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James Filbird is happy to say that in the last 3.5 years working LinkedIn, even behind the Great Firewall of China, he has been able to garner 75% of his business purely from LinkedIn. He is projected to do $3 to $5 million this year. Most of this is from his connections and business from LinkedIn. James thinks LinkedIn is a godsend. It is a great tool to do business.


There are great people there who are serious about doing business. You can make good friends and business partners from LinkedIn every day. James is very happy LinkedIn has not been blocked in China.



How can individuals create innovative new products and bring them to market?


Creating an innovative product is just as hard as bringing one to market. There are many requirements needed to successfully get a product in a brand name store on brand name store shelves, or on a well branded web property such as or There is a lot of work to get it from a concept to an online retailer or distributor:


a) You need a well thought out product that many people can use regularly, is affordable, built with good quality and improves their lives in some way.


b) You need to get it patented in the countries it will be sold in.


c) You need to get a good source you can trust and have confidence in, who can assist you in developing and prototyping the product.


d) You need that person to find a capable and reliable manufacturer who will act as your long-term partner. This partner will ship good quality products to you when you need them and at a price that everyone can make a good profit from.


e) You need a seasoned sales rep who can handle the many tasks needed to get your product ready for retail, of which there is a lot.


f) You need a sales rep who can get you in front of the retail buyers and distributors.


g) You need someone to manage the supply and value chain to assure your product arrives to buyers as they expect, and services the sales accounts properly.




What are the challenges?


The challenges are simply accomplishing all of the above as efficiently, cost effectively and precisely as possible. This is what James has been doing for his clients over the past 5 years.


How do you protect IP?


There are two real clear distinct obvious ways which seem to be the safest, in James’ experience.


1. Get a USA patent, if you are in the USA. If you are in Europe, get a European patent.  Other country patents where you intent to sell a product in. If you have a really hot product then you would want to opt for a world-wide patent. This is more expensive and time consuming. However, it protects you throughout the world. At least start with a patent that originates from the country you will be selling the product in, preferable from the country where you are from.


2. Work with a manufacturer that won’t steal your IP, or copy or compete with your product.  This is what James takes most care in. One example of doing this is having a relationship with the factory. You have done business with them in the past. You know that they come recommended to you. There are certain procedures that they will do to protect your product from being leaked internally within the factory.


3. Another method that is very effective if you have various components of the product. You would have the components produced by separate manufacturers throughout China. None of them would know what the complete product does or looks like. All they produce is one part of the product. The product is then shipped to a central location where it is assembled and packaged under a watchful eye. In this particular case James works with an American company that has been doing this for 10 years. They are very trusted and capable of doing the packaging and assembly and making sure that IP is completely protected.


These 3 methods are the ways where you can maintain a level of control. In China you need some control.  There is obviously a lot of copying going on in China and it is done shamelessly. James has not had any products copied up to this point. What he is doing seems to work for him.

What are some of the issues faced with finding and working with suppliers?

In no order of importance, the following are some of the issues:


1. Trust.

2. Reliability.

3. Quality.

4. Service

5. Contractual Agreement.




James is able to overcome all of these because he works very hard at sourcing good manufacturers. They are all certified and have business certificates. Some of them are even public companies. They have been in business for a long time, export product and do OEM and ODM for Western countries. They export goods to Europe and America and have relationships with those types of buyers. The manufacturers are also big companies. James does his due diligence by meeting with them, getting on their good side, and then he sees how they work. There are subtle and not so subtle nuances here which you need to look out for. The Chinese do things much differently than how things are done in America.


It is important you have someone on the ground that understands business acumen and the business culture so that you can have a more effective means of getting your product produced the way you want it and preventing it being copied. You need to prevent being taken advantage of in any shape or form.


James takes great care in finding and partnering with the manufacturers that he works with.  He always has written business agreements with all the Chinese factories he does business with. The agreements are written in Chinese and English. English has precedence. They are pretty succinct.  There are some protections in China in terms of the court of law, which has developed over the last few years. James has a few Chinese attorneys in China who do handle cases between Chinese and western companies so they can litigate and try to settle the matter in court. James tries to mitigate it from going to court by doing due diligence and selecting good manufacturers. He also has written contracts between his company and theirs.

Tell us your story and the success you have experienced.


James attributes his success to being in China, which means everything. He understands the culture of the business and people. Being in China and meeting with businessman face to face makes all the difference. He speaks their language and knows their country, thereby earning their respect. To Chinese this is very important.


Many people living abroad try to do business in China by making a visit or two and sending some emails and trying to enforce and force manufacturers and businessmen to do things. It doesn’t work because they are not on their turf. They don’t get respect and the Chinese know that the foreigners don’t have any power in China.


When James represents foreign businesses in China it is a lot different. They know he will be busy in their factory. They know he has an attorney, a registered company, and he has a colleague who is very seasoned in business who is Chinese and speaks the language. He knows all the ins and outs and knows what to look for. They are the ‘dynamic duo’ in China. It helps them mitigate any potential issues down the road.




These are the types of things James can do for clients who have new products, or just looking to source a product.


Click Below: to learn how to get your product into retail stores or distributors once your product is prototyped




About James


JamesFilbird.jpgJames was born in San Diego and grew up in the Los Angeles, Orange County area all his life. He also lived in Michigan and Colorado for a period of time. He worked 15 years at a company called Steel Case, which is the worlds’ largest office metal manufacturer. He left them in 1992 and went into the financial investment and banking industry services. In 1996 he got involved in the Internet and started his own business in 2000. James launched a toy company which at that time was very innovative. This led him to China in 2002 doing some sourcing for their product. After the company was sold in 2005 he decided to move to China in 2006.


Since then James has been working primarily with inventors. James is an inventor himself. He likes the challenge and doesn’t want to deal with commodity type of trading in terms of exporting and importing. This is a very competitive cut throat industry which he doesn’t want to be a part of. He wanted something challenging and creative since he likes working with creative people. He has a partner in America as well as partners all over the world. His partner in America has 16 years experience working with retailers, getting product into stores.


James’ partner introduces product to him and he gets it manufactured, prototyped and mass-produced and exported to America. His partner then gets it into stores. They have a very good symbiosis. At this point in time he works from his home and is pretty much a one man show. He has some assistance and a Chinese colleague. However, he does most of the work himself because of trust and because he is the only one who knows how to do what he does. He hasn’t trained anyone.


James is happy to say that in spite of the fact that in China many websites are blocked, namely Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and most of the blog sites.  Fortunately, LinkedIn is one website that is not blocked by the Chinese government. He first joined LinkedIn a little over 6 years ago. At that time LinkedIn was a simple posting of a resume and possibly some RFQs. It wasn’t much to look at.


However, about 3.5 years ago when the global recession hit, James started his business full swing. He couldn’t have started his business at a worse time. At that time Youtube., Facebook and Twitter were still working in China.  Yet, he never really focused on those social media platforms. LinkedIn was always his favorite choice. He treats LinkedIn just like a real-life networking event. You meet people and exchange business ideas and name cards. It is networking 101. Every day he is online on LinkedIn connecting and meeting people, particularly people who want to do business with him in some way.


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About JMF International Trade Group



JMF can perform the following services for you:


·   To improve sales, further develop marketing efforts and brand development, and establish a distribution network for your product line.

·   Coordinate with you in the production, manufacturing, sales, marketing and distribution functions as they relate to your line of product(s).


Systems Thinking


Systems thinking very simply is looking at organizations and emphasizing the process of interconnections between parts of an organization both internally and externally. “You drop a rock in water and what happens? …you see all the ripples…that span out and affect the larger body of water.” This is an easy way to explain it. Another way to understand it is to think of an orchestra and how every specialized person of that orchestra makes a seamless sound to put out a wonderful piece of music.


Applying Systems Thinking to Work


Systems thinking is a method for solving organizational problems, although Karen does not like to use the word ‘problem’ and instead uses the word ‘opportunities’. Systems thinking supports organizations in change because organisms have to be very flexible and agile to evolve with whatever is affecting it.


Who can Benefit from Thinking in This Way?


Every individual can benefit. CEO’s can also certainly benefit. A strategy for intentional change uses this way of thinking. It identifies the best of what is already in place. What is the best of that and how do you use it to strategically grow opportunities, individuals, organizations, and grow their effect in the overall market?


How is it Best Applied


Systems thinking is best applied with self improvement, continuous learning, incorporating what you know into the larger system, whether that be a department or a larger structure of the overall organization. It is causing that ripple effect. It is being more open to how others are thinking, what their specialized talents are, where they evoke change on the system to improve it… it is understanding the interconnections.


What does a CEO in today’s environment need to be effective?


In the past there was a huge push for MBAs, which is a masters of business administration quite frankly. A CEO needs this in the support. However, the CEOs of today should really be called CSCs, Chief Strategic Collaborators. In order for them to be successful in today’s market it is really becoming more about encouraging more of the free thinking and innovative thinking. It is encouraging people to stand on their own and make educated decisions and feeling strong enough to do that within themselves.


The CSC understands the interconnections, feedback and time delays and they must be able to hire and encourage management to identify the larger patterns and the links so they can create seamless transitions between the work members of the community.


Today we all have to be our own profit centers within a corporation. We all have to understand how to crate our position to feed into a positive overall sustainable, profitable company. We have seen companies come and go. This is because they don’t think of the long term connections. The CEO has to reinforce and continually balance the relationships of his/her organization and always be open to tapping into that. Therefore, the workforce has to really be trusting of that person. The CEO has a vision, knows how it sounds, looks and feels. The CEO must be able to hire the correct specialists that understand the timing of what they do in their day. They have to be the best at what they know and continually improve their knowledge base.


Good Examples of Systems Thinkers


Some of the good systems thinking writers are Peter Senge and Draper Kauffman. Also, David Cooperrider wrote the process of systems thinking with the use of appreciative inquiry. Coming to a small corporation such as WALCO Tool & Engineering it has been a great opportunity for Karen to observe the whole organization’s system and see where improvement can be brought about based on what is already there, the best of those who are there. Each of them has great talents, and inner knowledge. Karen is trying to help them feel more confident about making decisions because they feel empowered to do so.



About Karen Shultz


Karen’s background is very diversified. She is a systems thinker. As part of her career strategy she has been in the retail world understanding purchasing behaviors, management behaviors, as well as doing some training early on in her career. She then looked into how community systems work and ran one of the largest art reflections programs in the State of Illinois for 7 years. She has always looked at the interconnectedness of why art is so important to the innovation side of our country, which is what the US has always claimed to be its strength and how other people view the country. If you take out art you lose the innovative thought process and become very structured into black and white thinking, which can be quite dangerous and easily manipulated. She then fell in love with using this process in behavior disorders. Karen worked in the school system to understand the construct and how the education system is preparing our students or future innovation and engineering thinking. During this process there was a lot of pressure to become part of a union, which she was not interested in. Karen thinks they are depleting of our education system. She then sought out a business opportunity and ended up in manufacturing.


Manufacturing opened up a whole new world to Karen because there are many interconnected systems within manufacturing, which she felt extremely fascinated by.  Her goal was that if the manufacturer was willing to teach her she would be willing to learn and also share her expertise. Karen loves her job and loves being involved in manufacturing.


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Matthai John Vettath has been in the supply chain area for over 23 years in roughly 6 different industries. Throughout his experience in India and Southeast Asia (Bangkok and Jakarta) he has led entire chemical supply chain functions from procurement to storage, warehousing and logistics. During this time he had experience across 6 different industries ranging from construction projects, automotive, textile, petrochemicals, FMCG, and lastly with IT at Hewlett Packard.



With your 23 plus years of work experience in six different industries can you explain why you really found multifunctional expertise to be critical in Supply Chain?


Technical Knowledge

Supply chain is a growing sphere of operations. Originally, it started with procurement. Today it encompasses a wide range of activities which involve not only knowing about your own industry, but also knowing exactly what is going on around you. When supply chain started with procurement you only needed a basic technical knowledge of the product which you wanted. You would place an order and it would come through.


Market Knowledge

As we move into higher levels of management we realize that this is not enough because your industry meets with a host of other industries. It starts with a basic knowledge of the market. Along with your basic knowledge you need to understand the economics of the market, right from trends to where the basic prices are going. Economics forms one part of multi-functional exposure, along with the basic trends of commerce around you.


Financial Knowledge

The second is financial knowledge of currency and its impact on global trade. This includes not only items such as hedging, but also costing of the final landed product which comes into your particular manufacturing center. Finance not only involves basic payouts and systems, but also your cash flow and the extent to which it impacts your final landed cost and the ultimate impact on the finished product.


Understanding People

Through his 20 plus years of experience Matthai found it was very interesting to build relationships with the vendors. This depends exactly on how you deal with people. Understanding their backgrounds and their interests, for which you go for a win-win situation.

Matthai found that these areas 4 areas: 1.Technical Knowledge, 2. Market Knowledge, 3. Financial Knowledge, and 4. Understanding People, are the key functional areas which will contribute to your expertise in supply chain.


Do you think one can be an expert in all the related fields? If so how do you develop yourself?


In each of these areas the field is growing much faster than you can actually develop yourself. There are several ways to develop yourself:


1. Continuously learn – either through self development or by interacting with people.


2. Belong to a team – for each area of multi-functional expertise. Essential it involves team work and getting resources from other people. It is working with people and using what they have to give.


3. Pick up the key information – the right information needed at the right time.


You were saying that you are working on a start up to meet this requirement of multifunctional expertise in industry. Can you tell us the business model?


When searching for an expert with over 10 to 15 years of experience is a huge wealth of knowledge which such individuals have. Today, people have specialized knowledge such as finance, procurement, warehousing, ERP, etc. It is currently impossible for a company, even of large scale, to hire experts in each and every field.


In the future, companies will source out experts for specific small-time requirements. For example, if you want a specific expert, you request a consultation with him for 1 or 2 hours and have him contribute his expertise to your organization. This would be a contract between your firm and the expert.


This is the type of people management companies will face in the future. Decision making can be aided by having those experts from all over the world to be around you.


Matthai’s new start up business aims to understand your requirements and linking you to a pool of experts across India and eventually the world. The user would submit their requirements and Matthai’s company will link you to the people you need to do your work. The company would charge a small portion of your final cost. This service will help companies find top experts without the need to hire these resources full-time.


The company will be launching a website called SourceOut.In . Once you login you can find an expert, link to them directly and start working with them. Initially, the website will be free for users. The site can be used to not only link up with technical experts, but also all forms of commercial expertise and types of inquiries.



About Matthai John




John has qualitative experience in spearheading the entire gamut of commercial Supply Chain functions encompassing procurement, material and packing development, Inventory management , logistics , warehouse management and in leading a team servicing multi location production and marketing requirements. He was last AVP operations at Hewlett Packard’s Global Supply Chain outsourced Operations from Chennai.


Currently John is setting up his own consultancy under the banner SourceOut Solutions.


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Interview Summary


Jeff and his team wrote a book that John Wiley & Sons published in 2009 called ‘Conquering Innovation Fatigue’. There was a section in the book on multi-disciplinary innovators. Part of the issue is that we have so many people talking about people like Da Vinci. They view these people as great rare solitary geniuses. If you poke around and look at what Da Vinci was doing there is a pretty strong case that he really drew very heavily on a lot of other material that may in fact have originated in China. There was an amazing book in China published almost a century before his time. A lot of what he was doing was really improving and drawing connections based on material and innovation already out there. He has been given way too much credit as an inventor and far less credit as a connector and innovator.  An example in the book called Da Vinci in the Board Room suggests that once we recognize that Da Vinci’s skills may have been more in connecting and open innovation, as opposed to being a genius inventor on his own, we can suggest that businesses would do a lot better to have more Da Vinci’s in their midst. What are needed are not more rare geniuses, but heavy connected multi-disciplinary people who can draw boundaries between these disciplines. This can lead to a lot of innovation without necessarily having to invent everything from scratch.


One of Jeff’s themes is that the heart of innovation is multi-disciplinary thinking, whether coming from teams or many individuals who span those disciplines and see the connections and the possibilities that exist, and helping to make the links.There are examples of very successful innovators that seem to do this. You have links in multiple disciplines and you are able to manage the potential for innovation.



Da Vinci and the Board Room


One of the themes Jeff's company raised a few years ago was in a book they published a book with the publisher John Wiley & Sons called ‘Conquering Innovation Fatigue’. One of the themes they raise in the book is the need for multi-disciplinary innovators. There is a chapter and a theme called Da Vinci in the Board Room where they poked some holes into the myth around Da Vinci.


In recent years there was an interesting development about the sources that Da Vinci may have relied on for a lot of the things he is viewed as an inventor for. A man named Gavin Menzies who has written a few books, one of which is called 1434. The theory of this book is that China played a major role in the Italian Renaissance.  While it is very controversial, one of the really interesting points he makes is that a Chinese book, the world’s first mass produced book from almost a century before Da Vinci’s life, may have been brought to Europe in large quantities. He argues it happened in 1434. How it happened is open for debate.


The book called the ‘Nong Shu’, literally meaning the book of agriculture or farming. The book has numerous pictures such as water works, water wheels and gears interacting etc. These were very similar to the ones Da Vinci is famous for. There is a case to be made and Gavin Menzies shows a possible link between Da Vinci and some other people. Da Vinci’s work may have been more of improving upon things that were already published coming from China, as opposed to being the brilliant inventor who came up with all of these things.


When we look at Da Vinci’s life he was a very connected person. He had multiple skills and disciplines. However, he may not have been the inventor of all of these great things. He may have been an improver.


This issue of having multiple skills and connections to people in various fields gives you access to a lot of knowledge. This is the core of innovation in so many ways, having multi-disciplinary people can be like having a Da Vinci in the sense as an open innovator, rather than as a genius inventor.

Jeff’s company recommends that people pay more attention to these multi-disciplinary people in their midst, people who can help pioneer efforts and cross the chasm of knowledge between different fields and finding connections. They are currently working with a number of companies at the moment on some potentially break-through innovations. They are finding that often the key is getting and forming connections across divisions and boundaries of knowledge and getting people talking.


Sometimes you find a person who already has those connections in their own head. It can be really ‘Da Vinci’, in sense helping to innovate. Jeff and his team believes there is a need to recognize and better appreciate these Da Vinci’s in our midst – the open innovators and boundary crossers and improvers which are out there. They are not necessarily the rare once in a thousand year genius type of people.


Jeff sees people right now out there making a lot of exciting advances, some are very famous. For example, Nathan Myhrvold who is the CEO of Intellectual Adventures, has a vast multi-disciplinary life. He is an award winning cook, a celebrated photographer, and has other adventures and experiences in other parts of his life. He brings this together, on top of his intellectual property skills, to help form those connections and know where to go to forge new connections for success.


Another example is one of Jeff’s favorite professors in chemical engineering, Bob (Byron) Bird at University of Wisconsin, who is now retired. As one of the world’s most famous chemical engineering educators he owes so much of his success in life to having pursued interests in a wide variety of areas. He learned Japanese and fluent Dutch. His interest in languages gave him experiences and access to connections in new fields that others would never have had. He also got involved in the military. His war experiences became a rich source of knowledge help drive and guide him in his own work and writing and research.


People need to get experiences and knowledge in fields besides the one they are specializing in. Foreign language, cooking, photography, etc. draw upon, build and use it to see new connections between these fields which can lead to innovation.




Jeff would encourage people sit down and do some introspection and then do a survey of your skills and interests. For some people it may be the hobby of an amateur magician, for others it may be in various sports. Other may have a coin collection which they spend hours on and have knowledge based upon it. After making an inventory of the various skills you have you then notice how those things start to shape. Think about them actively and notice how they shape your thinking and draw upon that knowledge and dig deeper.


On top of that, Jeff is finding that some of the real successful innovators strategically choose new skills to add. Jeff had a recent interview with a few CEOs on the east coast. He found a number of people who deliberately pick a skill such as improvisation, standup comedy. They add this to their repertoire. They go to a class and pursue it with a passion and do it because they decide and recognize that the skill could be applied to help them in new ways. Sometimes they want to be able to think on their feet more rapidly, or they want to be able to manage better. Many times they find out that the skills they get for reason A ends up giving them new experiences and connections which lead them down an entirely new path.


Quite a few people talk about foreign language or foreign travel as being one of those things which open up connections. Comedy is another theme Jeff has seen in talking with a number of successful multi-disciplinary people. Photography also comes up. Many times sports also come up. There are so many fields of passion which people have. Jeff recommends making an inventory of what you have and realize that there is more to do. Pick a skill and go after it. Never compartmentalize those skills in your brain. Recognize that the course you are taking or the skill or passion you are seeking are bound to have applications to other parts of your life. Keep mixing and jumbling them, looking for connections. You will be pleased and delighted at what can happen in your own life as you have your own Da Vinci moments.



About Jeff Lindsay



Jeff Lindsay is a patent agent, consultant in innovation, IP strategy and new product development at a company called Innovation Edge in Appleton Wisconsin. In the past he worked for Kimberly Clark Corporation for 14 years. He had the unusual title of Corporate Content Strategist when he finished up at the company. He had a very exciting career with new product development and intellectual property strategy. Before that he was in Academia at the Institute of Paper Science and Technology doing research, advising graduate students etc, on the Georgia Tech campus.


Jeff has a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University. He has been involved in consulting for about 4 years where he works with some of the largest and some of the smallest companies in the world. However, Jeff mostly works with the larger companies. He has seen a lot of interesting developments and trends when it comes to innovation.


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What are the biggest challenges you see for supply chains and what can companies do to confront the challenges?


The biggest challenges which Brittain sees are that with the recession many companies realize that they are just not agile enough to adjust to changes in the marketplace. Brittain believes what companies need to put a focus on is to really take the time and effort to analyze their supply chains using supply chain modeling and supply chain network optimization software to really understand:


1. How are we operating today?

2. What is the voice of our customer?

3. Are we aligned to meet the needs of our customer?


In essence, do I have the right supply chain to meet the needs of my customer? Have I segmented my customers correctly enough to where I am meeting the needs of each customer. Some companies try to serve all customers through a single supply chain, when in essence they may actually be better off having multiple supply chains, whether it is 2, 3 or 4, or more. A perfect example of this is Dell who completed a supply chain project where they built the supply chain from the customer backwards. This was a lot of the focus on Brittain’s efforts when he was at Dell. He identified who their customer really was and what supply chain they needed.


The reason why Brittain thinks companies are wise in using supply chain modeling software is that once they have built an as-is or baseline model, they can then unconstrain the model and do analysis to identify what is really optimal. When Brittain talks about an optimal supply chain he is really referring to what is the optimal manufacturing, sourcing, distribution, and transportation. It is about what is the optimal supply chain for all of my costs related to supply chain management. A term for this is cost to serve optimization. It is having a true understanding of what is the cost to serve my customers and is there a way for me to reduce that cost? The software will really help companies identify what is optimal, versus what is as-is.

Another thing Brittain thinks companies need to put their focus on is taking a hard look at the organizational structure within their organization and within the supply chain and really making the determination if they have the right people in place and are those people really doing the following:


1. Are the people within the supply chain doing the right work?

2. Are they doing the work right?

3. Are they managing the work the right way?


At Cap Gemini Consulting where Brittain works, they put a lot of focus on working with companies to not only identify an optimal supply chain, but most importantly, do they have the optimal internal organizational structure in place whereby their personnel are really able to effectively manage the supply chain. The only way you can really effectively manage the supply chain is if you have the right people doing the right work.


What is interesting is that when Brittain goes to companies to do a supply chain assessment/diagnostic is that identifying that many companies are working very hard within the supply chain, but they don’t have the right organizational structure in place to where they are working very smart. This is something which is really a challenge.


If you were to summarize, Brittain recommends companies to do the following:


1. Identify your as-is supply chain.

2. Analyze your supply chain to identify what is optimal.

3. Identify what your customer requirements are.

4. Segment your customers if necessary so that they each have an optimal supply chain to serve their needs.

5. Take an honest look within your organization to ensure you have the right people, you have the right organization, and that your people are doing the right work, doing the work right, and is everything being managed the right way?


If you can do this, companies will have a much better ability to prepare for the challenges of today, and more importantly have a more resilient supply chain in the future. Now that they have an ability to identify what is optimal they can continue that type of analysis going forward and that will truly help them better be prepared for the future.


The earthquake in Japan is a perfect example of how modeling the supply chain and using that model to do what if analysis to identify contingency plans in the event a factory goes down, the supply chain is disrupted, etc. It is important to have that contingency plan in place, and have an organizational structure in place that allows that company to be agile, adaptable and aligned. This will certainly pay off in the future for most companies.




In order to prepare for supply chain challenges, companies need to use analysis by science, to balance the art of supply chain management. Then you need to take a look at the organizational structure. If companies can do this, Briittain thinks they will be much better off than they are today.


The key points are:

1. Companies need to identify who their customers are and what type of supply chain or supply chains is/are required to meet the needs of the customer(s).

2. Use supply chain modeling and network optimization software to build an As-Is model and then un-constrain the model to identify the optimal sourcing, manufacturing, inventory, distribution, and transportation strategies to meet the needs of the customer. Most companies try and serve all their customers through one supply chain but in all reality, corporations need to build supply chains based on the Voice of the Customer.

3. Corporations need to evaluate their internal supply chain organization to ensure that they have the right organizational structure that is agile, adaptable and aligned with special focus on ensuring there is collaboration throughout the supply chain with internal and external customers and supplier. To be effective, supply chains require innovation and collaboration accelerates innovation.

4. All of the supply chain technology in the world will mean very little if corporations don't have the right people in the right positions. At Capgemini Consulting, we break this down in a methodology we call BeLean that helps corporations ensure their supply chain personnel are: Doing the Right Work, Doing the Work Right, and Managing the Right Way.

5. Supply chain modeling can be used to identify the optimal supply chain network as well as model contingency plans in the event there is a disruption in the supply chain. Since the earthquake in Japan, I have seen an increase in inquiries from corporations interested in learning how they can make their supply chain more resilient and the best way to do that is through supply chain risk analysis and modeling that will identify optimal solutions in the event a disruption occurs. In essence, conducting such analysis allows companies to act


About Brittain Ladd


BrittainLadd.jpgBrittain Ladd’s title is Global Supply Chain and Lean Six Sigma Consultant and he works for Capgemini Consulting. His background is strong across the 6 drivers of supply chain. He has a strong background in managing distribution, manufacturing, warehousing, inventory management, transportation, data mining and management, procurement, and pricing. He has worked for the retailer Michael’s stores, managed supply chain at Dell, and has worked for multiple Fortune 1000 and 500 companies as a supply chain consultant. Brittain has an MBA in industrial management and a masters degree in supply chain management from Penn State University. He is also a certified Six Sigma master black belt.


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I recently interviewed Arie Versluis where he discussed how a more traditional design leads to a complex organization with simple tasks, while a socio-technical design leads to a simple organization with complex tasks.



Can you tell us more about sociotechnology? What is it?


Let me tell you first about the usual way of designing organizations and processes.


Nearly all approaches like BPM, Six Sigma, Lean and so on focus on processes, break them down into tasks and assemble these tasks to 'optimized' efficient processes.


The next step is then to train people – who do the real work – so that they can execute these new processes and comply with them.


And there have of course to be the supervisors and managers who take the decisions about who should do what and when.


This approach has been popular since the days of Taylor's Scientific Management.



However this approach also has it weaknesses.


  • People are squeezed into the results of the technical process design. A design which did not take the human requirements into account.
  • Doing the work and thinking/making decisions about it is torn apart. There are workers who do and managers who think and decide. This leads to communication problems and it leads to underutilization of worker's knowledge and capabilities.
  • The processes are usually designed as if there are stable and predictable conditions. But we all know that such stability does not exist. There will always be uncertainty, variety and disturbances.



2. Can you tell us about your approach?



When I design processes I start from technical and human requirements simultaneously.



An important point is that human beings prefer:


  • To produce a product or deliver a service instead of performing a simple task.
  • To have a certain degree of control over the work they do, like planning, coordination with other units/teams, problem solving.
  • To work in small teams.


I define these human preferences as requirements for the design and these requirements are as important as the technical ones.


With these requirements in mind I start together with some workers and engineers to decompose the complex product into identifiable and meaningful sub-products in such a way that a (sub)product can be made by one team. This can be done for all products or group of products.


Later a number of different sub-products can be allocated to that team in order to guarantee that the team will have variety in their work.


This design is not a logical top down process but has an iterative character.



4.            What are the advantages of your design?


Take for example where the design leads to in manufacturing:


  • Planning will be much easier. Instead of planning which material to deliver to which operation  when and on which machine and that for the whole series of operations the planning will now be to plan which sub-product has to be delivered by which team and when.
  • The bill of materials basically stays the same, however all materials for a (sub)product can be delivered in one transportation to one team.
  • Intermediate transportation between different operations/workstations is no longer needed. This reduces the level of Work in Progress and reduces lead times.
  • In case of any disturbance (not enough material available, a tool breakdown) the team will solve it and will coordinate the effects with other teams if necessary.
  • Because teams can do problem solving and decision making themselves, less management and less staff is needed.
  • By structuring the processes in this way and by giving responsibilities to the team the organization becomes much more flexible.


From an overall management point of view you might say that a more traditional design leads to a complex organization with simple tasks, while a socio-technical design leads to a simple organization with complex tasks.



5.            Can these approaches be used in all industries?



It can be used in all industries, but in some industries it will be more effective than in others.


I have applied it in Healthcare, Government and Insurance. And I have seen it in manufacturing and the food industry.


The results of this kind of design will be:


  • A simplified organizational structure.
  • Where expertise and capabilities of workers are used.
  • With lean management and overhead.
  • Flexibility of the organization.



About Arie Versluis


Arie.jpgArie lives in the Netherlands and he has a background is in industrial engineering. He has done additional studies in:


·               Organizational sociology

·               Social psychology

·               Organizational change

·               Systems theory


This theoretical background helps him to understand organizations, their processes and their behavior better from all viewpoints simultaneously. He also learned to appreciate the application of sociotechnical design principles.


Arie works as an interim manager and change manager in assignments where strategy, structure, processes and IT come together. He does this mainly in healthcare, government and finance.


LinkedIn Profile

Dee Hock's Chaordic Theory & other, similar complexity theorists


Robin Cook recently commented on my discussion on LinkedIn titled 'Are Organizational Hierarchies Needed?'

For many years, I have said that command-and-control is a walking corpse that hasn't realized it's dead yet!

C-&-C is rooted in the Industrial Revolution perspective that organizations are machines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Organizations are organic, dynamic entities & must be addressed as such.


In addition, one of the foundation premises of C-&-C is the assumption that it's possible to control the flow of information. Technology has rendered this impossible, thus making C-&-C impossible.



Robin Cook first heard of Dee Hock's Chaordic Theory in Fast Company around 1999. He gave a talk in Chicago which really resonated and crystallized a lot of things that had been going on in Robin’s head unconsciously for some time. Robin is a firm believer that command and control is a walking corpse that hasn’t realized its dead yet. Command and control and the whole hierarchical structure is based on the industrial revolution perspective of organizations as machines. But they are not machines. They are organic, dynamic entities and we need to deal with them as such. There are such levels of complexity with anything that involves human beings, and the more human beings you have the more complex it becomes.


At the end of 2000 Robin was able to attend the first training session that Dee and his people ever ran on Chaordic Process. Robin is one of the few people in the world who had been trained on his process. It is a process for creating chaordic organizations which are pretty much the antithesis of command and control. They are organic, dynamic, self-regulating and constantly evolving. As a result they are usually far more nimble and agile than command and control.


Dee is the Chairman Emeritus of Visa. He pretty much single handedly turned Bank Americard into Visa. Without having it formulated at that point he made it into a chaordic organization almost by necessity because of the nature of it. After he left Visa he spent several years studying chaos and complexity theory and formulated chaordic theory and processes. Robin thinks this is very visionary.


Examples of companies implementing Chaordic Theory


There are not very many and most who have consciously and intentionally done it have been coalition type non-profit organizations. Among them is Peter Senji’s society for organizational learning. Unfortunately, it has been a very hard sell possibly because it is difficult to grasp or because of the terminology. Robin’s own belief is that until we have several other examples of successful profitable for-profit organizations to point to, it is not going to gain traction.


Robin has heard of some organizations that sound like they verge on chaordic, although they haven’t formally intentionally created it that way. W.L. Gore is often cited. About  1.5-2 years ago there was an article in Fast Company about a change initiative that Chambers is pushing at Cisco. What they were describing, while they never used the term, but it really sounds like he is trying to create a chaordic organization.




Firstly, a chaordic organization is intensely mission centered and has a very strong values alignment. This is really the first step. A lot of it has to do with leadership willing to give up control and to recognize that their role is more facilitative than directive. The reality at this point is that one of the foundational premises of command and control is the ability to control the flow of information. Our technology has made that impossible. If you can’t control the flow of information, it becomes impossible to make command and control work.


Robin firmly believes that a chaordic organization will be far more innovative simply because it is much more agile and it will create a culture that really fosters and supports innovation, simply by its very nature.


One of the things which really attracted Robin to Chaordic Theory in the first place was a very interesting step which Dee calls lenses, of which there are 6. One of the lenses is called Practices. A lot of people do values alignment work. You spend a lot of time and come up with a great list of shared values and you post them on the wall. Yet, nothing ever comes of it. Dee took this a step further to what he calls Practices, which is once you identify those shared values, you actually identify concrete specific behavior that reflects those values. You find ways to build that behavior or sets of behaviors into the organization.


Robin has seen this put into practice in a few cases, but you don’t see it very often. One of the more common ways of doing that is by including those practices and behaviors in the annual evaluation and performance reviews.


One of the biggest issues in organizational change is that leadership always thinks it will be a lot faster than it is. It is even worse in a command and control organization because the leadership believes they can just decree it and it will happen. At the YMCA, a 5,000 people organization, it took Robin’s team a good 3 years to see any kind of bottom line impact on what they were doing.


The Chaordic Commons went out of business a few years ago, however the website is still up,



About Robin Cook


RobinCook.jpgRobin Cook has been an organizational development practitioner for 35 years. He started college at 16 and got his B.A. in Philosophy at 19 and his Masters in Human Relations at 21 years of age. Robin was fortunate when faced with having to make an unexpected quick decision about graduate school to have an ‘a hah moment’, where he realized he could make a living doing the things he would be doing on the side anyways.


Organizational Development and Change is as much his advocation as his vocation. Robin’s biggest success was the 8 years he spent with the YMCA with metropolitan Chicago. At the time the YMCA was 34 years old and over 5,000 employees. He led initiatives there which took them from 20 years in the red to 5 years in the black, and from a legacy organization that did the same things in the same ways for 120 years, to receiving the George Land World Class Innovator Award.


After this Robin joined an early stage startup which turned out to be earlier stage than he originally thought. Eventually he moved out to D.C. three years ago to accept a position with a small consulting firm on a Pentagon contract. Unfortunately, 8 months later the contract wasn’t renewed.


LinkedIn Profile

Kevin Shea believes that the topic of 'designing organizations that optimize around high value interactions to create maximum customer benefits' is highly relevant to supply chains.



1. Please provide a brief background of yourself.


Kevin Shea is a degreed engineer who worked quickly into business activities. He started a software company and another company following that. Then he got into management consulting based on some of the background he had in the area of systems engineering. At the time it was the early 1990s, and Kevin became interested in the idea of mass to lean production and he wrote a few papers and ended up working with Ford Motor Company pretty heavily in the area of re-designing their organization and restructuring the way in which they did engineering activities. His background as an engineer and as a business manager basically came together. Kevin’s interests in the area of systems engineering helped him become a participant in Ford’s renovation. They re-worked their organization. Kevin was involved with that on and off for 15 years.


2. What do you mean when you talk about 'designing organizations that optimize around high value interactions to create maximum customer benefits?'


There are three primary influences that have occurred to many companies over the last 15 years. They all tend to go together, but people oftentimes look at them as independent. Kevin looks at them as dependent.


1. A shift to a customer focus.


Firstly, when you try to look at re-design for maximum customer benefits, you certainly have to understand what the customer needs are and how they work with your organization. One of the things Kevin sees is a lot of customer interaction being conducted at the backend of the process, rather than at the front end of the process. A number of people are involved with Voice of the Customer type of applications or activities. This certainly brings to bear what the customer wants. However, when the organization is left with a customer service organization or quality department that still has to spend an awful amount of time addressing customer needs, wants, problems or product failures, then there is something going on within the organization that is causing these failures and is inappropriate.


From the customer perspective, one of the first things we try to do is re-arrange an organization to accommodate and manage the way in which you relate to a customer.  Kevin’s background has suggested that customer activities, or customer service departments, are at the end of the process and should almost be eliminated. In many ways this is a little bit of a stretch, but you really want to drive your costs and service and customer problems to zero.  By doing so, you can obviously change the nature of your relationship.


One of the things Kevin and his team did was to take the customer relationship and move it ahead in the organization. They moved it upstream in the process and made it much more prominent within the overall nature in the way in which business was conducted. If we do that we are looking at an organization in which the customer takes a full role at the beginning of any particular design or service offering that a company might have. They first changed the customer’s perspective in the eyes of management.


2. A movement to lean operation.


The second thing they looked at was trying to optimize around high value that is more or less related to the shift between the mass production standard management of companies which was prominent in the 1990s, to the current lean production and lean operation standards that are used today.


When we look at mass production in manufacturing, one of the keys to success in lean production and manufacturing is having lean support within the design organization, as well as having lean support in management.  When you want to look at lean, you really have to look at how you get lean throughout the entire organization. It means changes, whether it is changes in design standards or changes in management standards.


3. The idea of systems thinking.


Lastly, we are also looking at the idea of the introduction of systems thinking. Along with the idea of changing organizations became the interest in shifting silos into more integrated environments. There was a tremendous amount of effort in organizations to break down these functional silos and to interact together and to collaborate more than in the past -- the idea of silos being a functional organization, with the collaboration being the part of the interaction that occurs between the functions. They looked at the areas of customer re-focus, a shift from mass operations to lean operations and systems thinking.


These 3 require that you re-evaluate your organizations and find out what is different and how you can use your organization as a way to support those 3 ideas.


3. How does this relate to organizational architecture?


An organizational architecture tends to break down the concepts of function. If you really begin to look at how the customer plays in, because the customer has a more participatory role at the beginning of any sort of design activity. When an organization has less of a customer focus it tends to have the customer focus at the end of the process. What you really want to do is shift this around.


Kevin and his team suggests breaking down your support organizations and change them from being a failure or problem-based type of activity, to a design or needs and wants type of activity. This shifts the organizational structure around and drives management decision making towards the conversion of customer wants and needs from the subjective to the objective nature of how you can support that.


When you go from the Voice of the Customer to interpreting how you can design around a Voice of the Customer, you have to begin to look at how you convert subjective requirements of wants and needs to the objective nature of how you can support that.


This is oftentimes not done in an organization. It leads to some interesting concepts of what a customer needs that is different from function. It becomes what the government terms the ‘ilities’, which is compatibility, maintainability, and things of this nature. Thos are design activities, but they originate from the customer. When you begin to look around the ideas of what they ended up calling ‘customer attributes’ , you really need to begin to shift your thinking and use customer attributes to drive additional activities that are occurring within the organization. One has to look at how you can set up your organization related to converting customer needs into a requirement that is done ahead of the design rather than after the design.


The other part of it gets into systems thinking. Systems thinking will focus mostly on the interaction between functions, rather than the function. Functions will be there, but the interactions occur. If you look at a typical organizational flow chart you will see mostly boxes and lines. The simplest way of looking at it is that there is value in the lines. There is certainly value in the boxes which is the function. However, there is value in the lines as well.


Kevin and his team look at those lines as being the interactions that occur between the functions. The interactions oftentimes have much more value. When those interactions are unattended to, they drive to failure. When we start looking at how a systems thinking organization changes, it changes its focus from functional optimization to improvement of interactions between the two. Those interactions set up for you new focal points within the company. When you look at the way in which interactions, interfaces and integration occur, the organization should really begin to think about how it redesigns itself to maximize the nature of those interfaces, interactions and integrations.


Kevin and his team have been trying to offer an organizational architecture that must be related to the changes in strategy that are being used in the company. Strategy is customer focus, lean operations and systems thinking. The organization must then be converted to satisfy it. A lot of organizations are still stuck in the 1980s and 1990s and management is unwilling at times to shift an organization because it feels comfortable. Some of these concepts are a little bit foreign to them.


The area that comes up from architecture is that you design an organizational architecturally to satisfy the management strategies that are going to help you improve the business.


4. How do you design such organizations?


Designing organizations is a bit difficult. Change is difficult. What we see is a little bit of nuance that needs to be adjusted for these types of designs. You really have to work with your management team in designing the new organization to accommodate their interests and how they understand what it is they are running. It is a factor comes into play. People who are unaware the needs for interaction are not necessarily convinced that the interactions are occurring. This may give you a bit of a challenge to design an organization.


The design of the organization really has to come from the way in which the information flows through an organization.  When the information flow is more or less a need to know type of organization you have pieces that break apart. The idea is integrating it.


When you are designing an organization the nature of it should fulfill the needs of information flow. Information flow is looked at, when you look at lean operation and systems thinking, as high value interactions. High value interactions are those actions whereby if you watch your information flows in your organization what you will see is that there are some information flows that are two-party, A to B. There may be other information flows that are a little bit more complex involving A, B, C and E popping up on occasion.


However, when you have complex interactions where you have multiple candidates and pieces of information flowing around a particular question, design or service this becomes a node or point that suggests there is high value associated with this interaction. When there is high value and high complexity associated with this interaction, it becomes more important to focus on it. As opposed to A to B you could presumably resolve that at the staff level. However, when you are working within a highly complex and integrated operation what you will find is that physically there will be more people in the meeting, much more information flowing back and forth, etc. Just looking at this, the organization really needs to attend to how that creates value and how it drives the business.


When we are looking at optimizing around high value interactions – those are considered the high value interactions. This is a far different cry from setting up and trying to integrate functional blocks and force interactions to occur around them. The idea of collaboration is certainly high in the management strategies these days. Collaboration certainly does support and drive many of these high value interactions.


However, what we would like to do is not just collaborate either digitally or by co-location, but the idea is to re-organize around these information flows. There are some particularly interesting academic strategies that come into play. They show that the re-organization of information and activities can lead to significant improvements. What we are looking at are the means to take these interactions, see how they work, change the flows so that there is a much more meaningful exchange and limit the recurrence of flows coming in that rely on some other flow. We are looking at an interaction that is considered to be high value and sets up the tone or mode for some type of re-design.


Kevin Shea




Kevin Shea

Consultant in Change, Transformation, Collaboration, and Integration

Greater Boston Area Management Consulting

LinkedIn Profile

Jim Berge shared his thoughts on the topic: A lack of cross-functional expertise across company departments is the biggest issue preventing supply chain executives transform their supply network in 2011.


I don't think it is a lack of cross-functional expertise that is causing the biggest issue. I believe it is state of the economy we are all trying to crawl out of which is hampering open cross-functional communication. Everyone is in self preservation mode as individuals which actually hampers growth. Until we can get the individuals to see that the reward out weighs the risk, organizations will continue to operate at status quo levels.



Is a lack of cross-functional expertise across company departments being the biggest issue preventing supply chain executives from transforming their supply networks in 2011?



Jim does not completely disagree with the statement. However, there is more to the statement than the cross-functional expertise of individuals being there. Those cross-functional experts are still there. It is just that because of the state of the economy, the silos that everyone has been operating in, and which we were operating 10 years ago…these walls have gotten a little bigger and taller.


Companies have learned to do more or the same with less people. If the economy does not change, it is tough for people to let the walls down from their silo, or let other people play in their sandbox. Yet, this is what you need to do if collaboration is going to work. You need to have the security to know that someone else can mess around in my sandbox and together we will build something better than we can if we only hold up in our silos and take care of our own business. In our own silos minding our own business we don’t see the big picture.


When we start playing in other people’s sandboxes we get a better picture of what the company is and how we can service our customers better as a whole, not just within each of our own silos.


Part of the way of doing that is a service provider is to go to a customer, not with a sales rep, but as you integrate that customer into your sales stream, that customer needs to be integrated with your IT team, Customer service team, Claims team, so that everyone knows what the expectations are for servicing that customer and you can exceed those expectations. Great customer service today is the expected customer service of tomorrow.

You always need to better yourself. The only way to better yourself is by doing the cross-functional teams. Jim believes the efforts are there. The experts haven’t left. It is just that everyone is a little more cautious now of letter other people play in their sand box.




Jim believes change needs to come from the top down. Senior leadership at the C-level needs to live it. If everyone else sees that they are letting the other C-level executives into their sandbox and they are all moving down the same path, it will filter down. Not only are they going to have to live it, the next level down in management will also have to live it. It will have a cascading effect.


If senior management is not living it, and they are going to keep the walls up in their silo, then the corporation is going to be stagnant. If a corporation is stagnant in this economy, the corporation is going to die.


Cross-functional effort needs to happen. However, Jim does not believe it can happen if people are concerned that if they let others into their sandbox and they learn their job, that their own job will be threatened. In this economy, the prospects are not that good.


Jim is a big believer in corporate culture and how that affects the productivity of a corporation. If the corporate culture is right, then the longevity of the employees is phenomenal. If the corporate culture is wrong, the longevity is down of the employees and the customers don’t have any reason to say either. If corporate culture is correct and it is based on serving the customer, serving the employees, then not only are the employees going to see that, but the customers are going to see that. Everyone likes to be around this, even as individuals. We need to take our own personal desires to the corporation level.


About Jim Berge



Jim Berge started with Roadway Express before it became Roadway Yellow, a freight LTL carrier. He then went into manufacturing on the print supply side in distribution and supply chain for a large printing company. He was with this company for 17 years. Jim is now with King Solutions, which is a 3PL where he is doing strategy work.  He is helping customers with their supply chain as a service provider. They try to keep the fact that they are a service provider at the forefront of their employees and customers minds. If the company is not providing a service, they will be out of business. Part of that service is helping customers with their supply chains.


LinkedIn Profile

How does work really get accomplished in organizations?


Work usually doesn’t get accomplished the way management sees it formally. The problem with formality is the fact that you really cannot foresee every circumstance that takes place in an organization, especially unanticipated circumstances. For example, a mid-level manager is called into his boss and she says that “we need to do a project and my idea is to do it in such as way, now go ahead and put it together and let me know if you have any questions.”



You will typically see that mid-level managers going back to his or her section and calling people together where he needs participation on a project.  The first thing they will do is try to figure out exactly what the instructions entail. The thing to keep in mind is that every person has to interpret something in their own way. There is no way that two or more people see something in exactly the same way. The management needs to interpret those instructions and have an interaction with his/her people and try to determine what needs to get done.


Most likely, he will probably go back to the next level supervisor and say “is this exactly what you said you thought needs to get done?”

What you really have at work is what Charles refers to as ‘muddling through’, which is not a bad definition. You get things done, but not exactly as how we first laid things out.  The old saying is that the best laid out plans and programs never work exactly as anticipated.


What are organizational sweet spots?


Charles published his last book called the ‘Organizational Sweet Spot’ in 2009 with Springer Publishing. Essentially, a Sweet Spot in an organization, there are in fact more than one, is where the formal organization overlaps with the informal organization. We need to realize that every single organization has an informal network where 70% of the work takes place.


The Sweet Spot can be understood by visualizing three overlapping circles.



1. The first circle on the left-hand side is composed of systems, processes, the technology used, and the management structure.  This is your wire diagram for your organization.


When we talk about self organizing systems, that management structure goes away. It is not an absolute necessity within an organization. What is a necessity are the systems, processes and technology, otherwise you wouldn’t get anything done.


2. Management Informal Networks: In the uppermost circle you can see what Charles refers to as the management informal networks. Management themselves have informal networks, primarily to figure out what needs to get done in an organization and how we need to manage to get the workers to participate as we like them to.


3. Worker Informal Networks: The final circle is referred to as the worker informal networks. They exist to help workers try to figure out not only how to best survive in this organization, but also what exactly is required in the organization and how do I fit into getting these things done.


At the center of these 3 overlapping circles is what Charles refers to as the ‘Sweet Spot’.  This is where the actual work takes place and where the interactions take place.



Another vital point is realizing what you can and cannot manage in an organization.


1. What you can manage in an organization is the formal organization – the systems, process and technology. You can also manipulate and build the management structure any way you want.


2. What cannot be managed is the Sweet Spot and informal networks, both on a management side and a worker’s side.


The Sweet Spot is emergent. People come together and ask each other questions such as “have you thought about this thing?” and the other would reply “no I haven’t thought of that”… You can sit back and come up with examples to experience your self. It is very important to keep in mind what you can and cannot manage. The Sweet Spot and informal networks are out of bounds. The best you can do to run an organization as best as possible is to play with that formal system and try to see if the emergent system, the Sweet Spot, fits better into it as time passes.


How do organizations make the transition from the old to the new?


This is the most difficult thing to accomplish within an organization. In his first book 10 years ago, titled Unleashing Intellectual Capital, Charles divided fundamental organizational context into 2 categories:


1. Controlled Access System


The controlled access system is pretty much what we are all used to in a top down organization. It is defined as “where access to the resources and activities of the group are controlled by one or few select individuals.”


2. Shared Access System


The shared access system is defined as resources of a group and its activities are impartially dealt with by all members of the group. That usually is a preferred social context for people, believe it or not. However, most of the organizations are run in control access mode.


What you are trying to do is to go from a controlled access mode to a shared access mode. That is very difficult because we are so used to the top down structure. Charles has put together a few principles that help to transition an organization to that shared access mode. These are not pre-scripted principles, but de-scripted principles. The reason for this is very simple. Every organization is different. Even different organizations that produce the same product or provide the same services have different people and chemistries.


The following are the four principles Charles developed over the last 10 years:


1. Individual Autonomy


What you want to do as best as possible is give every individual a lot of elbow room. This means you need to be very selective on who you invite to work in a self-organizing system. You can’t just ask anyone off the street to come in and to self organize. We all know what transpires after that. Having the right people in place is one of the most difficult aspects of running or converting into a shared access mode. This does not mean being snobbish. Autonomy is very important and the people you invite in need role responsibilities and need to be committed. They need empathy and attunement for the people they work with. Obviously, they need the right talent and skills in order to get the work done.


2. Shared Identity


The key word is belonging. You need to develop an organization where people feel they belong, almost as a family atmosphere. This is the key to success and you can only do this comfortably with organizations that are not much larger than 150 people. The first question of course is that if you have a organization with thousands of people, how do we apply that principle? The simple way to look at this is that you need divide that organization into comfortably interacting groups of 150 people and then connect these people in a meaningful way.

The other part of shared identity is that people accept different identities. They value differences and they have a synergistic relationship.


3. Challenging Aspirations


The key word here is possibilities. This goes beyond the traditional mission statement. Challenging aspirations means that you are always looking for the best possibilities on how to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities. The focus is on possibilities.


You also need shared aims and incentives and individual aims and incentives. This is extremely important and we tend to forget it. You always have organizational goals and incentives, but we forget about the individual. Each individual has different goals and objectives, as well as different incentives.

Another thing that is almost invariably ignored and we have talked about it a little more lately is periodic reflection. Most people’s reaction to sitting back to discuss where we are and how well we are doing will be to say it is a waste of time. “Time is money, we can’t afford to do that.” Charles believe this is very wrong.


4. Dynamic Alignment


The final principle is dynamic alignment and is run as ‘catalytic leadership’. You have transparent decisions, you promote interdependent thinking, and you constantly anticipate change. This whole thing runs on catalytic leadership, which is a new term that Charles came up with. It is a new type of leadership which was included in the ‘Sweet Spot’, the last book he published.


Catalytic leadership is founded on leadership based on expertise, not position power. This is very hard to think when in a traditional organization. True leadership has very little to do with position power. True leadership is based on value added knowledge facilitation. There is nothing in the foundation of value added knowledge facilitation that says you are bossing people around.


Catalytic leadership is defined as encouraging others to participate in value added activities that they are either not aware of or hesitant to initiate action on their own, that would benefit everyone involved. There is nothing in that definition that is about bossing people around. It is convincing people what needs to get done and helping them to think things through. At the same time it is being receptive to advice from others.


What is a self managing organization?


You have to remember that all life forms, not only self-organizing systems, by design self organization constitutes the primary process by which all organizational entities interact with one another. For example, if you take for instance the concept of homeostasis - which is essential about blood pressure and temperature which our bodies automatically maintain. This homeostasis extends beyond our bodies. If you think about it a quite famous scientist suggested a few years ago that we are only aware of one millionth of what takes place in our brains. We don’t pay too much attention to this. However, we have certain innate drives and pre-dispositions that we follow and don’t’ even know.


Self organization is the insight that we cannot control and think of everything all the time, but things come together. The main points of self organizing systems include:


1. An entities intrinsic ability to change itself as it interacts with its environment and strives to maintain its identity. For people, identity is extremely important. It is more important than maintaining a job or doing what the boss tells you. It is an intrinsic ability to change as conditions change.


2. Interactions that produce self-referential patterns, without the need to be designed or managed. As we interact with things and people in our environment certain patterns develop. A good definition of a pattern is habits you fall into. You need to be very careful with the assumptions you start making.


3. Evolving patterns of both sustained and transformed by spontaneous interactions. As we interact with other people we sustain certain patterns and certain things are in flux.


4. Creativity and destruction of part of the emergent process as attraction and repulsion.


These are our ‘automatic’ things which we don’t’ even consciously pay attention to. We are an emergent system. That is how we react internally and externally. What you don’t want to do, which is a critical point, is to have an organization that restrains that self organization. Charles is not referring to criminal activity. Only 1 to 5 percent of people have intrinsic patterns that are things which we don’t want to associate with. However, the average individual needs to have that autonomy to really be able to function properly, as well as to be able to contribute towards innovation.


If you restrain an individual and tell him, similar to your own children…you want to help and lead them in a certain direction but obviously you eventually want them to take control over situations by themselves. You can’t be there all the time. The same thing is true for management. The best option is that the shared access mode of operation is beneficial to both productivity and increasing an organization’s innovative capacity.



About Charles Ehin


CharlesEhinpic.jpgCharles Ehin is an American professor of Management at Westminster College. He is the former dean at the Gore School of Business. Charles is originally from Estonia. He fled from there in 1944 and eventually ended up in the United States in 1950. Charles has numerous degrees, including a PhD in business from the University of Oklahoma. He served 20 years in the US Air Force and was afterwards become involved in academic endeavors. For the last 20 years Charles has been researching outside the field of management, besides from keeping himself up to date.


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Conflict Minerals



What are conflict minerals?


Conflict minerals are a class of minerals which are mined in conditions of armed conflict. Typically, in these armed conflicts there are human rights abuses, including forced labor in mining. The area where this has most notably been reported is the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition to horrible conditions, some of the profits from the sale of these minerals typically finance continued fighting and control of the mines.


The minerals that are in question here are cassiterite, columbite-tantalite, gold, wolframite, or their derivatives. It sounds very exotic, but actually what we are really talking about are tin, tantalum, gold and tungsten.  These minerals are essential for many products in the electronics and other industries – everything from jewelry, cell phones to jet engines.


What are the drivers and challenges of these conflict minerals?


The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that was adopted recently required the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to set up disclosure and reporting rules for minerals mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as surrounding countries including Rwanda and Burundi.


The SEC issued these proposed reporting rules December 5, 2010. It has caused a bit of a scramble in the electronics industry because basically all companies are now required to disclose annually, whether or not they use conflict minerals that are necessary to the production and/or functionality of a product that they either manufacture or contract to be manufactured, and that originate from the DRC or adjoining countries.


Therefore, customers particularly in the electronics industry, as well as NGOs, are putting a lot of pressure right now on companies to disclose the source of tin, gold, tungsten, tantalum, in the minerals that they use in their products.


Are there any specific reporting requirements for the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act?


Yes, it is quite onerous actually. The reporting requirements are based on section 1502 of Dodd-Frank. They apply to all companies trading on a major stock exchange. If you are not a publicly traded company they would not apply to you.


Such companies need to establish whether any of their products contain any of these pre-defined conflict minerals in theory. If they do, they need to report whether any of those minerals come from the conflict minerals area, which is the DRC and surrounding areas.


An exercise in due diligence on the source and chain of custody of such materials is required. This is all completely new for the electronics industry. There have been some efforts in the past in the mineral trading industries to do some traceability. However, this is the first time that a buying industry of metals is required by law to identify the source and to be able to get a chain of custody of such metals.


Companies are required to describe the products manufactured that are not conflict free and disclose it. Clearly, as soon as they do that there will be pressure on the companies to make the products “conflict free.” They are required to disclose the entity that conducts an independent audit of their systems. They are required to disclose facilities and the specific country of origin that they identify that use and process conflict minerals. They also have to report what efforts they have made to determine from which mines and locations the minerals for their products come.


It is quite an extensive set of reporting requirements that are basically already in effect.


What about the SCC guidelines?


There are Security and Exchange Commission Guidelines (SEC) which have been issued. The comment period for those has just finished. They basically follow in a very similar manner the reporting requirements described earlier. There are some additional details. For example, referencing nationally or internationally recognized standards or guidance for due diligence.


This is the big question for a lot of our clients right now. The due diligence question was a big subject of debate under when the RoHS directive was adopted a few years ago. It is a big debate right now under conflict minerals. The question revolves around what constitutes nationally or internationally acceptable due diligence in this area.


A lot of people are initially just saying “look this is impossible, the whole metals industry is a series of brokers and the brokers have no economic interest in disclosing their sources.”


Some people are saying this is going to be very challenging and all the industry can do is make a paper effort to comply. Real compliance is going to be elusive for many years. Others are out there trying to solve this and crack the nut, uncovering smelters and doing other things. The electronics industry citizenship coalition (EICC) is working on industry-wide initiatives with its membership and is helping to establish international standards as well. A lot of standards development is currently underway.


What other international guidelines should people be aware of?


The other international guidelines outside of the United States, in addition to Dodd-Frank and these SEC guidelines being developed, are OECD guidelines. This is an international economic cooperation organization. They have also adopted conflict mineral management and mitigation guidelines that include requirements or recommendations to establish strong company management systems in this area, to identify and assess risk in the supply chain of non-compliance or of conflict minerals, to design and implement a strategy to respond to those risks identified, carry out independent third-party audits and supply chain due diligence, and identify points in the supply chain at the discretion of the buyers to figure out which points are appropriate. Finally, report publicly on the supply chain due diligence undertaken.


These are very general guidelines that are not binding, but they do constitute an emerging international standard which is significant in itself, in addition to the fact that SEC guidelines explicitly refers companies to use international guidelines when conducting due diligence.




This is one of the more challenging industry-wide part level and supplier related compliance issues that the electronics industry has faced in several years.  Companies are really wrestling with it right now. It is a bit early to say exactly how much impact this will have in the electronics industry. There are certainly concerns and there have been price disruptions on key minerals such as tantalum, which are in short supply to begin with. There is concern whether or not other impacts will be felt, or whether this is also the beginning of further overall demands for supply chain transparency in the electronics industry.


It is certainly quite a significant development and people are concerned about the emerging regulatory requirements in this industry.


About Chris Hazen


ChrisHazen.jpgChris Hazen has been in the environmental consulting field since the early 1990s. He spent about half of his career in Asia, primarily in China – Hong Kong and Shanghai. The other half of his career was spent in Silicon Valley, working very closely with some of the leading electronics companies in the world to define environmental risks and opportunities for their companies and help them to manage them.



Christopher Hazen, Director (Asia)

WSP Environment & Energy

LinkedIn Profile

I recently interviewed Fabrice Talbot, who developed a document collaboration tool where you can share changes made in Microsoft Word online in real-time. He discussed how this helps with cross-functional collaboration among knowledge workers in the supply chain.



Today’s topic is the role of knowledge workers and their importance to improve supply chains – why are knowledge workers so important?


Knowledge workers are important, but you want to understand why and take a step back. Supply chain managers have many challenges. They have more product sourcing options that ever, as well as an increased network of providers. How do you select the best? How do you negotiate the best deals? How do you manage relationships with partners?


There is constant cost pressure, as well as a need for more flexibility in the overall supply chain network, which means better process integration. With that increased complexity Fabrice really believes that knowledge workers are truly important to achieve these improvements in productivity.


So why are knowledge workers so important to you?


If you look at the last decades supply chain went through several phases. There has been IT change or revolution with ERP systems and integration with external partners. There has been supply chain optimization with the building of hubs and warehouses to cut logistics costs. There has also been access to new outsourcing partners in lower cost countries.


The next revolution will come from knowledge workers who can engage in peer to peer collaboration and how participate in cross-department and cross-functional knowledge sharing, which is truly important nowadays. It is important to have knowledge workers who can unlock information silos in your company and do business in an agile way.


What tools or technology can best support knowledge workers?


Fabrice believes that enterprise collaboration tools can really help:


1. To improve internal collaboration. For example, if you need your legal department to review and approve a purchase agreement. Or you may need input and to review several offers from suppliers. You need to be efficient at getting that information.


2. Remove information silos


3. Enable cross-functional collaboration


4. External collaboration -- with clients, partners, and help enhance existing processes.


6. Make your workforce mobile.



Can you give us examples of tools or technology that can support internal collaboration?


Instant messaging is a great example. If you just use instant messaging such as Skype you can connect internal teams and cross functional workers together. You simply type your question and you can quickly get your answer. Along the same line, companies such as Salesforce, one of the CRM leaders, just released chatter, which is a collaboration application for the enterprise. It lets you share information and messages inside your company network with employees.


For example, if you have a meeting with a new supplier you have never met and you want to know someone else in your company that knows this person, you can just send a message and get an answer within an hour. You will find out if your company has done business with that person in the past. It is really powerful technology which helps you get answers faster.


What about external collaboration?         


Many years ago, companies had integrated their back-end systems with partners or clients to send or receive orders. It was streamlined business processes. However, little has been done to improve external collaboration with clients and partners. We are really talking about human collaboration here.


Business proposals and agreements that are discussed via email attachments, generate many discussions and are slow and time consuming. It is really hard to track progress and reach a final agreement. You have a lot of inefficient collaboration processes that cost time and money.


Fabrice studied this with Agile Words and decided to develop a document collaboration application. They make it easy to share business proposals, procurement documents, and get it reviewed and approved by partners and clients in record time. Instead of spending weeks to get documents approved, it is done in days.


Another example of an external collaboration tool which is really interesting is digital signatures. If you want to receive signatures from your clients, instead of sending a fax and waiting for the client to return it, you can use a docu-sign solution to get faster approval.


What practical advice would you give to supply chain managers who try to promote cross-department collaboration?


At the end of the day it is all about your people. You need to dedicate and trust your people and encourage them to take initiative. For example, most of the tools mentioned above can be used on a trial basis. You may decide to launch a pilot project to evaluate different solutions and have you team evaluate which solution is best for your company. This benefits your company in a number of ways:


1. You can select the best tool and decrease the risk of failure.

2. You can optimize your return on investment.

3. You ensure early adoption of this new technology in your company.


About Fabrice Talbot




Fabrice Talbot is a French citizen currently living in San Francisco. He has a background in applied mathematics. He studied everything related to supply chain optimization. In addition, Fabrice has an MBA from IESE Business School in Barcelona. Over the last 5 years Fabrice worked in content and knowledge management, either for large manufacturing companies such as Crown Cork & Seal or as a content management system consultant for Fortune 500 companies. He is currently the founder and CEO of Agile Words web-based document collaboration application.


To learn more about his web-based document collaboration tools go to:




Fabrice Talbot

Agilewords founder

Email: fabrice[at]




Supply chains need cross-functional expertise


I recently interviewed Lon Blumenthal, a project/program management and transformation consultant. During his 13 year consulting career, he has found that if a company can’t mobilize cross- functional teams and really have those teams perform at a high level, then they will suffer in their marketplace.



Are strong, cross functional teams in place internally and externally? If not, why not?


In Lon’s experience, he has found that most companies have teams that are silo focused, meaning that the engineering team is technically focused, the construction team is focused on building, the procurement team is focused on bidding and contracting, and various other support functions such as QA, safety, production control, and other types of functions have their own focus.


In most companies the barriers between silos tend to be very strong, meaning that even if cross-functional team members come together, if they want to implement innovative work that will change the status quo, they generally run into resistance. In general, cross functional teams tend not to be very effective in the absence of strong leadership and sponsorship within the company that is really focused to help break down the barriers between the different functions.


Cross functional teams are needed everywhere. Much of the work up and down supply chains can only be done by cross functional teams where you have team members from the technical groups, the various engineering disciplines, construction services, project management, procurement, safety, quality, planning and other groups. This is really the only type of team that can tackle the wide range of problems organizations face today. The problems can range from properly defining a piece of equipment or a service that is needed so that it can be bid on, negotiated and contracted, to making sure that the suppliers who are selected have the right expectations. Competitive prices are no longer enough. Suppliers must understand their customer’s expectations and be able to meet all of those expectations.


The solution to meeting expectations typically is a high performing cross-functional team where that team, works with the suppliers’ cross functional team to ensure that expectations, requirements, technical specifications, delivery schedules, and other related matters are clearly understood.


In a nutshell, Lon’s experience has shown that most companies do not do this very well. As a result, you get equipment and service deliveries that do not meet expectations, may be defective, may not be delivered on the right schedule, have wrong quantities or other problems. All of this requires re-work, delays, and generally extra costs. It is very frustrating for all parties.


The familiar phrase is: “There is never enough time to do it right the first time, but there is always plenty of time to do it a second time.”


The problem with this phrase is that people on cross functional teams are people. People are always learning and developing their expertise. Failure is a natural part of cross-functional teamwork. Lon likes to emphasize that failing is ok, as long as the person and the team learn the lesson and incorporate the value from that learning, becoming more effective thereafter. This is really the only way to help a cross-functional team become a high performing cross-functional team.


Is the voice of the customer heard clearly? If not, why not?


Generally, the further into a company you go the harder it is to hear the voice of the customer. Sales people that interact electronically with their accounts, or visit their accounts physically in their place of business, tend to hear the voice of the customer the clearest. The marketing people who are developing pricing, sales collateral, websites, market research, also hear the voice of the customer but a little differently from the sales people. Engineering and product development people may participate in the development of proposals and may have some customer interaction, however, they generally tend to be very product centric, product focused. The voice of the customer to them is not quite as central to their thinking and consequently the voice of the customer is lower.


The support functions of procurement, audit, manufacturing, QA/QC, inventory, accounting and finance, and transportation are farther from the customer. Sometimes in these areas it is very hard to hear the voice of the customer. Yet, all up and down an organization’s work flow, everyone has a chance to improve customer satisfaction.


In today’s global economy, what one particular company does is less important as it was 10 or 20 years ago. What is really important in today’s global economy is what the supply chain does. If one company in the supply chain makes a mistake, it may have catastrophic results all up and down the supply chain.


Supply chains are in competition with each other globally. If supply chains hear the voice of the customer clearly, they are in the best position to meet their expectations. To the extent that internal cross functional team and cross company cross functional teams are aligned and committed to the same objectives, they will work more effectively and meet more expectations in their marketplace.




Supply chain work is typically focused on negotiations and contracting. In a competitive situation, trust levels between companies are generally not the priority. Yet, how companies work together, how they communicate, solve problems, innovate, forecast and deliver to their marketplace is critically influenced by the amount of trust present between the parties.


Company leaders who understand the important of fostering trust both within their company and within their supply chain, deliver the best results. Monitoring trust can be done through surveys, questionnaires and face to face meetings. Trust is fostered through many different types of inter personnel interactions. Trust is build when people are direct, honest and candid with each other for the good of the whole. Supply chain leaders who are able to do this up and down their supply chains will find that increased trust translates directly to increased performance, increased customer satisfaction, and greater profits and financial performance.


The relationship between trust and supply chain performance is really critical in Lon’s point of view.


About Lon Blumenthal


LonPic.jpgLon Blumenthal is currently a consultant for Resources Global Professionals. He joined Resources Global in 2004. Prior to this he spent a number of years with both Deloitte and Accenture. His work has focused on supply chain management where he has worked with cross-functional teams all over the world.  Lon’s supply chain expertise includes sourcing, bidding, contracting, supplier performance management, and developing and implementing category strategies.  Prior to consulting he had line positions in industry in various sales, engineering, procurement and operational roles.


Lon started his career in sales and marketing. He transitioned into project engineering. In his engineering capacity he got involved heavily in contracting. Lon found that he had a flair for supplier management and negotiations. He transitioned into a number of supply chain and procurement roles in the energy industry. He has worked with large organizations and small, fast growing organizations. In the mid 1980’s he worked for the fastest growing engineering construction company in the country at the time. The company went from 20 million to 150 million in a period of 3 years.


LinkedIn Profile

Gary Reinbolt has always recommended that individuals at the executive level need to be broad generalists, not topical experts, where seeing the interconnections between functions, divisions, revenue, expense, and regulation are more important than being an expert at any particular practice.




Do you believe that specialists in a narrow field aren't as effective at strategic leadership as a generalist?


Both are necessary. Gary thinks it evolves. Specialists are great but not at the strategic level. Their grasp of the totality I sometimes too small and they are not as effective as they could be. Cross-functional understanding is important, but probably at the line level supervision end. Deep expertise has its place, but when you get into strategic planning, understanding the entirety of the processes. Even if your expertise is in operations, you need to understand the function of HR, understand TAFT Hartley versus the Wagner Act, understanding that there is a test for putting someone in an exempt status, for example, even though this may not have much to do with operations.


At a certain level you need to understand that interconnectedness. You need to know how that process flows, if you think of it in terms of process. Having a broad understanding at the higher levels is often far more useful than having a very deep and high expertise. As an engineer Gary understands the old phrase in engineering, ‘when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’. The larger the tool kit you have at the strategic level,  the better understanding you will have of the entire operation and the better outcomes you will be able to predict.

“Let’s face it, strategic planning and strategic leadership is predictive.”


The Path to Career Advancement


Gary has always been a big believer that at a certain point in career advancement, an individual should stop focusing on how a function is done (tasks within the job description) and start focusing on how functions interconnect (the workflow). This can be accomplished by cross functional training, since it introduces the individual to the various aspects of the total process.


You do need to specialize. You need to become competent in a single functional area. It is why you are hired. It is what your claim to fame will be. As you acquire experience and expertise those are the cards you will play as you advance.


As you hit middle management and supervisory management, understanding a function is not sufficient. You have t understand the entire process from start to finish. Where the process you are supervising and where the functions of the people you supervise fit in to an entire functional chain.


As you get into senior management and senior strategic thinking, then having expertise in a single functional area, while it is useful, it is not the real skill of doing the strategic planning. If you are at the director or vice president level you need to understand finance. You need to understand the difference between revenue and cash flow. You need to understand what depreciation is and why it impacts operations, for example.


If you don’t have that kind of understanding your planning is not going to mesh well and you are not going to be able to predict. As a strategic manager you need to say “what’s going to happen 2 years out, 3 years out, 4 years out…” What is happening today on the plant floor is a process issue and an expertise issue. That is how you deal with the day to day issues.


At the senior level where you are doing predictive modeling several years out, having that broader understanding not only of cross-functions within the company but the companies position in the market, the competitive position, the strategic threats that are out there, the more global your understanding and the more global your scope. By necessity this means that your knowledge is more general. No one has the time to become an expert at every single thing that is necessary to know at the strategic level.


In Gary’s experience, the people who recognize this have been more successful at the upper levels, than those who have focused on a very narrow specialty.




We tend to think of process as an operations thing where you are creating a product or you are processing information or setting up a network. However, process can be applied at the upper level as well. Process is the understanding of where your resources are coming from, what your constraints are, who your upstream client is, who will supply you with what you need to do your operation. You need to understand the requirements of your downstream user.


Often at the senior strategic level your downstream user isn’t an individual. It is not a single department. Your downstream user is a market. Your downstream user is a board of directors. They are often very hard to quantify. Gary often had difficulty at board meetings where [he dealt with] every single specification of every single individual on that board.


You need to be able to understand that kind of information flow as a process. It is a process. You can measure and quantify it. You can set objectives. You can measure whether you were successful or not, which is the essence of a good process. You can do all of these things at the strategic level but many people don’t think of the strategic level in that way. They don’t think of it as a process, but it is.




Gary’s goal in this interview was to get people to understand that specialty has its place but in his experience, generalists have a better grasp and they are better able to accurately predict outcomes at the senior and strategic level.


About Gary Reinbolt


GaryReinbolt.jpgGary Reinbolt has a very eclectic background where he started in broadcasting, first as an engineer, then a producer/director on the content creation side, then he went into line management as a production manager . He then took a detour into fundraising for 15 years. He did capital campaigns, direct mail and telemarketing. Then he went into senior executive administration as a Chief Operating Officer and Chief Executive Officer. 


In total it has been 35 years. When people ask Gary what he does, his reply is that he is a “strategic fundraising engineer”.


Gary Reinbolt

Quicksilver Services

Executive Consulting/Fundraising/Media&Technology

I recently interviewed EVP/Co-Founder of Runa, a company that is bringing an Amazonian tisane (herbal tea) from the Northern Amazon in Ecuador to the USA and world markets. The plant is called guayusa pronounced (why-U-sa). Runa LLC has developed a supply chain from small organic indigenous Kichwa Indian agro-forestry plots to first world super markets like Whole Foods.



Dan and his business partner Tyler both started their company directly out of Brown University where they graduated in December of 2008. Dan is originally from Cleveland Ohio. He studied marine biology in college and was actively involved in a number of different issues, none of which were directly related to consumer products. He focused on policy reform and sustainability issues on campus. Through these studies and activities Dan learned the deep importance of utilizing the resources and tools of the marketplace, if one wants to enact change.


Dan saw many examples, particularly focused on the conservation area where market was uninvolved and ultimately a project would fail without it. With this context in mind Dan and his business partner Tyler wrote the business plan for Runa during their last semester, which was the fall of 2008. The plan was written around the idea of working with communities that have grown a plant for centuries and the growth of that plant being a central part of the preservation of the Amazon ecosystem.


Instead of cajoling them or telling them what they should or shouldn’t do, they actually partnered with them to create a market for their products, support the lifestyles and cultures that surrounded guayusa pronounced (why-U-sa) for centuries, and work directly with them to build their incomes.


One of the first things Dan and his partner were told when they started working with Guayusa was “listen, we are glad you are here but we don’t need any more workshops or development grants. What we need is a market to sell our products.” This is where Dan and Tyler saw their role. Fortunately they had a great opportunity with Guayusa.


Why is Runa developing a dedicated supply chain for guayusa (why-u-sa)?


Guayusa was previously un-marketed in the US. Generally, there were only a few on-line shops that sold bits and pieces which you could get from random suppliers, aka individuals. Runa is the first and only company to do this. The reason they built the supply chain was because the supply chain didn’t exist. The product was being consumed by families directly from their farms for generations. There was a sizable supply in that context. However, no one worked with the farmers to organize them into farming associations or to build a drying facility to ensure quality control, or to build a logistics system to effectively get the Guayusa processed and connected to the marketplace up north.


What are some of the challenges in developing your supply chain?


The biggest challenges have been starting from scratch. It has been an awesome opportunity and was also challenging because you have to do everything.


You need to organize the farmers, build accounting systems, put the transport systems in place, build a dryer and at the end of the day these are all advantageous things because we can have a lot of say into the quality of the process, having a close connection with the farmers to ensure they feel it is managed equitably.


It was also a challenge to do all of this without being able to sell any products. This was due to the fact that Runa had to do all of these things before being able to sell any product. This took a lot of hard work and serious sweat to get it up and running. The company started the whole operation in January of 2009. It took 11 months before they were able to sell anything. To sell product available on grocery shelves took another year after that.

Dan feels they have been fortunate to be able to raise money and get interested investors to help them get the supply chain up and running. At the same time, it would obviously have been fantastic if the supply chain had already existed.


What are the implications for global supply chains and business models?


Runa is most passionate about the fact that they can partner directly with farmers and work with them to support all of the things that are so magical about Guayusa, namely the culture that is associated with, the role it plays in ecosystems, and the amazing quality of the product – the energy it provides and the taste it gives. Dan believes they can do all of this and show it is really possible to build a branded supply chain. This is really what Runa is – the world’s only Guayusa supply chain.


Dan thinks that Ecuador has been working for a while to build marketplaces and venues for sales of non petrochemical products. Ecuador is a big oil and banana exporter. However, they don’t have any emblematic Ecuadorian products because people don’t know that Ecuador is the world’s biggest producer of bananas. Runa is partnering directly with the Ecuadorian government to build a supply chain and they are really working to put Ecuador on the map for that reason.


About the product


Guayusa is caffeinated leaf from the Ecuadorian Amazon. It has been drank and enjoyed for centuries by indigenous communities throughout the region of Ecuador. It has been revered by them because it has an amazingly smooth creamy taste without the bitterness. More importantly, it has focus clarifying energy effects. It has more caffeine than any other tea and it doesn’t give you the crash or jitters that coffee does. Aside from this, Runa also found through research that Guayusa has 1.5 times the antioxidants of caffeine. It also has a whole host of minerals. The product has the story, the health benefits, the energy effects, and the taste all wrapped into one plant.

It is currently sold in loose leaf and bagged form in 5 different flavors.


Where can Guayusa be purchased?


Runa has roughly 100 accounts nation-wide. The product is sold in natural products stores throughout New England, Whole Foods in the Mid-Atlantic area, about a dozen accounts in New York including one called Garden of Eden. They also recently just got picked up by a company called Andronico’s, a market chain in the San Francisco area. You can also purchase the product online at .


About Dan MacCombie




EVP/Co-Founder, Runa

@danmaccombie / @runanation / / e-mail list signup:

Jay Gonzales, a sales and services metrics and analytics consultant, believes organizational hierarchies are absolutely needed. Not only are organizational hierarchies needed, but they will happen whether you want them to or not. It is just natural human nature.



Virtually every company right now has a hierarchy, with a CEO, VPs, directors, all the way down to the front line. Some of these companies are largely successful and some are not. While it could have to do with the hierarchy, but hierarchy to Jay is just fundamental. You can change people in and out of a given position, however the hierarchy still exists.


There was a period of time, especially during the era where companies tried to run flat organizations. With interactions they really wanted to run flat organizations. However, it just proved to be impossible. The focus is human nature. Specifically with IT, whichs was always the more casual, ‘we work together’, type of groups. People put 5 or 6 IT people together and said they were all equal working as a team.


Usually, you will get some small talk, but eventually someone would feel compelled to get some work done. Someone would drop something out and this would start the whole context of a hierarchy.


Someone else would have some rebuttal to it. If that person was a lesser debater, even if more intelligent, the hierarchy would begin right there. The better talker/debater would assume a higher place in the group because they have these specific qualities, not because they were smarter or a better leader.


Eventually someone else would chime in and have a wise thing to say, being calm, and people would accept this argument. Since this person debated better, people would take this person as a leader.


The hierarchy begins almost immediately. With the IT groups for example, which is a proud group of individuals who think they can work in a non-hierarchy situation. However, this is impossible. Before long you have a clear hierarchy within that day. Work will start being assigned, work which they could actually just do themselves.


The Power of Hierarchy


Hierarchy is a powerful thing. Assuming you have good people, good bosses and good leaders, there is inherent mentoring that goes on, because they are your boss. If they are approachable enough and there is mentoring, it just happens automatically. It is well received and comments are well given back. This is critical part of business. A wise manager will always try to find someone to replace themselves. If something happens to the manager, like getting hit by a bus, the organization cannot just stop. Hierarchy becomes critical, otherwise that group who has been dependent upon you will be in chaos. There needs to be someone who is being bred to take the next step.


Where are Organizational Hierarchies Least Effective?


Jay still thinks the following exists, perhaps not as much as it use to: If you are in a situation in a company where there is clearly a ‘good ole boys club’ and they are scratching and watching each other’s backs, even if they are cash flow positive, there is in Jay’s opinion a downfall waiting for that company because there is a generation of workings coming right behind us who are very smart, techno savvy and don’t take kindly to that. These younger adults and kids can hack right into their systems as an example.


There will be a power struggle either way, whether these kids or their current mangers. There will be a power struggle between what is obviously wrong, that is a staunch upper management where there is a ceiling for certain people and no way of being promoted unless you fall into that category where there is a believe by upper management that you will fall into that criteria and abandon the lesser management to just simple do the work. This is highly flawed for many reasons on both ends.




Jay really thinks that hierarchy is just absolutely critical. You will have good people in the slots, but in any case it is his believe that people love and hate structure and guidance. When it comes down to it, many people are timid and afraid to do things on their own because they might be doing the wrong thing. They don’t have all of the information that the Director of VP does. They need a direct course laid out, with metrics, accountability points, time milestones, performance milestones, etc. They need these things laid out and it needs to come from a source that is not them because in that case it is like the fox storming the hen house, which is an ill advised situation.


For these reasons Jay strongly believes in a hierarchy.


About Jay Gonzalez


jaypic.jpgJay has been in the corporate world for approximately 20 years, ranging from a project manager in customer service to start out with, a call center and re-engineering project. He then spent a lot of time in sales & operations, at a company called Ameritech. When he moved on to progress to more opportunities he became the director of sales operations. Jay has done a lot of metrics and has built a sales organization which was quite successful. He gained a lot of sales experience in that position. Then he did consulting before taking a job with Insight Communications as the head of sales and service side of the business, specifically for the west region. After this Jay went to a company called Interactions which does sophisticated voice synthesis and competes with your average IVR.


Currently, Jay is consulting again, largely in sales and services metrics – anything to do with analytics.


Connect on LinkedIN


No just-in-case buying or production


To Edward Schmitt, Lean means having what you need when you need it and not having excess material, not doing just-in-case buying or just-in-case production. A flow of materials through the plant really starts with the design phase, the design of both the product and the design of the processes of how you are going to make the product to deliver to the customers. In reality lean is simply common sense manufacturing. If you do it right, set it up, design it and develop your processes correctly, there’s no reason to have to have additional materials available in order to make sure that you hit production.



Edward also sees Six Sigma to be closely related to that because by doing it right the first time, you don’t have to do just-in-case. Six Sigma is a methodology to help you get to being able to do it correctly the first time, every time. A key way of doing that is by reducing mistakes in the process. You design the product and the process so that the only outcome of your process of the input is always what you need coming down the line.


When Edward was in the Navy he would work with maintenance people who always had to have their benches stocked. It wasn’t on the books anymore and it would have already been written off. They had to have bolts and screws and nuts and everything else because they didn’t feel comfortable that they would get what they needed when they needed it. The supply system had to have additional materials because they weren’t comfortable that they would have what they needed when they needed it.


Six Sigma is a tool to identify your potential or real problems. It helps you identify where the problem areas are, and then work with the producer of that material, whether internal or external, to determine why mistakes are being made with that product. It is then a process of knocking off those mistakes one at a time. This may result in changes to their processes, design changes in the product or new tooling. Six Sigma is definitely not inspection of inspecting quality end of into the product. You can’t inspect quality in end; it’s all driven by what is input with the materials and the processes. If you do that right, then the output is always going to be correct.

Six Sigma is just a philosophy that says, “Let’s do it right the first time, every time, and let’s figure out how we’re gonna do it right the first time, every time.”


About Edward Schmitt


Manager Central Purchasing & Warehousing at Walter Energy




Edward Schmitt was a Naval officer for a number of years with the Supply Corps. He then went into industry out of the Navy after seven years of active duty He has worked for five different corporations: Pratt and Whitney, Dresser Industries, BMY, which is a defense contractor that is now been bought out BAE, and Harley-Davidson. He is now going to work for Walter Energy, a mining company.


Edward was with Harley-Davidson for sixteen years. At Harley-Davidson the company ran its production facilities in a lean fashion; fifty to sixty stock turnovers annually in each of their production plants, no stockpiling of material, no just-in-case materials, and working closely with suppliers so that they even were able to not have to did not inspect materials that came in. The materials went straight to the production line. Harley-Davidson started on the journey of implementing a Six Sigma philosophy about 10 years ago in the design and manufacture of the motorcycles.


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I recently interviewed Steen Koldsø, a Skilled Entrepreneur and Innovation Manager to discuss the following question:


A lack of cross-functional expertise across company departments is the biggest issue preventing supply chain executives transform their supply network in 2011. What are your thoughts on this topic?





Do Supply Chains Need More Cross-Functional Expertise?


Steen believes that cross-functional expertise and collaboration in general is becoming increasingly important. You can communicate with all types of areas and departments and quickly adapt and ask the right places and people with the right competencies and really get that into common understanding of the problems. When Steen worked with concept development they were very keen on getting 360 degrees around the product concept, which involved all stakeholders, from R&D, marketing, sourcing, supply chain management, production, after-market service. You have so many stakeholders responsible for different parts and lifecycles for products. It has to go into a higher level to really perform well.


What are some of your experiences managing and doing more cross-functional collaboration?


Steen has a lot of experiences. To a large extent it is people dependent, he believes. You have a certain type of thinking style that makes some people very good at managing system type complexity because it can be a very wide area to manage and navigate in. Steen thinks that most people in engineering schools and universities learn to focus on the narrow and dig into details. However, systems people have the exact opposite way of thinking. This means when you feel you have sufficient knowledge of a topic or area you tend to get curious of the next level of complexity.


For example, if you know about the RF in the mobile phone, at some point you want to know about the whole phone then the network, then other networks like satellite, the internet and services. The complexity gets huge. It is important to find those people who are good at this kind of complexity and can handle this complexity. They can manage the complexity and then draw in the experts in different areas and make them talk together. This is another challenge. People tend to divide into technology silos. They have concrete walls between departments, more or less. It gets difficult to work cross-functionally. You need someone to break down those concrete walls and glue it together.


Advice for companies looking to transform their supply networks in 2011.


Steen worked with Nokia about 7 years ago from a supply chain
point of view, if you were working with a whole lifecycle of a product it was
important to see it from a total cost point of view, not the cost of the BOM
and trying to cut a cent here and there on certain components.


This is because you will blind yourself. If you have a high volume product and you can cut one cent on one hundred million pieces it is a lot of money. However, you can cut $2 on a component by looking at total cost. While you can easily do a lot of work to save the 1 cent, you throw away the $2 in some other area such as aftermarket service, production, because you don’t have that systems thinking or overview.




For supply chain people it is also about being open and curious and to learn from other industries. Try to re-think and renew yourselves.



About Steen


SteenPic.jpgSteen Koldse from Denmark has his business in Copenhagen and lives in Malmo, Sweden which is across the water from Denmark. He has worked in various companies since 1991, working in R&D, mainly as a system engineer and hardware designer for the first few years. He then took over the building up of a hardware development team in a Danish mid-sized company working in the telecommunications industry, dealing with closed land mobile radio for train and police communications.


Around 1998 he shifted to Nokia R&D Center in Copenhagen. This was a new venture at the time where Steen spent the first 1.5 years as a systems integration manager on a phone called 6210 where he had the systems responsibility for that phone. Steen led a global system design team, with experts from all Nokia R&D sites.


From 2000 to mid 2003 he was heading a system integration line manager in Copenhagen and also had a system test group where he was heading the system integration managers who then had the system responsibilities on new mobile phone projects. The corporation had Nokia sites in Finland and San Diego. Steen had in parallel a global system design and reliability team with systems experts from 4 Nokia R&D sites around the world.


In 2003, Steen was one of the main architects in a big organizational change which they implemented in Copenhagen and four other sites. This was a kick-off to a new organization. One of the new areas was concept development where Steen had an area in Copenhagen from 2003 to the beginning of 2006. The team was responsible for creating new mobile phone concepts and pre-studies, prior to actual R&D projects. They had a lot of collaboration with the technology division, supply line management, production, sourcing and other people. Within that time frame they did all new mobile phone pre-studies and concepts coming out of the R&D center in Copenhagen.


Steen then left Nokia and started his own consulting business, which has now been in existence for 5 years. During this time he has managed to help connect global supply line people from Lego and Nokia. For the last year Steen has also been the director of a new technology start-up in Copenhagen called Concurrent Vision where they believe they have the world’s fastest machine vision technology, which is on its way.


Steen Koldsø / Managing Director


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Direct/Mobile: + 45 50 168 167, E-mail: |], Skype: skoldsoe


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Getting the Most Out of Your WMS

Don Benson, PE and Dr. Edward F. Knab



Don has been involved with warehouse management systems since he helped architect some of the early systems  over 30 years ago. A little over 5 years ago Don began getting calls  from several different clients and some vendors. The calls indicated that things were not going  and some problems  may have existed for some time. The WMS owners needed some help trying to figure out what needed to be done differently.  As a consequence Don has been exploring this with new clients., Don’s partner Dr. Edward Knab was an early adopter of WMS Systems and recognized that many WMS Systems operated the same ware they were installed years after implementation .  Dr. Knab thought this peculiar given that rate of dynamic change most industry was experiencing.  They asked themselves what was it that they used to do that generated the level of success enjoyed earlier which might not be existent today in the process of shifting from a custom designed software to what now is much more a commodity.


What benefits does a company want to achieve when they invest in a WMS?


It is important to recognize that there are benefits that accrue both at the business level and at the warehouse operations level. Oftentimes we pay attention to the warehouse operations, but the benefits accrue to both.  At the business level, there is a different kind of position in the marketplace  which can be much more competitive, reducing cycle time, cost, improving quality and adaptability as clients and stakeholders change their requirements over time.


With a good WMS we are capable of making those changes and being ready for them when they come. Obviously, benefits include the direct labor in warehouse operations, the improvement of the performance of the facility as a whole, the productivity of the people, and some of the early issues that came up around resource utilization where we were able to use the warehouse  effectively. We are agile with respect  to  taking care of easily maintaining the same level of performance and productivity,  as the workload changes day to day. It is not a level throughput normally, so the agility is much enhanced with the warehouse management system (WMS).


What is required to achieve those results?


In those days it was clear, and it is even more clear now that we need a clear vision as to why we were doing this. It wasn’t just about buying something new. It wasn’t just that we were doing some re-engineering, even though that term was not in our vocabulary at the time. We were not just re-engineering the process, but we were really trying to improve the performance of the whole system. We looked at how all the pieces worked most effectively together and how we support management, hence the name Warehouse Management System. How do we support management in doing their work better in their tasks of planning, organizing, staffing , directing and controlling warehouse operations.


A vision needed to be there. We also thought it was really important to work with a workforce that really understood something about the operation, other than what they had been doing in the past. There was an education involved, understanding material handling equipment, storage equipment options, and new methods of procedures so that we were not just coming in as an expert telling them what to do. There was an education process where they understood what options were available to make choices in the design process.


There was a clear set of documented requirements that included all stakeholders. It included not just the customers and vendors, but all the stakeholders within the company, all of those really looking for something from the warehouse. Each process in the warehouse is a customer unto another so that the whole system works effectively together.


There was a re-engineering and still is.  We are surprised there are some warehouse management systems that are installed with virtually no change in the engineering and processes in the warehouse. A consequence of this can be, as experienced by Don, where the process wasn’t doing very well in the first place just gets worse faster.


Lastly, a measurement and reporting system needs to be developed. There needs to be some way in order for management to control the warehouse effectively with a real-time, or close to real-time, measurement system that allows them to know what their progress is and what their productivity is throughout the day or shift so that they can know where their attention is needed.


A few years ago, industry research reported that only 41% of first time buyers that install a new WMS are satisfied with their results.  Why?

Interestingly, a few years ago industry research reported that only 41% of first-time buyers who installed a new warehouse management system were satisfied with their results. This really raises the question as to why. The reasons seem to be that there are no previous experiences in warehouse management systems. Most warehouse management systems are installed in companies that have never had anything like this before. It is really a different order of change. Few if any have had any experience with WMS systems . It is like if all of a sudden you can afford to buy a new airplane, it doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to fly it. Here you buy a new warehouse management system and we assume as in all of the other things we buy for a warehouse such as a new rack or forklift, that we know how to operate it effectively.


Here is an instance in which a warehouse management system whereby some background or real support from the user’s perspective, a user’s advocate, to really help them understand it, seems to diminished. There doesn’t seem to be those kinds of support systems, or if there are they are thought by the customer that they don’t need to do that and can figure it out.


We also make an assumption that the vendor has the same objectives as the customer when in fact the vendor’s primary objective is to get paid, which means that it operates. It doesn’t mean that the objectives of the customer to obtain some real changes in the business or warehouse operations are important. In fact, the vendor is probably very much against have those elements be the criteria for being paid. There is a conflict there in terms of objectives for the project or for the warehouse management system.


The handling of the work as a project, setting the goal at the end of the project to ensure that it is installed and operating effectively as being the end of the project gets translated through the media as being the end. This is opposed to actually just being the beginning because the effective utilization of that system is where the ROI comes. It is a process that goes on and on and the results lead us to draw that conclusion.


The next item that came to real clarity was that in decision making around a WMS and a WMS project portion, that we start thinking about short-term priorities. We want to minimize our first cost, not recognizing that there is a long-term consequence of that. We tend to make more decisions nowadays based on IT and financial requirements to minimize cost, rather than on the operations where the benefits do start to accrue.  There is a change in the priority around decision making and that is having an impact on implementation where we never thought that would happen before.

The last piece that is really important is that a warehouse management system is complex and complicated. It really reaches out beyond the four walls which has been the limit for most folks who manage warehouses. Their scope of work and primary focus has been within the four walls. For the warehouse management system to be effective it needs to reach out far beyond that. There is a real challenge in creating those relationships and sustaining them.


What can a company do to achieve the desired outcomes?


Don Benson and Dr. Edward Knab found that there are several items that are not mutually exclusive. They all really matter.


  1. Establish a vision and goals that are beyond implementation
  2. Get professional, experienced help throughout the project. - Don’t try to go it alone.
  3. Build relationships with stakeholders - because what gets started will have to be sustained. Roles will remain the same, people will change. If a new CFO Bin or a new sales manager comes in, we need to maintain relationships with them so that we don’t just get the information through the computer. We need an understanding for planning purposes key to management coming in regularly.
  4. Continue WMS skill building – it is a tool and we get practice with it every day. If we don’t work it well with the planner and the manager and the supervisors to get feedback regularly about how well we are doing, how well the plan worked out relative to our productivity, relative to our performance against the plan. It is a continued process of building that team and working together.
  5. Call WMS Support – it is valuable asking for help, specifically from warehouse management systems support.





Investing in a WMS is a large expenditure that can be risky. We need to put more effort into this than in buying a new car. Most of us spend a fair amount of time doing our research in that process. It will be beneficial to all of us to put that money and time in first.


For more information:



About Don and Ed


Dr. Edward Knab


Ed Knab.jpg


Dr. Knab has, since the mid-1980's, been a leader in the implementation of warehouse management systems, ERP, CRM, EDI, RFID, and supply chain visibility solutions across global networks.  Dr. Knab focuses his attention on driving manufacturing and distribution efficiency through the application of advanced manufacturing techniques and distribution strategies, and the implementation of green technologies.




Don Benson, PE




Don has been involved in the design, development and implementation of Warehouse Management Systems since the late 1970's, with Semco, Sweet & Mayers, architecting and implementing many of the first systems, before they were commercially available.  Recently Don has been helping companies to resolve problems with their warehouse management systems, to improve the productivity and performance of distribution centers using their warehouse management systems, and to effectively respond to the daily dynamics of the marketplace and adapt to changes in stakeholder requirements.