Archives for January 2017

Wait, What's Trump Again?

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/29/2017 | 9:14 AM

Our political lives are touched by confusion, complexity, and cognitive dissonance, sometimes more often than others.

Myself, I come from a school of Republicans, a minority to be sure, but generally speaking in sentences and thinking in paragraphs.  Edward Brooke, Nelson Rockefeller, John Lindsay, Cabot Lodge, Bill Buckley, Bob Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, Tom Dewey, Margaret Chase Smith, Clare Boothe Luce, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Scott Brown, and - in his day - Salvatore "Lucky" Luciano.  And, all committed to action, making the right things hapen in the right way.

This cycle has been more stressful than many of late.  Donald J. Trump has scared me half to death, with personal idiosyncracies, superficial knowledge of core issues, and a willingness to shoot from the hip in between tweets.  His personal issues are anathema, and way too many adherents are lurking in his shadow, minus several teeth and good sense - and plus racism and mysogeny.

That confessed, there are numerous positions I can get behind: rendition and black prisons in other lands; keeping Gitmo open and active; the use of enhanced interrogation when research shows efficacy; tight immigration control along with extreme vetting; discouraging public sector sanctuary cities; transforming ACA into a fair and effective health care program; stopping catch and release treatment of illegal immigrant criminals; effective control over various visa alternatives; creating well-paying industrial jobs (along with necessary retraining); repatriation of off-shore profit holdings of US companies; and import tariffs and penalties. Plus, robust restoration of military prowess and willingness to use sanctions and intervention when global bad actors beat up on the weak while we stand by.

So, I loathe and despise the person, but support many of his general objectives.  What to do?  Be clear about limits of tolerance for bad behavior and  support for desirable actions.

At day's end, DJ is our President.  Hillary is not, and Bernie is - and will forever be - a nonfactor.  Dj did not win the popular vote, and is not ever likely to, given thetructure of our form of overnment.  Get over it; Madonna ain't gonna be Secretary of State anytime soon.  Nor will our "thou shalt nots" be formulated by frustrated intelligentsia on a densely-populated island just off New York.

We don't have to accept all the craziness, but we do owe the benefit of the doubt to actions that might pay off - to some limit.  Meanwhile, we must encourage the Trump Cabinet and senior team to put on their big kid pants and speak truth to power - as often as needed.

Curiously and maddeningly, we have a surplus of voters with a shortage of teeth and somewhat skewed DNA - not to mention a simple perspective on geopolitics, ecomomics, the rights of husbands, how fish began to walk on the land, the inerrant truth of ancient documents writ by the handof dozens of putatative authors, and Darwin's voyage on The Beagle.

Make no mistake.  They also vote, and we are obliged to drag them into current times, where they can duke it out with counterparts with opposing wrong views.  They, btw, work among us, and we must lead organizations full to the brim with a full mix of both.  Just another SCM challenge.

Get Out the Pledge And Polish Up Your Resume!

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/25/2017 | 11:27 AM

Mike Regan, in TranzAct's 2-Minute Warning, cautions that we could be in for some painful job losses and displacements - and soon.

Pay attention!  Mike is seldom wrong, and has your best interests at heart.

A number of forces are at work, few of them intended to deliver good news to an enterprise's long-term associates.  One is the continuing sluggish pace of low-to-no growth in the economy (and its logistics/supply chain management elements).  That will only get worse if other global factors cause a wider collapse.

Another is the prospect for organic cost reductions within the industry.  XPO's Brad Jacobs has been clear about the ripeness of the field for consolidation.  His staff trimming of acquisitions illustrates an inevitability.

Look, logistics and supply chain management have been dominated by small-ish, often family-operated firms in both warehousing and transportation (with a handful of notable exceptions.  Many of these simply cannot survive as independent entities in a globally-competitive universe.  They will be acquired, or die off.  Either way, job losses will be widespread and profound.

These are bad enough when done intelligently, with strategic intent.  When beady-eyed CFO's jump on a cost-cutting bandwagon, great swaths of corporate DNA can be lost or diluted in a process that focuses on cost alone, and ignores the needs of the future.

Whatever and whenever, this is the time to take stock, prepare for change, position for value perception, and re-orient experience to 21st-century relevance.  It is not the time to count on relationships, or years of perfect attendance, or a career of "managing" by title to, with reams of resumes, impress a demanding contemporary job marketplace.

A Peacable Transition

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/21/2017 | 3:57 PM

I thought deeply about the parallels between The Trump/Obama shift and what happens when a new boss shows up with a fresh broom at World HQ - and/or what you you need to do when it's time to repopulate the staff with fresh blood and a transfusion of energy.

Let's begin with the disruption of the new leader.  One can only hope that there is a leader involved, and not a boss or, worse, a manager.  For pretty sure, the new leader will bring new people with him or her - new skills, new persepctives, new experiences, new styles, new success factors.

One of the leader's critical decision set is to understand who has what skills - and who does not - and hire to fill the mission-critical gaps.  Who's Secretary of State; who's Secretary of Agriculture?  Who's CIA; who's National Security?  Why?

It'll take you some time to adjust, to adapt, to adopt, to integrate.  Get over it, and get on with it.  The old days aren't gonna suddenly become new.

A tougher challenge lies in the responsibility to find a new set of capabilities.  Look, the universe has taken on a new look since the dawning of the new century.  The people in it have to change, too.  They have to know how to do new things, and do them superbly.

And, it's up to you to find them - and vet their skill sets.  After all, it's your career on the line if you fail to find the talent your leader (established or new) demands for him/her to succeed.  Who's CIO; who's CFO?  Who's COO; who's VP Operations?  Why?


Donald J. Trump and the people who serve at his pleasure are about to find that out.  As are we.

Mr. Churchill Plays His Trump Card

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/18/2017 | 7:55 AM

In a famous insult, often mis-attributed, and repeated in several versions, my hero, Winston Churchill, counterpunched brilliantly. Accused by a woman, often thought to have been a fellow MP, of being very drunk, Winston replied, "I may be drunk, but in the morning I will be sober, and you will still be ugly."

Invoking the horror of the next dewy, fresh, rising of a new dawn bringing no relief to an affliction that had resisted the finest remedies—lotions, potions, emollients, and a week of Palm Beach Tan treatment—should provide instruction to a certain American rookie politician. Which perhaps surprisingly brings us to the world of work.

Faced (no pun intended) with challenges, we have choices. One is to liberally apply traditional cure-all remedies, such as rye whiskey. This can be way more entertaining than opioids, but horrifically destructive in the end, and may do nothing to repair the underlying condition. A short-term fix for a long-term problem. Another is to undertake cosmetic efforts to mask, hoping for root-cause improvement to the real problem. But most of what night creams actually do is get the pillow greasy.

The ultimate is difficult, and takes time. But it works, and gets at the systemic infrastructure that will only resurface with cracks and potholes intact without the long-term solution.

What's involved? Learning new skills, practicing and mastering new behaviors, building teams that work—and last—keeping up with (or, better yet, getting ahead of) trends and developments, committing to and living continuous improvement, and achieving objectives before moving on to the next challenge. 

Then, you have earned the treat of relaxing with that spirit of choice.

Doc In A Box vs. ER Redux

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/15/2017 | 10:04 AM

Now that we've introduced the topic,it's perhaps time to outline a few clues to the ER/Urgent Care decision.

if you are completely at sea on the question, there is nothing immoral or foolish about enlisting some consulting support to identify warning signs and size the exposures involved.  The caveat lies in consultant selection, in which a balance of creativity, practicality, experience, and a fresh set of eyes are evident.

Beyond the solution of bringing in an outside resource, there are a few conditions that suggest an ER intervention might be useful.  One, and one of the more obvious, is that awful moment when the things that have always worked no longer do so.  In a personalized example, when you can no longer suss out how to set the alarm system, the ER might be called for.  If changing the roll of toilet paper is suddenly a mystery, consider an ER solution.

If other daily tasks are, without obvious explanation, more or less completable, but do not work as intended, it's ER time.

At work, when the things that have yielded the desired results, no longer deliver on their promise, get someone to drive you to an ER; do not attempt going in by yourself.  When suppliers no longer cave to your demands, your imperatives.  When your workforce fails to respond to traditional motivations.  When "do more with less" becomes do it all with nothing.  When the tried and true that have propelled you to high position become the failed paradigms of the past.  Then, it's ER time.

The core message is this.  Change; change or die.  Relearn the basics of supply chain management.  Understand how human brains are wired - how people interact and respond.  And, don't hesitate to get to an ER to figure out what has to be different, and how wrong your assumptions have become.

Absolute Absolution?

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/11/2017 | 7:50 AM

We are beset by pressures, competing priorities and such indefinite concepts as "the good of the organization". Sometimes, perhaps too often, we are asked - or ordered - to take actions that run against everything we believe and hold dear.

What then?

Here's a sort of theological position. Very few circumstances will absolve you from doing what you, deep inside, know is wrong. It doesn't matter that you've got a huge mortgage, child support from your first two marriages, a special needs child, are three payments past due on the Lexus, a sick grandmaw, or a private rehab bill that would sink the Titanic. Sooner or later, you will pay an even bigger price for taking the wrong fork in the road. And, enjoy less forgiveness than Bernie Madoff

1) Don't do it; and 2) get out before the beast inhabits your soul. Immediate self-defined survival is the trigger for long-term emotional illness.

A long, long time ago, I was designated as the Grim Reaper for an employee being summarily let go. I gave him the word, and drove him to the nearest train station. It turns out he was suspected - only suspected! - of being gay and a draft dodger. The back story was that he wore womens' undergarments to his Army induction physical, not persuaded of the moral correctness of war in Viet Nam.

I was suddenly ill, and saw my bosses in a radically different and ghastly light. In less than two years, I was gone, never to look back.

There's a side note. Don't act hastily, but DO act. It's important to be rational and controlled in fight-or-flight situations.

But, if you fail to plan and act, you'll have to lie to receive absolution, which seems to this country lad to make the condition worse, rather than better.

Leadership Changes For 2017

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/08/2017 | 1:39 PM

Today's Amex Open Forum panders to the weak with a somewhat wobbly call to get the act together for the coming year.  Good stuff, tried and true, but really boys and girls . . .

If color-inside the lines bromides are all you've got to offer, you may very well be too late.  Here's some of what the guest columnist (Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends LLC) has to say.

Develop a vision.  If you don't have one, you may be doomed to staying a small business.  Define your main goals.  You don't have them already?  You don't know how and why they are "main"?

Decide on a leadership style.  Breaking news - you can't put these on or take them off, like a little black cocktail dress.  This is a reflection of who you are, at core, and how you've developed as an individusal over the years.  Identify the support your team will need to fulfill a vision and meeet goals.  C'mon, this is business 101, an essential component of prioritization and investment.  This is news?

Evaluate how last year went, and whether changes are necessary to training or working environment.  If this isn't part of your continuous improvement process, you're alrerady losing.

Finally, share your vision (some inane tips are proposed), and make positive changes.  I'll reiterate: It may well already be too late to create an empowering, creative, motivating enterprise.

If you review your situation and find it lacking, dig deep to understand how and why you may swimming in the wrong river.

Today I Am A Man

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/04/2017 | 4:26 PM

The Kid takes his responsibilities as an elder cousin as seriously as a Zika outbreak.  And, his adoring followers, Los Colombianos, worship him as a font of grown-up knowledge and an exemplar for all about him.  Recently, the younger lads accompanied us to pick up The Kid from Drama Club.

The older of our two Little Latinos remarked that "we are going to look like little kids" as we approached The Kid's middle school.  The younger straightened him out: "We are little kids."  "But, if you take your Rubik's Cube with you, you'll look like a man."

I'm beginning to sense that our youngest, and quite possibly our last, grandchild is modeling The Kid's talent and latent wisdom in creating life and work lessons  out of everyday events.  What can we take away from his out-of-the-blue insights?

For openers, it seems good advice to me to be clear-eyed and realistic about situations and prospects.  "We are little kids" is free of both self-delusion and spin to impress onlookers.

Next, a true confession.  We all, at one time or another, find ourselves in, if not over our heads, at least in the deep end of the pool.  Possibly a bit overwhelmed and certainly swimnming upstream, we still have responsibilities and obligations - and miles to go before we sleep.

That's obviously, no matter how difficult, the time to pick up our Rubik's Cube, and be a man or woman, defying the odds to accomplish what must be done.

I can't wait for the apprentice's next revelation; it's a great time to see, up close and personal - and intimately - how leaders begin to evolve.  The future, with these guys at the wheel, is bright.

Natural-Born Killers

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/01/2017 | 11:22 AM

I've had a couple (actually more than that, but for different reasons) of unsettling interviews.  Not that I'm an employer, but sometimes the talented - or the desperate - approach me.

One, whom I've known for several years, was frustrated, and couldn't understand how and why he was rejected by prospective employers.  A git-er-done kind of guy, he was adamant that he was perfectly willing to metaphorically (I think) kill for an employer, as former leaders would attest.

By "kill", he, of course, meant that goals would be accomplished, targets would be met, no matter what, no excuses, no extenuating circumstances.  No matter how many associates sought comfort in the arms of a competitor after the race was run - and won.

I'm cautiously optimistic that maybe, just maybe, employers, bosses, and leaders are waking up to the folly of "killing" staff in the name of meeting customer - or shareholder - demands.  Maybe, just maybe, enterprises are figuring out that, if they kill all the workers, there is not an inexhaustible supply.

Perhaps it is too much to hope, but, if not now, someday, enlightened organizations and their leaders will tumble to the reality that the boss's job is to develop stars, and not to kill the high-performers.

Maybe, just maybe . . .

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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