., rookie) members. Some position coaches and coordinators may have departed for bigger, better positions at high-potential universities.

Trust me on this: athletic teams go through the storming/norming process, often more intensively than in business. It is no wonder that the repeats are so rare. Actually, a real measure of team success in that world is not a couple of consecutive championships, but years - even decades - of excellence at the highest level, contention for the top spot year after year.

Weeb Eubank, coach of the shockingly upstart New York Jets was criticized for cutting some players from the first Super Bowl-winning team led by Broadway Joe Namath. Weeb explained that a team is a living organism, one that flourishes with care and deliberate pruning on a regular basis.

In our workaday world, leading dynamic team structures and composition give us the opportunity to define - and achieve - our own national championships. Or Super Bowls, given care and the right pruning and shaping.

Leaders Who Don't Lead—A Cautionary Tale

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/17/2016 | 12:53 PM

OK, it's tempting to defer tough decisions, to avoid upsetting people, to postpone the day of reckoning for the can't/won't, to hope for a magic turnaround in the late and over-budget project. It feels as if it could be easier, saving the angst and heartburn for another day.

News flash! It is not easier. For openers, the overwhelming odds are that the problem will get worse with time. To ice the cake, a deferred solution is likely to be more complicated if not faced until later in the game.

And, in a blow in which no good deed goes unpunished, a tough situation could well detonate an explosive outcome that shatters hopes and expectations beyond repair. In the political arena, one current candidate has opined that a failure to lead, not taking thoughtful action in a timely manner, severely reduces one's options for correction, remedy, rescue, or redirection.

Guess what? The observation is, first, true, and second, applicable in supply chain management, in business, and in life. Not leading, not acting, not embarking on a corrective course, makes the problem the driver and definer of the ultimate outcome. How defective is the thinking, or lack thereof, that leads to that pot of fool's gold?

At that point, the pseudo-leader is limited to purely defensive moves—explanations, excuses, papering over the residual challenge, hoping that a toothy grin and a firm handshake will overcome the negatives involved. How much better off would the situation be if the leader had initiated an active effort, with evolving options and outcome possibilities, early in the game—and been forceful and consistently firm until resolution had been reached?

Another Giant Taken From Us

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/16/2016 | 10:21 AM

We learned today of Tom Speh's passing. He joins a growing legion of the pioneers, trailblazers, and intrepid adventurers who largely created our magnificent profession.

The losses, growing, all hurt; this one hurts badly.

Dr. Speh was a teacher without peer, a mentor, a candid observer, and one who gave back to us and our organizations beyond any reasonable expectation. He was a keen mind, a strong thinker, a fervent RedHawk, and an example to us all.

Tom fought the Great Satan of cancer longer and harder than most of us could hope to. We will more than miss him, as a leader, as a force in supply chain management, and as a person.


Pome Poem

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/13/2016 | 8:03 AM

There has been some outrage about the singer/actress chosen to portray Nina Simone in a new film. I have an opinion (surprise, surprise!),but it has no real validity, given that my skin color is pale on a good day and ashen on a bad one. We will talk about pigmentation at another time.

Today, Ms. Simone is little remembered outside the community of color. In her day, she was a voice of haunting heartbreak in the Great Struggle. There is a special place for anyone who can hear her landmark testimony to our descent into rationalized genocide,  Strange Fruit, without a tear, and a shudder of shame.

When the stone-hearted among us shuffle off to eternity, they will not need to bring a sweater; it'll be plenty warm where they are headed. My introduction to Nina Simone and Strange Fruit came in the home of an upper middle class black family, descendants of Haitian aristocracy, who hesitated but decided that I was worth a gamble in the trust department when sensitive information was at issue.

For us, working in diverse job settings, a number of thou shalts and thou shalt nots present themselves. One is that all minorities have greater and lesser sensitivity and anger triggers, and we need to get over telling others to "get over it". Another is that we cannot possibly understand, at visceral levels, their experiences, both past and present.

Pretending that we do is demeaning, diminishing, and insulting. Yet, we need to find ways to work effectively together, to be co-equals on teams, and to demonstrate respect without condescension.

I don't have easy answers or ultimate wisdom in this arena. But, being authentically oneself seems to be a good start - especially if sincere respect is part of the equation. Water cooler recognition of shared interests and life objectives also makes sense. Assumptions about sports interests and musical taste are dangerously easy, as well as frequently dead wrong - and feeders for weak relationships.

Pay attention to this issue. We have more diversity, in numbers and types, than ever before, and we need to get our mutual integration right.

And please note that this isdue is not a one-way street,or even two-way. All of us, of all persuasions, need to learn how to get over, through, or around biases involving all other types, styles, preferences, backgrounds, and orientations.

Note: A pome is a fruit, such as an apple or pear, that grows on trees, but not in the size or attitude - or condition - of Ms. Simone's fruits.

Dreadmill To Oblivion

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/10/2016 | 1:36 PM

So, how ya doin' in your job? Is there enough toothpaste in the world to get the ol' 9-to-5's bad taste out of your mouth when you floss and rinse during morning ablutions?

Are you running a victory lap? Or, merely grinding out the steps demanded by Fitbit as part of each day's requirements? Here at Chez vB, we stack up the steps on a treadmill when weather forbids a brisk outdoor stroll. On the most bleak of days, Nordic Track's finest is known as The Dreadmill, as we hesitantly approach the breaking day.

Is your job a joyous excursion, or a descent into Blues In The Basement? You've got choices. Change your attitude, or change your job. Make a decision. Either way, you are saving your mental health, and, just maybe, your life. Get off The Dreadmill, and only use the treadmill as a temporary Plan "B".

A Diva Digs Deep

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/06/2016 | 7:51 AM

La Diva, with trepidation and hesitation, placed in the finals of The Arnold's Talent Quest. The gran finale was held in early March to a packed house, and with The Governator hisself in attendance, handing out awards.

The Kid's stunningly talented older sister copped the First Runner-Up trophy, and was both humbled and elated. Much discussion about winning and losing, who deserved what, and who wuz robbed ensued.

La Diva and I huddled to talk about really important stuff. My take was approximately this. Winning and losing in such a competition are not relevant. Winning, of course, is good, and losing is a learning experience. But, if one "loses" to a baton twirler, or beats out a ventriloquist, those are without meaning in evaluating where a performer is on a journey toward exceptionalism.

What might have been more important, no matter the award placement, was that La Diva was selected over ALL the singers, dancers, actors, and musicians in the finals. The keys to reaching personal bests are these.

You own the stage; use all of it to perform in. You own your song; sing it in your own voice, with your own frame of reference, and act it as you sing it. You own your instrument, your voice; use it all and use it consistent with the song's meaning and intent.

Doing your best with the three things you own will take care of winning, losing, and getting closer to ultimate goals. These lessons apply in our working careers, as well.

You own your space. It may be small; it may not be what you want - or need. But, it's what you have; make the most of it and use it all to display what you can do. You own your song. You've been assigned a role; improve on it; go beyond it; make it your own. Learn more about it, and how it can be better - and where it is going in the future. You own your voice. Put your own spin, your own understanding, your sense of context, your research, your experience into how you sing your song and how you use your stage.

Do your best with all of these, and the wins and losses will take care of themselves, as will your rewards.

À Votre Santé!

By Art van Bodegraven | 04/03/2016 | 6:22 AM

A common enough throwaway toast when knocking back the third Grey Goose, but it may be time to really talk about actual personal health—and its importance to sustainable supply chain excellence.

Say what?!?! Think about it. Everyone has work challenges, pressures and stress. But, the SCM space is chock full of artery-clogging misadventures, what with demanding customers, bosses who don't get it, hostile workforces, suppliers of varying degrees of reliability, and service providers who may not give you the priority your performance imperatives merit.

So, further spurred on by the "doing more with less" mantra, we arrive early, stay late, gobble Cheetos for lunch, relax with a six pack upon returning home, and abandon the family in favor of urgent emails into the night, soothing ourselves with a quick nip of Jack Daniel's and a quart of Chunky Monkey before retiring. Our only run is to the toilet about 2:30 am.

STOP IT! What you are doing is not giving the best to your employer, your family, or yourself. How can you when you are exhausted, hungover, and just one more pack away from a coronary adventure?

To be your best on the job, you must be reasonably fit, in decent health, alert, and resilient—all byproducts of living right and taking care of yourself. That is not selfish, BTW, and doing it is not robbing time from those who demand and deserve your best.

The investment in good habits, relaxation, meditation, exercise, meditation, whatever gets a big league payback for all around you. And for you. Things like longer life, better health longer, the energy to get and give the best to faith and family.

If you are a magnificent machine on all fronts, you've got to do what it takes to maintain the equipment. You owe that to everyone in your life - and to your career. On a side note, you'll think better and be smarter—more positively productive and more influential - when both brain and body are well-maintained.

Taking the elevator to get down to the taco truck for lunch every single day just won't cut it. Nor will a quick energy boost from a box of Twinkies.

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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