Archives for August 2016

The Recycled Road To Disruption

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/31/2016 | 1:11 PM

We've been chanting the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra for some 45+ years. It began as the special province of tree-hugging, and usually ineffective, environmental activists.

Slowly, and with some level of ridicule, the notion behind the nascent movement seeped into board rooms. Grudgingly, and spurred by dictates from headquarters, half-hearted programs began to appear. Surprisingly, they often worked as designed, turned out to be good business, and encouraged trying the next logical step.

Honda of America has taken the focus to another level, adding "Rethink" to the top of the list. Quietly bold, and to be expected from a culture such as Honda's, the new first step in the program, challenges us all to not accept the received wisdom, sound as it may be.

We are, instead, taught to think through sequences, priorities, what has become status quo, before embarking on enhancements, additions, and tweaks to established Reduce-Reuse-Recycle thinking.

When does rethinking cross the imaginary line from continuous improvement to disruption - turn into the breakthrough that a gap that competitors simply can't close? Or, outstrip the as-yet-unknown regulations the Federal government is certain to impose at some point.

To be determined - just don't stop thinking, in all areas of enterprise endeavor.

Ryan Lochte, Al Roker, and You

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/28/2016 | 6:48 AM

Facebook is abuzz with trending coverage of the Today show's contretemps that has the real (i.e., white) on-air team with its collective undergarments all bunched up.  Not a pretty sight, and accompanied by most unattractive whining and hand-wringing.

It seems that the Cheerleader, the Harasser-in-Chief, and sundry minions harboring illusions of power have been sorely embarrassed by weatherman and utility infielder Al Roker's response to weak excuses for Ryan Lochte's inexcusable excuses for grossly immature behavior at the Rio Olympics.  

A weak-kneed apologist appearing on Today fell short of canonizing Lochte, but not by much.  Weasel words on the order of mis-spoke, erred, youthful high-jinks, and the like were employed to characterize drunken public urination, buying one's way out of trouble, making up an outrageously untrue scenario that defamed an already-criticized nation, and, when pressed, sticking with the patently untrue fairy tale.

Roker had had enough, and called out the lie for what it clearly was - a blatant lie.  For this, he was castigated by his "superiors", co-hosts, stars, and executives - and lauded by the real people who watched the episode, and suffer from a combination of good sense and sound values.

Sad to say, we have occasional opportunities of a similar nature in our working lives. There will be moments in which a boss would much rather not hear truth, and for sure doesn't want his or her boss to hear it.

That's your test.  Risk their wrath now, possibly at some personal cost and loss, and hope to either escape or live long enough to be proven right. Or, take comfort that your example will at minimum be admired by others, and might even lead them to make a courageous call in a tough situation.  

Everyone needs role models.  You can be one that stands up and calls out what needs attention when the heat is on - and transforms how others handle what everyone wishes was someone else's job.


Ask The Fox How Things Are In the Henhouse — What!?!?

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/24/2016 | 7:33 AM

The fox has a vested interest in spinning reality to keep the food supply plentiful. The chickens' squawking sounds more or less normal. (Political inferences should not be drawn from the example.)

But, our trade press has a couple of distressing tendencies. One is to conduct and publish egregiously unscientific surveys under the guise of presenting the views of the profession's insiders, the power brokers who actually run things. Ergo, an endless tide of random pieces purporting to reveal the rare insights of random groups of executives and managers in the field.

One such puff piece within the past year lamented the shortcomings of working staff, who, opined self-nominated "leaders", were plenty in number, but lacked critical skills and understanding in enterprise performance — the context of their work. To which I say, "Bushwah!"

We don't have enough numbers, period. Critical functional skills are in desperately short supply. True, the workforce lacks a worldview that positions their efforts, and financial literacy has been lost to the ages.

To the extent that the workforce needs knowledge and upgrades, whose responsibility is it to deliver the goods in that department? Corporations are skimping. And constraining their people by largely failing to do so. Universities can provide a starter kit, but things change, evolve, shift gears, grow obsolete, and get replaced by technology and other disruption. So, whose job is handling change and upgrade?

Here's my real fear. The survey respondents have no real clue what their people know, and need to know. What they've learned that's salvageable, and what needs to be built on that foundation. Who has the potential, and who doesn't know where the hot dogs are, let alone how to cut the mustard.

But, they do know — and share endlessly — the anecdotes and half-truths that permeate gin-soaked debates about what's wrong in business today. Now for a radical challenge.

How about asking a carefully selected relevant active group of employees what's right, what's wrong, what's needed, who's got it (and who doesn't), and what it will take for individuals and the company to succeed in the future? Then, if they are still standing, let the bosses in on what has been learned that they need to do something about.

Yeah, that's the ticket. Ask the hens how the foxes are doing. You might get closer to the truth — and to taking a step toward goodness.

Forgotten Hero Of The Civil Rights Movement

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/21/2016 | 8:38 AM

We have all seen video of Martin Luther King proclaiming "I have a dream… " We, for better or worse, recognize Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, and other icons and leaders from the bad ol' days of Bull Connor and George Wallace. But, we mostly forget about A. Philip Randolph.

If we recognize the name, it is usually in the context of heading an early labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who were locked in mortal combat with the Pullman Company and white travelers, who called all porters "George."

Randolph was a brilliant thinker, a great scholar, and a thoughtful leader, with a valise full of accomplishments achieved prior to the BSCP movement. Without him, there would have been no march on Washington, no venue for Dr. King's great speech, retarded integration into the military and government service, and no inclusion in the overall labor movement, with BSCP inclusion in the AFL-CIO.

There were, admittedly, sharp edges. Randolph studied the work of Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois. He was both a socialist and an atheist.

What does A. Philip Randolph have to do with supply chain management? We can take away a few tips.

The greatest is that we all have a responsibility to dare to think great, even impossible, things. We have an obligation to contemplate what needs to change, then work on tactics and techniques to begin to nudge them forward. Another is that, when another—a colleague or competitor−has a terrific idea and a strong plan, we do not have to agree with both him or her on all matters outside the main thrust. Keep our eyes on the prize, so to speak.

If we allow ourselves the freedom to think, it is amazing how we can benefit from the insights of atheistic socialists as they might apply to our own life and work perspectives.

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/17/2016 | 6:39 AM

La Diva Rounds The Bases And Heads For Home

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/17/2016 | 6:39 AM

In this case, "home" is not a boomerang destination, a retreat to a safe place, but is where The Kid's older sister is headed in life.

It begins with the voice (Sorry, Blake, she's already spoken for), which is sufficiently beautiful that outclassed nightingales hide their heads in shame under their wings.  But, a voice is not enough.  A song that entertains, moves, and engages must use the eyes, phrasing, movement, posture, and creative pacing.

To reach a fuller potential, though, La Diva needs to enter a larger, richer, more robust universe.  So, she works the other side of the stage, blocking, staging, and directing.  In this part of her journey toward fulfillment, she soaks up instruction and examples from every mentor she can find.  In turn, she teaches, coaches, and develops the younger talent - paying back and paying forward. 

Along the way, she keeps musical theatre in perspective, and tackles drama, comedy, Shakespeare - whatever seems to be a useful next step in building a complete resume.  The latest is The Diary of Anne Frank.  No singing there.

So, SCM professionals, what have you done in your career management to parallel La Diva's well-crafted plan?  Are you only a singer?  Worse, are you the logistics equivalent of Johnny One-Note, who could and did sing only one note, turning off audiences and composers with his shrill trill, long on volume and endless in duration.

If you can sing more than one note, so to speak, have you learned to communicate fully and persuasively in the process?  Do you understand, are you intimate with, the context, the bigger picture, of what you do, of where and how you fit into the enterprise success equation?

Are you expanding your experience and understanding by learning from mentors, and from mastering  the supply chain equivalents of dancing, acting, managing, and leading others?

if yes, keep it up!  If no, get used to disapointment.  Our world is full of Johnny One-Notes, and has only a few La Divas.  One group takes no risks, and remains unfulfilled in many dimensions of life.  The other constantly takes risks, tries new things, falls, fails, gets up (as often as needed), succeeds, and finds satisfaction and reward.

It's a choice.  The enterprise owes even the most loyal and persistent Johnny nothing.  The La Diva cohort provides employers with an abundance of choices, which in turn give the employees a range of possibilities for further development and success.

Choose wisely, and don't complain later that your one note is unappreciated by Philistines.

Cultural IEDs

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/14/2016 | 7:24 AM

We faced a bit of a dilemma a few months ago. The Kid had undertaken a comparison of the corporate lifelines of Samsung and Apple for a school project. He, no techno-geek, was fascinated by the organizational and leadership styles involved.

So, when Steve Jobs, the film, was released, he wanted - beyond mere wishing - to see it. The R rating was an obvious immediate challenge.

But, research disclosed that the issue was solely language - no starlets were violated in the making of the movie, and AK-47s played no role in the plot and its outcome.

Off we trouped to the nearest mega-plex, and entered the auditorium fortified with dead popcorn and super-annuated Twizzlers. Language did, in fact abound, but it was authentic Jobs. And the story was mesmerizing, quintessentially limning the protagonist, powerful in his dismissal of all disagreement and opposition, and littered with gratuitous, now banal, crudity.

Look, I ain't no Dana Carvey playing the Church Lady. It was genuine, real, and representative; I've no problem with that. The Kid later observed, "I don't know if Grandma heard them, but there were seventeen f-bombs in that movie."  Grandma has since invested in hearing assistance.

Personally, I think there were more than seventeen. The point is that we, and The Kid, have become inured to a pervasive societal crudity. We accept it as a matter of course; it becomes part of the background noise.

At work, as the challenges of supply chain execution wear us down, we might succumb to an inelegant noun or adverb. We'll all live through that. But, we cannot allow genuine problems, shortcomings, unmet requirements, or sub-standard practices and processes to become part of the background noise.

We've got to be better than that.

Master Chef Junior

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/10/2016 | 8:24 AM

Graham Elliott, celebrity chef and judge on Fox's Master Chef came to our fair city to promote a very fine regional grocery chain, educate the masses, and sell a few books. The Kid, with a keen interest in food and related culinary tools and techniques was in enthralled attendance.

When picture taking and book signing time came 'round, Chef Elliott was a poster boy for enthusiastic engagement, good humor, and inexhaustable patience. After a bit of harmless badinage, he insisted on a second picture, this one with The Kid wearing Graham's trademark white eyeglasses, while he wore The Kid's more traditional spectacles.

Graham immediately tweeted his universe, impressing his wanna-be protege with his social media savvy.

Since, The Kid has taken Elliott's maiden cookbook to bed with him for serious night-time reading, bookmarking favorite anecdotes and recipes. The Kid has a vision for his future.

Where are you in the parallel to this adventure? Do you go to work at a job every day? Or, do you have a vision for your future? Does your vision involve becoming a Supply Chain Master, or an SCM Master Junior?

Do you have sufficient passion to live, breathe, and recreate SCM? Do you have an equivalent to bookmarking your learnings in the field? Or, is it too late to turn around your reasons for excelling?

Think it over. Can you evolve into someone who is en fuego for a calling? Can you intellectually invest in becoming a thought leader, in finding an organizational leader to both follow and emulate, in setting the bar high for excellence in high performance?

Once again, The Kid provides an example of options to consider and heights to scale.

Strong Hand; Short Leash

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/07/2016 | 2:01 PM

We walk the pooch who secretly runs the operations here at Blog Central every day that weather encourages getting up and about. She, rendered dizzy by the sensory assault of the smells of other canines, small woodland creatures, and odd bits of leaves and papers, would like to drag us into small creeks and tripping over decaying logs. But stern admonitions and a two foot leash and halter contraption keeps matters in hand.

The surgeon primarily responsible for my continued ability to rouse the rabble with aggravating, annoying, and often wrong-headed blogs and columns played much the same role for a time in my life. Strong, sure hands were essential, and his admonitions put me on the right track as I celebrated victory over the beast intent on wrecking my pancreas and invading innocent parts of my frail corpus.

Mijn vrouw continues his mission, in that she works like a demon to keep me on a good path, eating the right stuff, eschewing the wrong foods (and beverages), staying active, thinking logically, and staying organized. I'd be long-gone without that short leash and strong hand to make the good doctor's handiwork a lasting effort.

How about you? Is there someone who keeps your personal life on track? Have you found and cultivated a trusted advisor at work? We all need someone who can tell us when we are full of it, when we are mistaken, when we need to behave differently, when we need to pick up, or hone, specific skills.

Without that gentle but firm hand applied before things get out of control, we run very real risks of failing to be all we can be. Of being the best we can be. Of taking career-limiting detours.

Now, go find that mentor. Not a yes-man, but someone who has no hesitation to get in your grille with hard truths.

Do it now!

On This Natal Day . . .

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/03/2016 | 7:33 AM

After a certain age, varying widely by individual, comes on horseback the sobering realization that every day of verticality is, by definition, a good day, indeed. Standing up is upstanding; standing out is outstanding. The several decades that have followed Day One have been chock-full of ups, downs, jump-arounds, highs, lows, surprises, excesses, gain, loss, surplus, despair, elation, and high jinks in low places. Each and all have provided learning opportunity and life lessons.

Beyond verticality, the other operative command dates from a simpler day of acceptable ethnic jokes, in which immigrants putting down sod are constantly admonished, "Green side up!" So, clearly, it's not enough to be upright, the good stuff also needs to be on top.

These little reminders apply, too, to work life and professional progress at any age or stage of the game. It's not enough to simply show up, and be vertical. The green side needs to be up, too, with the right stuff in play. Being present is a good start, but you've got to be making contributions of good thinking — applying the green side — to have, hold, and keep relevance in career and relationships. Whoever suggested that showing up is half of success was not living in the real world. When you show up, you'd better bring something with you.

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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