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When You Hit the Plateau Instead Of The Wall

By Art van Bodegraven | 08/18/2017 | 7:22 AM

Please enjoy the thoughts and musings of our friend, supporter, and long-time contributor Art van Bodegraven Jr., who passed away on June 18, 2017. Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future. To honor his memory, we will continue to post these remaining blogs as he had intended. If you’ve been a fan of The Art of Art blog, check out our tribute.


We all live in mortal terror of facing the insurmountable, of running the gas tank completely dry, of freezing and seizing up short of the demanded target  Or, of someone in a corner office on a top floor of HQ turning off the funding in favor of someone else's pet project. Of hitting the dreaded wall—and questioning everything: career, self-worth, the enterprise, and/or the value of life itself.

Too often, sad to say, The Wall is one obstacle that may have been self-built rather than suddenly springing up as a punishment by higher powers in control of external events. But, that's another story for another day.

There are other sea changes in environment, steepness of incline, progress to date, weather, and moving targets in the distance that result in the SCM pro standing at the leading edge of a plateau—a long, wide, relatively flat—and easy—terrain lying between status quo and the next objective, beyond which might lurk a sneering Wall, ready to flatten the unwary or complacent.

What can happen when you've reached the plateau? Well, you can always coast.  

In an otherwise unrelated example, CBS News has featured a musical segment called Saturday Sessions for just about ever. It has shone a light on truly promising and ground-breaking new artists, and revisited the work of unique pioneers, some half-forgotten, some remembered for lesser works. Today, though, the feature has settled for new performers, none unique, most of limited talents, and those called poets whose contribution to the arts is being able to string together two related sentences. What will happen? Will a ratings wake-up call make them pick up the pace, find real and experienced talent, and get through the plateau before indigenous peoples rise up with tomahawks unsheathed? Or, will they wander and wither in a shoulder-high ocean of grass as vultures circle overhead?

We face challenges that are more similar than different.

Daily volumes are under control. Completed order performance beats the target every time out. Pick accuracy exceeds stretch goals. Your/our choice? Put your feet on the desk, fire up a Romeo y Julieta, knock off early for the department pizza party, and enjoy life on the plateau. Never mind what Amazon and WalMart are messing around with. They just can't leave well enough alone.

As an alternative, reform teams to innovate processes and set new tiers of performance objectives. Experiment with technology that supports today's functions and helps predict tomorrow's changes. Reward change and improvement of all types. Train and retrain associates in technology and processes; cross-train across the board for flexible responsiveness to customers and change.  Invest in relationship building with suppliers and customers. Help future leaders develop and sharpen key skills and attributes.  Spend time showing peer executives and senior leaders the talents of your team(s).

And, use the time on the plateau to get ready for the challenges and obstacles that lie beyond.  

These opposing aproaches illustrate the folly of going with the flow versus the value of being the one(s) who create the flow.




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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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