Archives for October 2016

The Scienterrific Method: Yes, No, And Maybe

By DC Velocity | 10/27/2016 | 7:48 AM

Setting The Stage

The writer is not always sure what readers expect - or want.  He or she can, with planning and a modicum of focus, adopt a voice and a point of view (POV), and hope for the best.

Hope is not enough, though.  Feedback analysis, response evaluation, compare-and-contrast with peers' efforts, and judicious tweaking are necessary components of a sustainable writing process.  And, even then, putting one's nekkid self out there for all to see/hear/read is a chancy endeavor.

With good fortune and hard work, the risk might pay off in audience acceptance.  But, even with a general success, there will be outliers that lead to mental fragility and a fondness for Shiraz/Cabernet blends.

Commentary pops up, like holiday kiosks at the mall, in a variety of unexplainable locations.  Some is on the site in reply to a specific blog, some slips into discussions of columns, some gets generated by a LinkedIn or FaceBook reference, and most is face-to-face oral in some uncomfortable setting.  For whatever reason, regular readers seem reluctant to record commentary in a sort of permanent record, with their names attached.


The Illusion Of Correctness And Precision

Despite all best efforts, some will persist in seeing things that aren't there, and react/respond with what they perceive to be logic, and what the writer perceives as evidence of either a damaged genetic makeup or a severely thwarted social development.  They seek absolute consistency, and are lightning quick to attack what they see as errors or waffling, or flip-flopping.

That a good answer might depend on specific circumstances, and differ with time, capabilities, resources, and priorities creates an un-nesssary cognitive dissonance.


Feedback And Response

It can be gratifying to see some occasional commentary from readers, whether agreeing or disagreeing with a particular point or observation.  In the abstract, at least, evidence of reading one's work, hopefully without the reader needing to move his or her lips in the process, is superior to the fear that one is shouting into an empty room.  Whoa!  Was that a reply or an echo?


Some Alternatives And Scenarios

Perhaps satisfying some number of constituencies would require adopting a new voice, taking a different POV, or being prepared to, like a multiple personality case study, being Jane or John or Veronica or Pablo depending on the issue or cause du jour.

Some would be happy to see a dry, turgid, prolix product, appended with an endless list of references and citations (many from the same ultimate source).  This might be impressive "research" which has a useful role in many applications.  But, for me, assembling snippets of other people's work (some with extensive chin whiskers) to reach a summary of received wisdom and past alignment on burning questions and definitive answers is not a satisfying process.  So, I most often offer up the observations and conclusions of a half century of hands-on personal experience as a means of encouraging current and independent thought and criticism.

This disappoints some readers who would seek refuge in a safer, perhaps less-challenging, environment - and encourages criticism unleavened by exposure to elements of reality.

Another coterie of readers operates under the misconception that we are all in a church or temple.  It anticipates that anything written receives some kind of imprimatur by being published, and miraculously becomes a worthy addition to Holy Writ.  They search for deeper meaning than was intended, and seek contentious debate around the implied theology of a particular position on an issue or topic.  For myself, I'm not impressed with how many angels fall off the head of a pin - or are pushed, or keep on dancing.

I've had readers who challenge a statement or position as heretical, or worse, then search back for other evidence that indicates a consistency or inconsistency on the issue, or explains how and when my mind had parted company with the rails of reason and truth.

I have some fear that these worthies are actually paid salaries by employers who have been deluded into thinking that their associates are working like rented mules on behalf of an enterprise, rather than trolling the blogosphere for amusement and uninvited dialogue.

Yet another band of Duck Dynasty wannabes, paranoid, spittle-beflecked, contentious, and mad as hatters, seeks clues that political meaning is buried deep within innocent observations regarding infrastructure, or truck driver shortages, and are ready to exercise 2nd Amendment rights in my direction to learn me a lesson in what real Amurricans think.  Global competition seems to bring out the full moon aspects of the groupthink that fuels these profoundly disturbed caricatures.

And, a political season - they are now nearly full-time television series material - seems to intensify the mindless rhetoric that this hardy band is generally inflamed by, and feels honor-bound to insert in any discussion on any topic.  Back off, Buford; I am not ready to blame the dad-gum Russkis and their puppet fellow-travelers for a decline in consumer confidence.

The name game sneaks in from time to time, with accusations of being in league with sales and marketing dreamweavers, or volunteering to be a willing tool of capitalism run amok, or succumbing to the proven lies of socialism bordering on worse, or being a do-gooder with little sense of reality.  Or capitulating to the seductive wiles of suspect technology; or embracing Luddites.

To an earlier point, given time and circumstance, stuff happens and things change.  Nevertheless, another societal subset that yearns for the world-that-never-was of Norman Rockwell scans everyone's writing for immutable truths, unchanging rules, and a static set of interactions.  They take solace in things such as: "Hey, that's just pool distribution under a different name!"  And, "How is the fulfillment craze different from a Sears catalog at the end of the 19th century?"  Not to dwell on the crass offer, once a siren lure, of "I've got fifty loads to tender" in a capacity-constrained environment.


Whatcha Gonna Do About It, Smart Guy College Boy?

Here's my plan.  I'm going to keep on doing what I do, in the way that I like to do it.  The crazies will have to make do with plastic utensils and generally harmless foods, slipped through a slot in the door.

Look, I've got a friendly - and highly respected (with good reason) - venue for publication.  My editor(s) are tolerant beyond reason, and my lack of focus and absence of discipline are wonderful forms of self-gratification.

So, check 'em out.  Twice a week, and/or once a month,  coming to you direct from left field, blogs that wander all through the corn maze.  Assertions that test one's faith.  Trenchant observations that miss the point.  Obscure musical references.  Revealing familial adventures.  Columns that may challenge conventional wisdom, with the odd joke or two embedded.

If you seek eternal truth, or scholarship, or deep meaning, please do try to mask your disappointment.  We are not running a confessional or a think tank here.  What we are running is a safe place to contemplate issues and answers, to test perspectives, and to consider matters that don't always cut through the fog of a never-ending job to do.

www.dcvelocity.com/blogs (the art of Art).  Basic Training in print and electronic DC Velocity issues.  Have fun, and don't be afraid to rattle the cage occasionally.  The lion has no teeth, and its roar has been prerecorded.

La Diva Changes The Game

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/26/2016 | 10:53 AM

So, in a departure from her early focus, our singer, a cross between Adele and the late Ethel Merman, took on the role of Margot in The Diary of Anne Frank.  No losers, only winners.  Suddenly non-singing La Diva illuminated a stage with her vision of the role, and stunned her director with a fresh interpretation of the character.

After the fact, true confessions emerged, reinforcing the power of a new take on what was previously a given, with a lifelong learner's appreciation for having had her preconceptions shattered in a positive way.  There's a lesson in there for all of us, perhaps.

La Diva took what is almost always an introverted character who fades into the woodwork early in Act I, and, without changing the essence of the person, became another player with an identity, along with hopes and dreams for the future.

Our work often gives us similar challenges.  We slowly disappear into the deep rut of a routine, losing identity and energy in the process, and more or less gamely do the same things the same way, day after day.

Maybe what we need to be prepared to do is re-examine our universe, and our place in it, with intentions to redefine its parmeters.  To change the game to allow our core selves to flower and dream - and achieve.

Think about it, and what examination and redefinition might do for us, our colleagues, and our customers.


The Technology Chasm

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/23/2016 | 1:09 PM

Both feet planted firmly in another century, CFO magazine's contributors have taken note of the yawning gap between technology needs and actualities in the logistics industry.

It is heartening to see from a group that regards technology as computing, and has a hard time getting past the notion that Big Data might be analyzed if only one possessed a sufficiently large abacus. There is hope . . .

The discussion began with the acknowledgement that several respected organizations had found that only slightly over half of 3PL (LSP) customers were satisfied with their service providers' IT capabilities. One great customer need was identified as transparent real-time shipment tracking with GPS and RFID technologies.

Demand and capacity forecasting, and route modeling solutions were also high on customers' want lists. Consultants regularly complain about service providers' lack of technology, and dependence on Excel and manual recordkeeping.

Of course, the industry has been notoriously thrifty, with commoditized pricing, low margins, and small business mentalities, all of which make it tough for them to contemplate large capital investment in projects with five-year, or less, shelf lives. Their CFOs struggle with how to best allocate scarce capital resources.

Meanwhile, picky customers who would like to demand the best, shoot themselves in the foot by beating service providers into the ground to get the lowest possible prices. In fairness, it should be noted that the larger 3PLs do invest in technology for their largest and best customers. While Big Data might offer some promise, 3PLs and customers differ on the best way to use it.

Frankly, this latest round of findings and complaints echo what most of us have been saying for near-on a couple of decades. Nevertheless, we believe that the logistics industry will catch up to where it needs to be - simply because it must. It has no choice, because some disruptive emerging leader will make the first dramatic move.

Think so?

The Accountants Get Taken By Surprise - Again!

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/19/2016 | 2:16 PM

One step forward, two steps back - not exactly progress, maybe not even encouraging movement.  Signs of physical life are not necessarily indicative of mental acuity.  Despite contraindications, I get that print media production is time-consuming, timing is everything, and late-breaking news trumps research, especially if high jinks are possible.

So, it's no great shock that CFO magazine has just come out with a Clinton/Trump comparison, evaluating which would be better for the US business economy.  Genius timing, huh?

CFO readers' choice for the top job was Trump, 55% to 35%.  No surprise there.  If the article had appeared 60 days ago, that is.  But, in the weeks following the release of the Trump bus video and the emergence of credible groping victims, really?

What do you suppose is CFO's loss of credibility by sticking with the theme and their conclusions?  How do you imagine the vast number of female readers and leaders are taking the idiotic decision to stay with the topic and their insensitive, at best, recommendations?

There is a time to stick with one's guns on principle, and there are times to take new positions, again based on principle.  And there are times to lay low, and stay out of the line of fire.

This is one of those times; you pick which, and what the right thing to do is.  We face the challenge on a regular basis.  Maybe we could coach the accountants on the basics.

Compensating For Shortcomings

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/16/2016 | 10:07 AM

Some might assume that this is an admonition for the vertically challenged to improve their posture, and thus reach the top shelves everywhere. It's really about how we all handle a variety of deficiencies (real or perceived).

To personalize for a moment, my sprightly air belies a few physical challenges. For openers (a preliminary procedure employed by surgeons), I am missing a largish portion of my pancreas. Not a good situation for a diabetic, but the fragmentary remains of a once-functional organ require less than half the synthetic insulin that they once demanded. Elsewhere in the nether regions, my spleen is approximately the size of the Goodyear blimp, and hoards vital blood components, scaring the bejaysus out of ER types who want to admit me posthaste.

So far, I have resisted their kind offers of MRSA-laden hospitality. Meanwhile, other lab coat types are busy nipping and tucking, removing awkward growths from my upper GI system. What appears to be rescue mission cirrhosis is actually the product of portal hypertension, a long-term outcome of a complex medical procedure.

With all this excitement, my lymphatic system has converted itself into a network of twisted country lanes, replacing the well-designed high-capacity interstate highways that used to criss-cross the torso. As a consequence, my body takes on water faster than the Titanic, requiring periodic bailing or constant medication - take your pick.

We could go on, but channeling The View's Joy Behar, "So what!?"

The moment we begin to limit what we can do - or attempt - by where and how we fall short of some evidence of normality, we begin to limit happiness, success, and how we are seen by others. And what of value or import is actually accomplished?  

We all - or nearly all - don't quite match up with someone's idea of perfection. Rather than obsessing about the shortfall, we will get much farther down the road to achievement by concentrating on what we CAN do, and do reasonably well. While undertaking the journey, it can be useful to develop reasonable capabilities in weaker areas.

I know that some consultants du jour recommend focusing on making strong areas even stronger, and not wasting time on the others. But, SOME ability to function in - or understand - a range of competencies is essential, imho, to being taken seriously in one's areas of strength.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes on the prize, and accomplish based on what you can , and not what you (think you) can't.

Infrastructure? US Supply Chain? Don't Kid Yourself!

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/12/2016 | 2:43 PM

MH&L recently posed two vital questions, both essential to the November election.

One, who do you trust to run the US supply chain?  Two, is the US infrastructure the big winner no matter the election's outcomes?

The real questions are: Do you trust anyone to run the US supply chain, especially given the repeated failures of the USSR's famed five-year plans?  And, will whomever is elected have the courage - and budget - to actually plan and execute a genuine program of supply chain upgrades?

I'm frankly cynical and pessimistic about both.  I've still got the spade for the last administration's shovel-ready jobs program.

Don't hold your breath, and don't raise your expectations bar very high.  The past does not bode well for the future in these arenas.

Our political class(es) tend to make promises at the Administration level, and, on rare occasions, tiptoe toward infrastructure upgrades until budget constraints compel them to rein themselves in, lest one Tea Party or another tossses an IED in the general direction of a bandwagon, or shells the Ship of State from a safe distance.

Those of us in the field have struggled through a roller-coaster of false starts, thinly-disguised handouts to local interests, and grant programs that, whether impractical or not, receive attention, accolades, and high-sounding titles.

We will await the jury's return from deliberations before celebrating.

Know When It's Time To Go

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/09/2016 | 12:33 PM

For whatever reason or reasons, it might be time to leave supply chain management in the rear-view mirror.

Maybe the stress is beyond what you can handle with grace and good humor any longer. Perhaps the continuous change and the demands to master succeeding generations of technology are demanding more effort than you want to put in at a given career stage. Or, maybe you've earned the right to pursue a true love, a compelling passion, a sense of wonder, beauty, and accomplishment that SCM no longer brings you.

We'll miss you, and the profession will be the poorer for your departure. But, life is too short to not follow your heart. It's not as simple as just changing what you do beginning tomorrow morning. So, how does one go about preparing for a new and different life?

Change! Change the touchstones of your past life; create new ways of living.

Change your relationships. Get to know players in your new universe. Learn from them. You want to become a rapper? Start hanging with Eminem. And, start building new connections well before you make moves that cannot be undone.

Change your finances. Learn to live on less. Be ready to invest in learning the new trade; set aside networking, lunch, seminar, travel money. Start early in your present situation by ramping up retirement contributions, negotiating a raise, and learning good money habits. Pick up a second - even part-time - income. Remember, this is about setting yourself up to make more money in future - or to fund indulgence in a passion. Either way, start early, well before leaving your current situation.

Change your free time. Skip bowling in favor of investing in prep for your new career. Introduce order, discipline, and accomplishment in the time you used to fritter away on Eli Manning. Get accustomed to schedules and deliverables as essentials in any, especially a new, work role. If all you want to do is play the lute in off hours, that does not count as a career change; it would be a hobby, undertaken as a way to exhaust the funds and discipline establishing a new productive identity requires.

Change your stress management tools. If Bombay Sapphire is your medication of choice today, recognize that you don't yet comprehend the stress of a fresh start, of building a career from scratch, of finding your credibility wallet empty. Figure out what works best for you - a workout, a massage, a sauna, meditation. But, stay away from the oxycodone.

Think about changing your job as a positive alternative to changing careers. What problems can you fix; how can you get up to market parity in compensation? At best, you may rediscover the exhilaration of your present career. At worst, you'll sharpen skills in communications, problem-solving, and negotiating that will be useful in a new role.

Change. Change nearly everything. Change with specific purpose.

Change to set yourself up for success - and happiness.

Ferry 'Cross The Donau

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/05/2016 | 11:16 AM

Sung to the tune of "Ferry 'Cross The Mersey" by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Only, the Donau is the Danube, as it crosses Germany, separating Bavaria from Baden-Wurttemberg. And, the Ferry is the once-head of Porsche.

The legacy has been tarnished by Adolf Hitler's enthusiasm for the family of engineers, their design of military vehicles, and the revolutionary thinking that gave us Volkswagen, the people's car. But, at a nadir of national standing, the racing triumphs of Porsche sports cars gave a dispirited people hope and a vision for what might lie ahead. Most people could easily think that the power behind the reclamation of world-class staus was Ferdinand Porsche. Most people would be wrong.

Don't get me wrong. Ferdinand did found the company. Originally from Austria, he cut his teeth at Daimler-Benz. But, Stuttgart (across the Danube) in Baden-Wurttemberg was THE place to be if one was in the automobile business in Germany who took the original notion and ran with it - all the way to the finish line. The legendary 356 sold under 80,000 units in some 27 years. Ferry's 911 has sold 800,000 almost-universally loved iconic models.

Today, the family dynamic roars on, even though the family has not exercised control in several years. The DNA won't go away. The story of a son revolutionizing a father's creation is rare enough. The opposite is so often true, as a son eats the Golden Goose for dinner, forgetting where the Golden Eggs come from. Where is Ross Perot's son now - running parking lots? What have the Rockefeller boys done to eclipse John D's miracle of industry dominance, besides dabble in politics and perfect the art of giving away money? How many heirs and heiresses turned to the intellectual challenge of the playboy/playgirl club life as a socially uplifting alternative to actual work? And on and on.

I have a client connection in which Junior is in the process of dithering and procrastinating Senior's hard-built enterprise into irrelevance. Not so the Porsches. Ferry's son, btw, had a major role in the 911's design. Listen now to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young: "Teach your children well."

Cool Kid With A Hot Date

By Art van Bodegraven | 10/02/2016 | 11:19 AM

The Kid and his friends are thoughtful and analytic about domestic politics and international diplomacy.  Accordingly, their school lunches and sucrose-filled sleepovers would fill an hour or so on CNN or MSNBC - or Fox News.

At the same time, and in a parallel development, they have begun to observe exemplars of the opposite gender, particularly those a grade or two ahead of them in school, with with an increasingly practiced eye.

This can lead to oddly awkward moments.  Uber-Mom very nearly went airborne on a recent ride home from school.  As the presidential campaigns warmed toward a conclusion, one of the budding pundits asked The Kid, "Would you date Hillary?"  After a moment of gob-smacked silence, he clarified "I mean if she were our age."

In perhaps a similar scenario, some senior supply chain managers are often reluctant, despite the attractiveness of a so-called best practice  at a prominent enterprise, to adopt something that might be out of their league from a size, sophistication, or talent perspective.

Those are not good reasons to fail to attempt reaching to be the best, to shoot for excellence in relationships and how one does business.  Just maybe, the exemplar is really "our age", after all.

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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