Archives for June 2016

Drove My Chevy To The Levee, And The Levee Was Dry . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/29/2016 | 2:28 PM

So sang Don McLean in American Pie, an anthem to milestones in popular American music.

In the day, every male in the country over the age of 11 was either a Chevy Man or a Ford Man, with Chevy carrying a greater testosterone load. These self-affiliations were made irrespective of family history or any logic whatever.

Chevy was in the ascendancy in the early '60s, with prowess claimed on the race track. After ghastly and spectacular crashes and casualties, all major manufacturers forswore further racing in approximately 1962.

The letter of the vow was observed, but not the spirit. Rebels within GM quietly prepared for an inevitable future, producing a street-legal, track ready production automobile disguised as a 1963 Corvette.

The enhanced engine block, accompanied by a massive fuel tank, was available only in the coupe version, but not as a convertible, and fewer than 200 were produced, possibly because the price tag would have bought a Jaguar, with plenty of change to spare for a night on the town.

Here's the supply chain management challenge. Not everyone is dominant in planning, execution, and customer satisfaction. Even fewer are paradigm-busters and game-changers.

But, some are. So, what is your Plan "B"? What's up your sleeve to compete with those who are marching at the head of the parade? What resources have you stockpiled to deploy when the competition shows signs of making the leader/laggard gap? Really?

If Plan "C" is to try to make do without a Plan "B", when will you start on the moves that keep the enterprise off life support until the first responders either work their magic, or give up and bring out the toe tag?

The Accountability Surprise

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/26/2016 | 7:08 AM

Bosses who drive rather than lead are inordinately fond of reminding staff that they are accountable for outcomes, for achieving results. Sometimes the reminder is delivered with a sneer, sometimes with a cudgel.

Those bosses seem to conveniently forget that they are accountable, too. And, are, in fact, supposed to lead by example, demonstrating accountability in their roles and actions.

Surprise! Sustainable organizational and individual accountability is generated and led by the boss. Without that inspirational example, forced accountability too easily becomes a game of dodges and loopholes designed to resemble accountability, without actually being accountable.

More surprises. Accountability leadership is not the sole province of the corner offices in the C-suite. As with all leadership behaviors, any individual, at any level, in any role, can lead through accountability.

But, creating an enabling culture for accountability requires modeling appropriate behaviors at the top. This critical skill and behavior seems particularly vital in SCM, with customers, peers, internal colleagues, and phalanxes of bosses with big titles - all with needs, demands, and expectations.

There are four elements in accountability.

Crystal-clear detailed expectations, both in a request and in its response.

Time and date specificity, both in expressing the need, and in an individual's commitment to deliver.

Ownership, with a person acknowledging a responsibility to see the job through, and accepting responsibility for its completion and outcomes.

Sharing, spreading the word as to who is responsible for what in leading, executing, and completing an accountable task, including the ultimate leader's role in paving the way, smoothing the path, removing obstacles, running interference, and being the place where the buck stops when things get a bit pear-shaped.

The process is straightforward. There are only four reasonable and acceptable responses to an accountability assignment: Yes, No, Yes if, or No unless, and a promise to clearly respond by a date/time certain. Anything else risks a fast ride on a dead-end street.

Some good news? Accountability is a learnable/teachable skill. It can be successfully coached, and is contagious in the best way imaginable.

Try it; you'll like it.

The Spirit Of The Cavs

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/22/2016 | 6:54 AM

So, our youngest son asked our youngest grandchild (age 6), who would win the NBA Championship. El Colombiano answered "The Cavaliers" without missing a beat.

"Why, son?" "Because they have the spirit of catching up!" And, the Cavs went on to, for the first time in NBA history, rally from a 1-3 deficit to win the Finals four games to three.

Here's the core question. Not everyone in the supply chain can create game changers, or stake out an insurmountable competitive edge. Their success lies in their internal capacity for the spirit of catching up.

So, when all you can see are the numbers of the runners ahead of you in the great supply chain race, do you have the spirit of catching up? Is it in you, the potential for greatness built on spirit, on commitment, on determination, on the focus to marshal your abilities, and the strengths of those with whom you've surrounded yourself?

Take a hard look at LeBron, King James, and how his fans saw the spirit of catching up within him.

Free Willy?

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/19/2016 | 9:17 AM

Lets's begin with the admission that, for all we have learned in the past fifty years, for all our advances—particularly in how many actions, reactions, styles, preferences and apparent choices are rooted in pre-determined hard wiring—the outcomes may not be concrete givens.

Marrying tenets of Jungian psychology with growing understandings of the major classifications of style and preference is valid and useful, as well as critical tools in the leader's box of Craftsman and DeWalt of hard-working solutions to challenges in the workplace.

Some professional sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers have taken the core understandings to far-off places. There is a growing movement that contends, given all we think we know, that the brain's wiring has so prescribed decisions and behavior that moral options, the exercise of so-called free will, no longer exists (and never did).

Some of this speculation is well-intentioned, a reasoned extension of an existing body of knowledge; some is clearly the promotion and advancement of an agenda, a "progressive" concept that absolves people of responsibility for their most demented actions. In that universe, a mass murderer is suffering with a disease, incapable of altering his or her genetic heritage.

This, imho, is a gross misconception and misapprehension. The classification of individual styles and preferences is only a predominance or proclivity, and by no means an absolute, a foreordained specific outcome. Further, all individuals carry within their proclivities elements of all styles and preferences, and have the capacity to—understanding themselves—choose a path other than the dominant trail through the forest.

What our advanced understandings do give us is an ability not shared with other creatures, and that is the ability to reason through a rich variety of options to make a moral—or not—choice. So, we do have free will, and to a degree not known outside our species. Bad choices, therefore, are not a disease that excuses us from any consequences. Philosopher Steven Cave explores the question clearly in a recent issue of The Atlantic. 

As a result of our better understandings and accountabilities, we can take a deep breath and deal graciously with an apparently insane customer who is demanding the impossible after an irreversible event. We can approach a perpetually problematic supply chain partner to ask how we might become a better—and more reliable—supplier or customer or independent resource.

Our more prevalent disease is one in which we believe that doing what we've always done, only more intensely, will yield a different outcome. The difference is likely to be a more intensely disappointing result.

In short, know thyself and thy several selves, in order to present the self most likely to contribute to a good outcome, and to make a decision that you and yours can be proud of.

Leadership Breeds Loyalty

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/15/2016 | 8:15 AM

Maybe these are related; maybe not.

But, The Kid found himself relaxing from the after-effects of a minor concussion a while back. In addition to resting his aching noggin, an ice pack provided some relief to his sore back. He took nourishment against a backdrop of Cartoon Network cacaphony.

Baby, the family pooch, who is highly protective of The Kid in all circumstances, sat constantly at his side. That is, until lunchtime. As The Kid slurped his soup, the dog darted to the next room, scored a mouthful of kibble, and returned, to snarf up her Acana and keep a weather eye on The Kid.

I was transported back in time to a rough moment when Fierce Betty, The Kid's aunt, was cooling her head against a healing commode after conquering a transient influenza. After one more retching attempt at recovery, she discovered that Harley, her Jack Russell BFF, was at her side, making a weak stab at a retch of her own.

Solidarity, however ineffective, made the day.

So, how much of these actions is pack behavior modeling? And, how much is a capacity for caring and sympathy that we humans hesitate to ascribe to other species? Whichever, it does seem likely that leadership DOES inspire loyalty, that a follower has his/her leader's six, confident of reciprocity in the relationship.

Trust me on this one. Every genuine leader quietly treasures such evidences that the relationships he or she has built have strong foundations and mutually supportive interactions.

Good breeding delivers good outcomes, whether dogs enter the equation or not.

Again And Again . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/13/2016 | 10:39 AM

The Saturday night massacre in Orlando provides yet another example of how ill-equipped we are to deal with sub-human foes. We are conflicted and confused, and are volunteering for suicide in our inability to distinguish the enemy from among a larger, friendlier population.

Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance at its core. One of the world's great faith traditions, it co-existed peaceably with Judaism in many locales, e.g., pre-El Cid times in Andalucia. And Talmudic scholars of the time, from the center of civilized Islam, exchanged thinking with Christian thinkers. Then came the reconquest, defeat for the Muslims, and humiliatingly cruel expulsion of Jewry by Queen Isabella and her clerical henchmen.

Today, with long historical memories, a vicious subset of Muslims is busy unleashing terror on the infidel West and on apostate (other) Muslims who would follow a better path if the Al Qaeda and ISIS animals would cease cutting off their heads. In the wake of one atrocity after another, our Federal protectors of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness quiver and quake at the prospect of offending the PC senstivities of soul-less killers, and refuse to wage war to the death on them. Meanwhile, an agitated (and often uninformed) general population is ready to expel, bar, and punish all Muslims, foreign and domestic.

I weep at future prospects, if we cannot muster the courage, the will, and the wisdom to call the enemy by name and dispatch its adherents, nor accept and embrace our spiritual kin and unite against the common foe. Until we get these things right, we are destined to suffer great loss, as a society and as co-religionists.

Adam And Steve

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/12/2016 | 7:43 AM

The title names the punchline of putdowns of same-sex relationships often employed by religious zealots who fancy themselves both witty and morally right. It is their privilege to be both wrong and scientifically illiterate in a land that treasures the First Amendment to its Constitution.

Deal with reality for a moment. We've come a long way, yet have a great distance yet to travel on this issue. The medical community has evolved from viewing "different" gender orientation and sexual preference as a not-so-moral choice, to manifestation of a disease, to a part of the rich tapestry of variations in the range of normal human conditions.

Despite the millennia-old writings in primitive, and heavily edited texts, this has never really been an issue of morality. Later, no matter the uninformed and data-poor science, the condition(s) did not respond to treatment, counseling, drugs, interventions, or "conversions".

We now know, as we begin to get more rigorous about the genuine science involved, that all this manufactured societal upheaval is based on hard-wiring in the brain. People are pre-programmed to act and interact the way they do, not only in matters of gender and sex, but in all aspects of behavior.

Face it. No one chooses to live on Avenue Q, any more than they choose to be left-handed, color-blind, or intuitive math geniuses. The choices have been made for them in the physical construct of their brains. Maybe the work was done by sub-contractors, in that the wiring often bears no correlation with the plumbing systems in the larger organism.

It's funny - not ha-ha - how more pure minds and souls look at such relationships, those that color outside the lines. In my little universe, our older son and AJ are partners. Uber-Mom arrived home one day to announce that she had great news about the couple.

La Diva beamed, as she exclaimed, "They're getting married!". She was a bit crestfallen when the news turned out to be that they're buying a house. The Kid, on the other hand, was wired for sound at the news. A new house meant a feast was in the offing, and he was determined to make a knockout dessert. Suddenly pensive, he asked plaintively, "Can we call him Uncle AJ then?"

Once again, The Kid offers us instruction that is practical and timely. Look, the population that so many think must surely be conventionally heterosexual is, in fact, riddled with members of the LGBTQ community. They are not all in Hollywood, hairdressers to the stars, or tending bar in Manhattan waiting for Broadway callbacks - or fantasizing about cast members in Glee.

They are bankers, nurses, lawyers, accountants, salespeople, customer service reps, warehouse workers, data analysts, university and high school classmates, supply chain managers, senior executives - you name it, and some number of practitioners are not what you'd like to assume.

As supply chain leaders, we've got to be alert, awake, and aware about sexual diversity. We've got to understand how to cleanse our workplaces of related negative bias. Inclusion is not only a race and gender issue. We can start by jettisoning the Adam and Steve bit. It is not fair to AJ and others, and demeans us as fellow humans on an amazingly creative and diverse planet.

Maybe it wasn't even funny the first time 'round.

Words Of Wonder

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/08/2016 | 7:27 AM

As in wondering, what are you thinking? And, have the wolves who raised you disowned your disreputable self?

I should be getting over the astonishment over people who can't seem to get the simple things right. Not that I'm a stickler for the sake of nit-picking. But, making the seemingly little errors can shake others' confidence in you.

Your customers, your bosses, your colleagues - all will fail to trust your reliability and capability if you can't get the unimportant, but visible and obvious things right. So, we have those to whom quality is important, and they shop on-line at LL Beam, as if the family is somehow also involved in the spirits trade through its Kentucky branch.

Or, the California vacationers who cannot pass up the delights of a day at Knock's Berry Farm. They probably did not arrive in a Marcedes, which is a vehicle favored by their prosperous cousins. There are still people with Detroit roots whose families worked at Ford's, as if it were still Henry's workshop, and not a multi-bazillion dollar global behemoth with massive factories around the planet.

Other branches of the family include those who say "atypical" when they mean typical or "irrespective" when they don't know what they mean.

You may not think so, but these mis-uses are career-limiting. Get 'em right, and right now. btw, for the connoisseurs of fine whiskies, Jack's surname is Daniel, not the possessive Daniel's.

Raise High The Cup!

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/05/2016 | 11:30 AM

The Kid experienced one of those life-altering moments - again. A severe blow to a sensitive region of the male anatomy convinced all about him that the time had come to don a cup, in the time-honored tradition of young athletes.

And so, it was off to Dick's Sporting Goods. The practice there is to intercept an incoming customer, determine needs and/or interests, and summon a departmental specialist to render assistance.

Uber-Mom asked if The Kid should make the request, or if she should communicate the object of their search. The Kid, let her know, in certain and unmistakable terms, that she should give him $25, and wait in the car.

We all face, at one time or another, certain awkward moments in both personal and professional roles and relationships. A nervous edge to a conversation, in either venue, is probably healthy. But, a touch of social malaise should definitely not postpone, sugarcoat, or gloss over the reality that the tough calls will have to be made at some point - and the sooner and clearer the better.

Some would suggest that the process is one of becoming a leader.

I hold out that it is all part of growing up - and we need all the grown-ups we can find to be the best supply chain we can be.

Again, thanks to The Kid for showing us the way . . .

Float Like A Butterfly; Sting Like A Bee

By Art van Bodegraven | 06/04/2016 | 7:49 AM

We note with sadness and much appreciation for the wonder of his skills that a once-reviled hero has passed. Muhammed Ali, nee Cassius Marcellus Clay, a native of Louisville and the world, lost the last round of his fight on a TKO, as we all do, yesterday.

A wonder of his age, Ali shocked a naive nation by renouncing his heritage to sign on with the Nation of Islam. He went on to stand on principle, and refuse to fight "them Viet Congs", which outraged the no teeth and fewer brains cadre.

Later exonerated, and mostly forgiven, he emerged from the idle years that should have been his best in boxing to create legends that will stand for generations, particularly the Frazier matches.

His by-now-recognized greatness was exemplified by the exaltation of the masses as he lit the Olympic flame in 1996's Atlanta games.

As we salute Ali's memory and achievements, there are takeaways for supply chain professionals. They begin with how we define ourselves, and how we are perceived by leaders and associates.

We should never be afraid to follow our consciences, and deal with the fallout with grace and style. We will either be eventually recognized and acclaimed, or ignored and have our self-knowledge for comfort on cold winter's evenings.

Whichever way, we will have done the right thing(s) by our own lights. They may not be popular; they might not even be right. But they will have been the choices of our own reasoning.

So, think long and hard about staying the course. The immediate reception is usually superficial; the short term view might be transiently negative. It is only the long term that matters - that, and how your courage engages, emboldens, and motivates those around you.

While you're at it, also consider the butterfly and the bee. All sting is not healthy for an enterprise and the people in it. All floating characterizes slacker scam artists. You've got to have both, and know when to use each.

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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