Archives for November 2016

Restless Mind Syndrome

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/30/2016 | 6:22 AM

No, it's not the same as Restless Leg Syndrome, but it will keep you up at night. Restless Mind Syndrome (RMS) might reflect that technology, flashing lights, multi-tasking, and apocalyptic visions do give many of us the attention span of a four-year old with an over-imaginative bladder.

The condition is not quite the same as manifestations of ADHD, and Ritalin and Adderall are not efficaceous in its treatment - although Adderall could have some useful properties in other spheres.

RMS will lead to excessive and random blogging, as but one example, often taking the sufferer off the defined trails into uncharted swamps of musing. It's not always easy to keep up, with mental and emotional zigs and zags jumping unexpectedly and in unforeseen directions. The emerging supply chain leader may benefit from having many RMS irons in the fire.

This is good, unless and until there are too many irons too hot to handle. Then, the benefits begin to dilute, sapping the value of the original creativity. Our challenge may be one of knowing when to rein in the flight of ideas that feed the syndrome, saving energy and focus for the critical few, and bringing out the next surprise package when the first has been emptied and exploited.

So, find your balance in the eddying waters of the RMS tide of possibilities, and become a star by limiting your brightness to last for the long haul. Shooting stars are impressive, but are gone in a brief moment in the night.

More Thanks

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/27/2016 | 7:03 AM

I've not taken enought time to recognize our magnificent family as major finds in the grab bag of seasonal - and year-round - thanks.  Somehow, and mysteriously, Supply Chain Management plays a role in this.

Our older daughter, now assuming the demanding role of uber-Mom, grew up in the retail space, the tail end of ginormous and complex supply chains.  She wound up as Proprietess of the second-largest store in the world's leading intimate apparel brand network, a multi-lingual dynamo who could sell, develop and lead staff, control inventories, and thrill customers.  With three children who span a range from stunning to amazing, she uses her organizational, communications, and managment skills every single day.

Her sister, Fierce Betty, is a powerful supply chain leader, an auto-didact like her Old Man.  She, with two unrelated university degrees, leveraged a high school job into production planning and scheduling for a major paint and coating manufacturer.  That led to production planning and die scheduling for the two dozen plants of the leading plastic pipe manufacturer.  Running out of challenges, the next move was into procurement, where she became the country's largest buyer of virgin resin.  Now, she drives the North American supply chain for a specialty chemical company, and travels the world to sources, customers, and operations.

Our older son spent years in building and maintaining B2B customer relationships, and was a recognized leader who planned, got results, developed staff, and delighted customers.  Today, he plans and schedules for a nationally renowned pediatric health system, exemplifying his commitment to caring and social concerns.  And, in what passes for spare time, he volunteers in supporting those with dread - and often fatal - health conditions.

His younger brother travels a more traditional path, with stunning results.  Moving quickly on a consulting path after graduation, including international assignments, he returned for a Master's in SCM and leapt into global Sourcing and Procurement for leading multinational corporations in a variety of industry verticals.  Today, with a gorgeous wife, three talented children, and a well-worn passport, he is a force in his field.

Maybe more important, all four are terrific people, with strong values, firm - but differing - beliefs and opinions, fall-down-funny senses of humor, and commitments to responsible lives.

What't not to be thankful beyond words for?




Guess Who's Coming To Dinner - Squanto!

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/23/2016 | 9:33 AM

The real story of the First Thanksgiving may differ considerably from the mythology that surrounds it - and even more from how the feast is celebrated today. Squanto is best known for teaching the Pilgrims how to catch eels, among other things. He came from another tribe, but lived among the Wampanoag.

That first observance saw the Pilgrims outnumbered, with 90 Wampanoag in attendance, with but 53 Pilgrims present. The Pilgrims were thankful to have survived and to have had a bountiful harvest.

Myself, there is much to be thankful for. Health is a big one, which permits being thankful for all the other bounty. So, for that, I have many to be thankful for, including my genius surgeon, who was in my corner for a rare victory over a very bad disease. My wife of 49 years is a compulsive caregiver, and has guided me through a number of ugly medical adventures.

She's also amazing in the kitchen, which keeps my weight somewhat greater than it ought to be. Our four children are another gift, bright and funny on their own, and molded into absolutely splendid people by mijn vrouw. They, in turn have brought terrific partners into the extended family, and six grandchildren, each and all talented - even gifted - bright, amusing, and showing promise for future accomplishment.

Then, there are friends. Only a few, but tremendous human beings, all.

Finally, I remain privileged to work in a fabulous profession, on my own terms, saying, writing, and doing what I want to do, the way I choose to do it.

It just doesn't get any better.

When Eagles No Longer Soar

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/20/2016 | 8:32 AM

Don Henley, I'm happy to report, is alive and well. He's just released a solo album, and it is true grit in music. Don is, as much as a superstar can be, a real person, a normal guy with kids to raise and grass to cut (sorry, Willie, not to smoke). And poetry to write now that the band is off the tour circuit.

Perfectionists, purists, and jealous second fiddles sniped at the Eagles in the day. I loved their smooth almalgam of styles, as well as their assemblage of talent. Henley, a reformed drummer, was a favorite, and his best work may have been on Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.

It always made me think, once I got Winslow, Arizona out of my head, about what I was or was not wasting.

How about you? Are you wasting time, talent, and energy in your job?  Or, in your career? If "yes", what are you going to do about it?

How much more can you afford to waste? What's the payoff? What are the options for you to redirect yourself to a different set of objectives, or to find a better place in which to pursue them?

There's no better time than now to ask and answer these questions. The supply chain job market is the least hostile to carefully planned moves as it has been in years.

The Speed Of Capability

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/16/2016 | 8:15 AM

That white noise you hear in the background is the muttering and mumbling of Baby Boomers and Traditionalists as they bemoan the "expectations" of the dreaded Millennials. As if the Millennials suddenly showed up last week ready to be anointed VPs of something or another. And, as if preceding generations had not ever dreamt great dreams.

I say, give 'em what they've earned - and encourage them to keep on learning and earning.

Once upon a time, a brash young feller defied the limitations of his betters. A race car driver, he launched his own team. He then went on to design and compete - and win - in his very own car. Once upon a time was forty plus years ago. The company the kid founded is still going strong, even though he died at 32.

Bruce McLaren won everything in sight, knew no limits, and died testing them - a Millennial before his time. Meanwhile, preceding generations, then and now, spend their precious remaining days watching the clock click down to its final stroke. Is this why they disparage the Millennials, that the future is still ahead for the not so young kids, and no longer nipping at the old duffers' nether parts from behind?

In more contemporary news, a Shark Tank success story has announced a five-hour work day for its employees. OK, it's a Californian outfit devoted to a surfing culture. But, it wants employees to get creative about how to get their responsibilities accomplished in something other than the sacrosanct 8-hour bureaucratic day, a relic of using humans as cogs in the machinery as envisioned by Frederick Taylor.

If such Millennial adventures re-energize work and workplaces, I'd say we need more of them, with fresh ideas, no sense of limitation, and hopes for both change and success.

Bring them on, my brothers and sisters. You may be setting us all free.

Ladies And Gentlemen! And, Children Of All Ages! The Greatest Show On Earth!

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/15/2016 | 5:51 AM

In a bygone age of Norman Rockwell's America, it was the dream of many a young boy to run away and join the circus. Travel. The romance of the unknown. Adventure. All good and true things.

When Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey still featured a line of elephants in the big spec, the acts fine-tuned performances at winter quarters in Sarasota before splitting into two touring units that criss-crossed the nation. What a bargain, to see the best of the best in its natural habitat.   And, to have the desire to become a clown rekindled at no additional charge.

Many of us discover that we have unwittingly joined a circus in our SCM roles.   Volunteering to do so falls somewhere between unconstrained hubris and sociopathy. It takes a special kind of brain damage to believe that one can - quickly - become a ringmaster, lion tamer, head clown, and daredevil, all rolled into one. Luckily, a few are born to the challenge, and smart enough to practice its elements until they are embedded in a form of muscle memory.   Until that day dawns for the chosen one(s), DO NOT attempt wire walking or human cannonballing without a net.

So, some DO choose to run away and join the circus, perhps not realizing that water for elephants is one of the best parts of the job. In arguably more cases, the boy or girl whose job it is to clean up at the rear of the parade gets tired of carrying the shovel, but discovers too late that he or she is no longer fit for any other career path.   Either they have been co-opted by the circus, or the circus has joined them, wherever they happen to have been standing (or slinging).  

So, how might a circus join YOU? One is by pretending to NOT be a circus, but to be an organization with a unique point of view, a radical perspective, and a commitment to having fun while making money. Two minutes later, off come the red noses and floppy shoes, and out come the performance metrics.   Another is through merger or acquisition, with many of the same timing issues.

What to do?   Run like the very wind at the first whiff of pachyderm poop. Stay longer, and you will succumb to the addictive malodor.  

There is no such thing as moving out too quickly.

Ticket To Ride?

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/09/2016 | 2:37 PM

What name first comes to mind when rental cars creep toward front of mind status? Once upon a time, Hertz would have been pretty much automatic (no transmission pun intended). Today, a respondent might say Hertz, or Enterprise, or think in terms of a ride rather than the means of movement, and bring up Uber or Lyft and get all snarky about unkempt cab drivers.

Even though Hertz was first in the emerging game, the reality is that, without Avis, the rental approach would not have become what it is. Early leader Hertz was all over, scattered throughout urban locations. At the airport , there was no one of scope, scale, and seriousness, and the hapless air traveler was mostly stranded.

Warren Avis, pilot, passenger, WWII vet, and Ford dealer decided to do something about it. He was tired of hoofing it in search of solutions, and saw, as others didn't, the future of air travel. With less than $100k all in, he opened the very first car rental operation inside an airport's boundaries. He immediately opened in Miami, the US's busiest rent-a-car market.

As both business and recreational travelers went crazy, Avis lay the groundwork for an entire industry. Innovation after innovation followed: national franchise licensing, corporate credit cards, solid customer service, one-way rentals, technology such as the Wizard reservation system, Rapid Return, and internet-based reporting.

Avis himself quickly faded into relative obscurity, and the company was sold over and over. It once again reached a prominent share of mind under the leadership of legendary Bob Townsend, and a brilliant "We're #2; we try harder" ad campaign.

Perhaps Avis is today just one of many. But, its legacy is an industry that is represented at every rental counter, at every airport, in every city in the world - and in a continuously evolving technology, including mobile versions.

So, who's the Avis in our SCM world? Irrespective of industry position, who's creating business models that re-invent nd sustain themselves?

And, what's your role in not accepting the status quo and conventional wisdom?

The Little Bears Learn To Growl

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/06/2016 | 7:22 AM

And so, it was written.  The long penance was coming to an end; the curse of generations would be lifted.  Goat would be served at the celebration feast.  Thus, the beloved and grossly disrespected Chicago Cubs went on to win the 2016 World Series.  Side note:  In the day, the Da Bearss were Chicago's North Side football team, and the Cubs were the North Side baseball club.  The long-departed Cardinals were our South Side gypsy football team, and the White Sox played their spotty brand of baseball in the same venue, Comiskey Park.

I was but a lad in short pants, rolling my hoop down a dusty unpaved road when last the Cubs won it all in 1908.  Teddy Roosevelt was President, and the Boy Scouts were founded by Baden-Powell.  It's been a long, if star-studded, wait for greatness to be realized and recognized.

The mills of the gods grind slowly, and exceedingly fine - but they do grind.  Now, facing the future, we must prepare for the next time our stout lads win it all.  It might be soon; it might be another 108-year drought.  Whichever, it is our responsibility to invest in setting the stage, in amassing the talent, and in providing both support and leadership aimed at reaching the prize once again.  (If the magic number does approach 108, I plan to be around to see it, btw.)

There's a lesson here for those who would achieve supply chain success.  Starting from scratch to reach a pinnacle of excellence is a long and highly variable process.  Repeating and/or sustaining high levels of performance can involve ups and downs, shortfalls and recoveries - and time.  But, no matter the probability or uncertainty involved, we are responsible to make the investments in people, skills, technology, and organizational support that will pay off at an undetermined future point.  I, btw, plan to be around for the eventual win in this arena, too.

Note, though, that in our supply chain world, our public will not enjoy generations of tolerance for shortcomings; we have no room for lovable losers.

Recession Leads To Depression Leads To Muscatel From A Brown Paper Bag

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/02/2016 | 1:20 PM

At the risk of lauding a competitor, I'll pause to salute Peerless' fearless Jeff Berman, who is not afraid to call a shovel a spade.  In short, Jeff contends that the US' economic future looks shaky on a good day and abysmal when we face facts.

Not only, despite the Administration's rose-colored spin, are we not out of the weeds, the weeds are getting taller and thicker - and our exposure to slipping back into dire straits after a summer of mere malaise is growing.

Personally, I don't take current high inventory levels as immutable consequences of cosmic forces, but as evidence of questionable management decisions.  But, there's little question that our 8-year record of sub-anemic GDP growth points to ignorance, obfuscation, and/or deliberate exaggeration. Our much-vaunted "recovery" is illusory, at best, a sham and a scam at its core.

Meanwhile, we face crippling debt, a staggering trade deficit, weakness in logistics planning and operations, feeble consumer confidence, and likely continued low/slow growth.

Of course we face increased exposure to the possibility - now perhaps a probability - that Ichabod Crane's Headless Horseman is preparing to ride again.  Thundering hooves, sparks flying, with fear followed by destruction.

Almost any halfwit would be deep into contingency planning by now.  Show of hands: how many have actually completed their action and inaction plans for the next recession?

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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