Archives for July 2016

That Ol' Ace In The Hole

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/31/2016 | 12:34 PM

Mighta been a country song of that title. The concept relates to hidden power, a hole card in various forms of poker, invisible to other players, that would propel an apparently losing hand to victory. Sometimes, an unscrupulous player would bring his own ace, and keep it up his sleeve — hence another phrase that baffles ESL learners.

In politics, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley could always hold back on revealing Cook County totals, the ace, either in the hole or up his sleeve, coming in handy if his party's candidate was faring below expectations. In business operations, many managers like to keep a stash of last-minute sales, a few loads of late-breaking shipments, previously invisible cost reductions, or other pleasant surprises used to offset or overcome unrealistic, or unattained, objectives set by the bosses upstairs.

In an age of honesty, open-ness, and transparency, such tactics violate what we hope is becoming the New World Order. If the culture of one's employer tolerates, expects, or conducts public human sacrifice in the absence of aces in the hole … Well, one really wants to think about the toll such a toxic hot tub exacts on values, satisfaction, and peace of mind. What naturally follows is contemplation of working environments in which trick plays are not accepted, expected, or rewarded.

Life is too short in the best of cases …

Margaux And Margo: Opposite Planetary Poles

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/27/2016 | 10:58 AM

Continue reading "Margaux And Margo: Opposite Planetary Poles" »

Signs Of Intelligent Life At Abacus House

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/24/2016 | 11:21 AM

As regular readers probably already know, I enjoy baiting the bears, tweaking the beards of the good souls who dwell among the numbers and rejoice when they find a bad one. I accuse them of terminal short-sightedness, and suspect many of them are possessed of a sadistic streak that gains in strength with the power that accrues to those who live — and die — by the numbers.

To my astonishment and unbound delight, CFO magazine has announced a webinar devoted to the wisdom — necessity, even — of investing in training, learning, and development of staff resources. This from a group that has, in recent years, been reluctant to spend any money on building up talent levels, containing runaway costs by expecting to hire people who already knew what they needed for a specific job. 

But, apparently, the talent shortage is cutting deeply, and a movement is underway to stop self-flagellation, instead investing in elevating the potential - and actual - of existing staff as an option to going out to fight the talent wars all day, day after day.

Here's my plan … Let's hope, let's encourage, CEOs (and other C-level leaders) to get aggressive about turning placeholders into assets, flunkies into ambassadors, and make the investment into the people who can make a difference in how enterprises sustain high performance. This makes lots of people nervous. The return is hard to quantify, and even harder to evaluate.

For some, whatever can't be easily measured and assessed is not real, is dismissed. That failing does not make them either evil or stupid, but is a factual human condition. But, whatever, let's do this thing.

We have nothing to really lose, and a boatload of benefits to be gained. And, let's thank the bean counters for responding to a glimmer in the distance, and are ready to act, on the theory that it is a light they are seeing.

Do You Hear What I Herd?

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/20/2016 | 8:01 AM

Spelling intentional. Looks and sounds like a lyric from a Christmas song, I know. But, it is really about our little dog — the one who would/should be President. Little Penny is a Corgi/unknown mix from a rescue shelter.

For better or worse, the Corgi part dominates, so she spends long periods in the backyard, scanning the far horizon for signs of interlopers and/or predators, as she guards an imaginary herd of cattle. Given a primal instinct and no satisfying relief for it, Penny tries from time to time, especially when we are carrying armsful of treasures from Costco, to herd us into one another or into the nearest obstacle.

We tolerate this behavior, having been with her through the Terrible Twos and the Teen Years (in dog years, of course). Our quite proper suburb would frown upon placing a large group of cows on the premises for a dog's amusement, but it has crossed my twisted mind that she might do well with an intimate cohort of, say, three sheep to keep on the straight and narrow.

We've concluded, and the point of raising the issue at all, is that no family member, or no staff person, no matter the endearing qualities or capacity for genius, is worth over-the-top accommodation. It's a bit like saying, "Ordinarily we'd fire David Duke, but he's so good at forming groups, and can work magic with bedsheets and a few matches … "

I'll stop short of examples from the enchanted land of Presidential candidates, but — to pick another case — Einstein would be useless, even with his infamous theory, if he refused to communicate with his intellectual inferiors. King Richard Petty would have to find another ride if he got into fistfights with pit crews everywhere he drove. And so on so forth.

Penny is not getting her herd. The wunderkind has to arrive for work at 9:00 a.m., like everyone else. The slightly weird loner who invented praline pecans that do not taste of gasoline does not get to take four hours for lunch to properly care for her cats' emotional well-being.

Clear enough? If the organization has a strong culture, no Lone Ranger gets empowered to chip away at it, at will. We'll find our own Tonto, and figure it out, without any silver bullets.

Collateral Damage

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/17/2016 | 12:07 PM

The nerds with bombs gang, aka ISIS, has apparently struck once again. The massacre in Nice a couple of days ago was either part of a more grand conspiracy, or inspired a guy who was gonna be dateless until he collected his 3 or 4-score virgins.

Personally, I don't really know what the West's next moves ought to be, but is does seem that we are, in the collective, reluctant to risk blowing the burqa off some radical's grandma in a military strike.

No one relishes the prospect of blowing up babies in order to kill or maim a terrorist, but, it is war. Some among us are a little trembly in the knees at the prospect of shooting back, or worse, pre-emptively, when we discover where the scraggly-bearded heroes of the caliphate are hiding. I'll repeat. It is war - and we neither started it nor should be required to take one in the shorts because we eschew mindless slaughter of innocents.

So, yes, when we do what ought to be done to enemy combatants, there will be collateral damage. A hospital next to an armory might explode. A school next door to a war planning coffee house might catch fire. Grow up! All combat delivers some level of collateral damage.

In competing supply chain enterprises, some bold decisions get taken. One food processor elected to focus on a limited set of profitable products. Capacity was limited, and they decided to get out of the pickle business. I witnessed grown men weep at the demise of the pickles. Collateral damage.

More recently, a diversified consumer products company decided that a very-well-selling peanut butter was not a good fit with its other highly profitable market leader products. They sold the brand to a foods corporation, where the hand-in-glove relationship with jams and jellies made much more sense. Collateral damage.

Still another business titan discovered that its respected white goods lines were not nearly as exciting for the future as its complex high technology market leaders. They prepared for the future by selling the present to a third party. Collateral damage.

Recognizing that business, especially supply chain management, is a form of war, maybe collateral damage, which calls out for some limitations in a civilized society, is a natural and normal risk for those engaging in conflict of any sort.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to understand that conflict resolution in the extreme will deliver some level of collateral damage, but that a greater good outweighs the risk of damage.

Team Dynamics In Dynamic Teams

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/13/2016 | 7:41 AM

From king to jester, from phenomenon to failure - what makes super-teams morph into junior varsity hopefuls? For openers, stability on a winning team is a bit of a fantasy. Stuff happens. Rock-steady contributors retire. Emerging stars jump ship for promises of riches on other ships fhat sail the same waters. Those who've gained valuable experience get promoted - or are used to anchor other, newer teams.

Whatever, small, nearly imperceptible, changes subtly erode the cohesion and balance that made the team nearly invincible at one point. For the leader, coach, point of the spear, the change(s) mean starting over in terms of team development and maturation.

The difference plays out more dramatically in the sporting arena. At the professional, e.g., NFL, NBA, NHL, levels, team is almost an oxymoron because the Lakers or whomever are not a collection of complementary skills, but an assemblage of independent performers motivated almost solely by self-interest. The coach, the leader on the field of play is hamstrung, as the original owner's unemployable nephew makes talent acquisitions based on salary caps and operating P&Ls

At the collegiate level, the parallels with general business and with supply chain management are more clear. But, show a little love and generosity to the beleaguered on-court/on-field leader. Every season, year after year, the coach(es) must find and sign new talent, at least as skilled as those who have departed, in the range of 25% of the total team. Then, the new players have to get integrated into the overall team, figuring out roles and relationships - go through all the stages of team development as drawn up by Bruce Tuckman.

That's how last year's 12-1 champion goes to 7-6 with supposedly better and more talent. And, that's how your unstoppable project machine breaks down under the weight of a superficially simple task.

Pay attention to this reality, and tread carefully around the hubris traps that litter the corporate landscape.

They Ain't No Steak In Stakeout

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/10/2016 | 12:15 PM

We have, perhaps, been spoiled by TV shows. Stakeouts are sort of boring, but at the same time sort of exciting. We have the FBI looking for Mafia dons, elite police units keeping eyes on serial sadistic killers, and various operatives looking at and after a motley of suspicious characters. We don't see much of private eyes in baggy pants and gravy-stained ties busy proving or disproving that a spouse of odd behavior is cheating with an insurance agent.

When the stakeout is over, or when the next shift takes over, it's time for pasta puttanesca, or Chinese takeout, or a quick two or three pick-me-ups at a hotel bar, or at a cop hangout. In more or less real life, though, what sustenance and refreshment is available is a little different.

Think lukewarm or cold coffee from someplace definitely not Starbucks, a peanut butter sandwich (or more likely a day-old salami treat on a short path to salmonella). Think stale doughnuts and a bag of Cheetos. And, the next shift is you - the cavalry is not riding to rescue.

Our work is a bit like that. We grind through doing what has to be done. We see our fair share of leftover Krispy Kremes. Our idea of hydration is a bigger mug of watered-down Folger's. That is the fuel of supply chain execution.

Every so often, and without warning, we get a shot at a John Gotti or a Carlo Gambino, an opportunity to superhumanly solve a new problem and, for a moment, be a hero. To handle the 100 truckloads that no one expected, or the 10 containers on a ship arriving 3 days early.

Do we get the steak? Probably not. But pizza is a possibility.

Will Good Hunting

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/06/2016 | 10:06 AM

The Kid observed Uber-Mom packing up some clothing, and was curious as to what was up. She explained that the package was destined for The Free Store, a place where people in need could pick out new (to them) clothes, and not have to pay. So far, so good.

The Kid pondered a bit, then burst out with, "You really need to take those to Will Good's. There are people there who have jobs to go along with doing a good thing." He became eloquent. "Those jobs are important! Some people need a second chance, or a break to get their feet under them.

"They may have had a bad choice, and are maybe coming out of rehab. Or, maybe they can't get a regular job for some reason."

It took a bit of dyslexian logic to suss out that Goodwill Industries was The Kid's meaning, but he was, once again, on-target. It's fair for us to ask ourselves if we are doing what we can, within the imperatives of our objectives, to provide jobs for those who are differently abled, or need a hand up.

I know Randy Lewis and his back story a bit.  I am confident that I know what the Walgreens answer would be, and I have hopes that more are learning from that experience.

So, ask yourself the core question.

The Kid can hardly wait for your answer.

What's Happening? What's Going On?

By Art van Bodegraven | 07/03/2016 | 2:30 PM

The Kid was drooling at the prospect of putting away a Chernobyl-sized steak, and contemplating a slow up-ramp to the grande finale using a lobster with a death wish.

"Oh, wait!" he exclaimed. "I think he's dead already. Oops, no, he's alive, but I think he's depressed."

The Kid is, almost always, superbly tuned in to his environment. He senses the moods and feelings of those around him, even the crustaceans, observes for confirmation, and then acts accordingly. We all have a similar responsibility to those around us.

The mark of a leader is an acute awareness of situations and people - and behaving based on what he sees, toward individuals, toward causes, and toward the greater good.

We continue to learn from The Kid. He's not content to go with the flow, to do the job without regard to its effect on the human condition.

Watch and learn, grasshopper.

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.


Popular Tags

Subscribe to DC Velocity

Subscribe to DC Velocity Start your FREE subscription to DC Velocity!

Subscribe to DC Velocity
Go digital