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Failures (Continuing) In US Business

By Art van Bodegraven | 11/15/2017 | 9:36 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 Art was a prolific writer and had amassed a collection of unpublished blog posts he had planned to run well into the future.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.


So much going on, but not well . . . Or, maybe it is humming like a precision nuclear reactor in Tehran, with outcomes cleverly disguised as incompetent bumbling.  Whichever, no one should be heartened by the news.

One wonders, "Is there anything we can get right; is there no limit to how many feet we have to shoot ourselves in?"

I, with reservations, have seen a relationship with major parcel carriers as  the salvation of the United States Postal Service.  And, in an encouraging discharge of exhaust emissions on Sundays, the  couriers have traversed their appointed rounds on weekends.  In a miracle of leadership and management, the USPS somehow lost over $200 million in its single busiest season with the year's highest volumes, and one imagines, record top-line revenues.  You've got to work overtime to rack up losses in your best shot at profits . . .

General Motors continues to flounder.  Ford impresses the auto and tech segments with bold moves to make autonomous vehicles practical - and safe - and GM is sweating through it's Hanes briefs over a $9 billion pension negotiation.  If they're haggling now, just wait until The Donald intervenes for a dramatic, if crippling, solution . . . 

In a neap tide of criticism, speaking of The Donald, much horror is being expressed over the possibility (probability) that the CEO of Lockheed is tuned into arcane knowledge of the government's hopes for an F-35 Boeing deal.  Oh, wait.  Pitting competitors, who've grown fat at the public trough, against one another might not be all that bad a thing.  Incompetence with an outstanding result?

Meanwhile, think tanks, industry groups, and the current political administration all have cannabis-high hopes for a resurgence of American manufacturing, with a return of the well-paying jobs that disappeared during the outsourcing/off-shoring.  Never mind that we can't fill jobs with qualified people in small businesses, large businesses, supply chain management, trade skills, crafts, customer service professionals, leaders and contemporary managers, analysts, techno-nerds, new-generation innovators, and a host of others, critical to long-term success in a global economy.

Also, never mind that we have no plan to train, educate, refresh, upgrade, and acquire the needed talent.  It's every disjointed university and trade school, abetted by myopic businesses, for itself.

These are all part of a business experience much like handling snakes and drinkin' pizen in a religious context.  Good luck with the Komodo Dragons.

In the retail universe, as everyone goes gaga over this mysterious omni-channel thingy, stores are closing left and right, and iconic national brands are boarding up the windows as fast as they can score enough plywood from The Home Depot.  And, they'd cut off a limb to save cost, rather than invest in processes, technology, and human capital to create unique and "sticky" customer experiences.  Think Macy's, Sears, JCPenney, the tubercular formerly known as K-Mart, a wobbly Limited, and so on.

Then, there is a wise man and friend of several decades who believes with all his heart that Amazon is a passing fancy, that its' smart people are merely looking for problems to which their solutions might be attached.  He's no Ebenezer Scrooge, but he does need a welcome to the Ghost of Christmas Future.

There is, btw, a future.  It might be bright - or not.  Time and mis-steps will tell.





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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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