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Guidelines are Good but Fluidity is Better



I interviewed Brian Wagner, an entrepreneurial business and technical leader with over 20 years experience. He discussed how simple process solutions are often the best. If innovations are too complicated, they can actually be self-defeating. He advises against rigid and/or detailed long term plans and instead advocates a more flexible approach driven by goals and collaborative visualization complemented by the sharing of ideas. According to Wagner, the companies that benefit in the long-run are the ones that can evolve. Their approach to process innovation incorporates as many functions, resources and inputs as possible, from a broad range of individuals, departments and companies.


“Overall, the companies who really benefit in the long-run relative to process innovation are the ones that evolve. They incorporate as many functions and resources from as broad a range of individuals, departments and companies as possible.”

How Clients Approach Business Processes


Brian Wagner’s wealth of experience has made him an expert in achieving strategic results through innovative business processes. He believes that business processes are a source of competitive advantage, and his answer was pragmatic.  “It can go both ways,” said Wagner. “We’ve seen companies build complex processes that really aren’t practical.  It can work against you if processes aren’t simplified to the point where they’re understandable and easy to implement.”


As principal at Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions (PTIS), Brain Wagner shares his insights into developing innovative business processes. He explains how, in 2001, one of PTIS’ clients invested in having them perform benchmarking across approximately fifty companies, which database has now expanded to over 100 companies. Due to their focus on best practices within innovation, they were able to identify the processes that worked well with that first company and use those, with permission, to benefit subsequent clients.


Some companies have preexisting processes; for example, most companies have some form of stage-gate process, says Wagner, even though they might refer to it as something else. If stage-gate processes are used properly and kept simple or not over-complicated, Wagner believes that they can be very beneficial to companies. For instance, some major companies have trouble prioritizing and stage-gate processes can be very helpful in that respect. They can help ensure that resources are allocated to the correct opportunities rather than being spread too thin, which is often the case. The stage-gate process is well-known and formalized. “People get it,” emphasizes Wagner. So, it’s a good starting point for creating initiatives that adapt to specific needs.


On the other hand, Wagner explains how its equally common for clients to approach them and demand ‘process’ or the ability to quantify the value of a new concept or opportunity. In these cases, often times PTIS begins from scratch, since there is no preexisting process model in place. They start by creating a simple template, which purpose is to assess the value of a given opportunity whether it be in relation to consumer, channel or technology trends, or to operations, manufacturing or product-development strategies, such as multi-year marketing and brand development, or even in regards to supply chain management.


Flexible Process Capabilities in the Real World


Brian Wagner believes that the key to any kind of process, whether it’s stage-gate or some other kind, is to establish guidelines and ground rules that allow for flexibility. He emphasizes that process innovation is not a rigid procedure; it needs to remain fluid. Even though some people in the industry would like things to be black and white, that’s not necessarily the best approach. “In the real world, flexibility is critical,” says Wagner. He continues to say that some companies attempt to create strategies or business plans that forecast three years into the future. Even that is risky, since what is known is that the world is going to change. Instead of mapping out a detailed three plus year plan, Wagner advises settling on a goal or conceptualizing a vision that extends into the next three years, and including a few key points that will help make it happen. He says that typically, that’s enough and, better yet, those are the kind of guidelines that everyone can understand, so each member of the team can personally do their best to go from point A to point B. How they get there is less critical then actually getting there.


Evolution with Benefits


The companies that really benefit in the long-run and achieve the successes that they aspire towards are the ones that evolve. Their approach to process innovation incorporates as many functions, resources and inputs as possible, from a broad range of individuals, departments and companies.

“What we’ve found,” says Wagner, “is that if you put the right people in a room, those with a certain level of expertise, then their judgment is enough. You could probably spent years researching to get 100%, but with the right people assessing the right things, you can probably get 80% on a regular basis, and 80% is very good.” Ten people is a good start, but Wagner thinks it would be beneficial to include, for instance, the suppliers. “To be global, to allow other inputs to a process really creates the greatest opportunity.” Wagner finds that leveraging information technology is helpful when working in a collaborative environment.



About Brian Wagner


BrianWagner.jpgBrian Wagner is an entrepreneurial business and technical leader with over 20 years experience across Kellogg's, Sara Lee, Multiform Desiccants,Carton-Craft Corp., Burger King and General Foods.  He is currently principal at Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions (PTIS).  Since 2000, PTIS has helped over 180 global clients achieve strategic results through developing innovative processes. The majority of their clients have been Fortune 500, but they have also worked with NGOs, academia, government agencies, trade associations, brand owners and retailers. In 2008,


Wagner was inducted into the Michigan State University School of Packaging Hall of Fame and was recognized in the  Western Michigan Business Review as a Thought Leader.  Packaging Strategies named PTIS to their Most Influentials in Packaging for 2008. Brian is on the advisory board of Advanced Global Sourcing, and cofounded AGS Packaging in 2009. Also in 2009, Wagner cofounded the ARK Angel Network, a fundraising charity focused on helping needy and At Risk Kids around the world. He, his wife and their three children currently reside in Kalamazoo, Michigan and are actively involved in the ARK Angel Network. He is also involved in student mentoring and gives lectures at both MSU and Western Michigan University’s packaging and food marketing program for which he co-developed an on-line masters course, Value Relationships in Packaging.



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From Packaging World,



“Too many national brands don’t value packaging as much and focus on squeezing costs out of packaging,” says Brian Wagner, vice president at PTIS. “For both retailers and CPG companies, the ones who wake up and understand packaging’s value as a brand differentiator, and as an investment, will win.”



How to make America’s Supply Chains more dynamic and innovative


From Ron’s experience he has found that many companies do not take a creative approach to the supply chain. They are creative in the area of marketing and sales. In manufacturing they have gone to point of using Lean and Six Sigma techniques and quality improvement techniques. However, for most of the Fortune 1000 companies' supply chains are still managed by very traditional sourcing, logistics, and inventory management techniques.


In order to break this paradigm companies need to invest more time and effort into breaking the tradition. To do this you have to look across, ask yourselves and really listen to the why and why not questions. We have to do more internal value analysis. What are people doing? Why do they do it? What options do we have? Ask exteriors what else we can do.


We traditionally have fallen down this path of cost reduction. That mentality really needs to change and flip back to the revenue generation model where we start looking at the value that supply chain can bring from a revenue generation, not just from a cost reduction. The cheapest way naturally to reduce all of the cost is to do no business!


We should keep looking at what values we could bring as a supply chain professional. We should be clear on what value we create to generate these revenues, and take alternative approaches to doing it.


How can small suppliers provide innovation to large US multi-nationals?


Ron was part of multi-national organizations in the past. He is now working with start-up businesses. He believes suppliers have been beaten down by the traditional customer supply models. As we have been calling them suppliers it has in effect pushed them into that position. Small suppliers by their nature are faster moving, more flexible, and usually the most creative. They need to capitalize on that uniqueness. They need to position those strengths to their customers.


We also notice a lot of small businesses don’t understand the value of partnerships and joining together to creative a competitive situation with other companies that can bring them in to US multi-nationals. US multi-nationals continue to look to ways to be innovative, lower their costs, etc.


Small companies need to understand the power of investing that time, building the relationships and going to large companies with creative approaches, not just trying to chisel out a little piece of the business. For example, having 3 CEOs of small businesses join together to do things such as hosting round tables together; to educate the corporation itself on the value of what is going on in the industry and how to be competitive is often seen as a value to multi-nationals. This differentiates you and naturally positions you for the opportunities with that company.


How can large firms reach out to small suppliers?


Ron and his team have found that the traditional conferences and road shows typically are not successful. They are usually too broad, random and expensive. Large companies often come to this and try to find some match. A better approach is for large companies to really identify the niche areas where they have limited competition in the current supply base, and do specific research to find who can fill those up.


It is much like an HR firm doing a search for experts, or head hunters looking for those people that are perfect fits. You do the same thing in the supply chain area.


Large companies through their category managers and spend analytics can identify the areas where there is a high concentration of spend that may be well suited to go direct with a small manufacturer. An example may be in safety equipment, specialty valves, chemicals or any specific services. Making use of small business integrators is another approach they can take.


Finally, it is important to start really working with the national organizations once you have identified those areas of priority and need. These would include the chambers of commerce, the National Minority Supplier Development Council.


Ron’s experiences


Ron and his team spent a lot of money and effort in participating in general conferences. They would walk around and find themselves in the midst of 1000 people looking for the same thing. The team has registered into the national databases. They had limited successes in both of these areas and found it is best to be face to face or voice to voice. Video conferencing is now another approach you can take.


You have to show your passion. You are experts. You know your business and market. Sell based on that. Don’t oversell. Use your direct business experience and tell them what is going on. Remember, nothing that you do is really unique. Share your thoughts. Many of your competitors will think that this is a competitive advantage to hold everything close to their chests.


However, large corporations love it when people open up to them and tell them what is going on in a transparent way. Naturally, you don’t give away any competitive intelligence or trade secrets you may have or own. Most of what we do is not that unique and somebody else will come up with it.


You also have to give the time and effort to marketing by really going out there and meeting the people. Ron sometimes laughs when he says “talk to the person on the plane next to you…talk to the person when you are sitting down in a restaurant and happen to see someone working on their business books”. It is amazing what these relationships will turn out to be. If they are looking for an opportunity or a person to come and help them, you may just happen to be that person.


Be Creative. Be Innovative. Be Open.



About Ron Rod


Ron’s background goes roughly 30 years back in the supply chain practices. At that time he didn’t approach the work as ‘supply chain’. He has a real passion around business excellence, operational excellence, how the entire supply chain really affects an organization. He has worked for Fortune 500 companies as a practitioner, he has consulted for a fair number of years. Recently he and his team have built a fairly successful professional services and supply integration company.


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I recently interviewed Carey McKinney, who shared his recommendations and views on supply chain risk management and creating innovation in the supply chain.



What are your views on supply chain risk management and creating innovation in the supply chain?


In the age of globalization, with long and sometimes global supply chains, it requires increased risk management and monitoring, working with your suppliers on a more integrated basis. While ‘Black Swans’ are not the rule, they are no longer the rare exception in this environment. We must not only closely monitor supplier performance but also supplier financial positions and their competitive positions as well.


During his tenure in the telecommunications industry Carey, as a result of the collapse of the telecom and Internet bubbles, was to start evaluating on a quarterly basis their suppliers and rating competitive and financial positions very much like the rating agencies would rate bonds, prioritizing them accordingly, trying to scale back the number of vendors they had and working more closely with a select supply base.


Given the long and thin global supply chains that many multinational corporations have now, hedging strategies for the less predictable transportation costs are necessary, not to mention contingency planning for long event horizons. Certainly, for your critical suppliers in your supply chains, a higher level of systems integration with those suppliers is needed.


Creating innovation in the supply chain


As far as creating innovation, Carey’s recommendation is that suppliers must increase their understanding of the buyer’s value chain. They really need to understand with clarity their buyer’s value chain, how they fit it and add value to their buyer’s value chain, as well as suppliers’ need for a better understanding to forecast their customer’s tendencies, desires and trends.


Very successful suppliers in the supply chain understand their buyer’s customers and their needs. They can anticipate sometimes better than their primary buyer, and can react and anticipate the buyer’s customer’s needs. This certainly adds value for the supplier in the buyer’s value chain. Carey would say that in several situations buyers need to seek a higher level of forward systems integration with their buyers, integrating to the appropriate level their systems, primary integrating the supplier procurement and IT functions with the buyer’s demand or sales systems. It would be a seam-less operations for those buyers who have high volume and technical products and services.


Suppliers would also continually differentiate their products, processes and services to continually add value to their buyers. It is a very competitive environment as far as supply chains. There are a lot of challenges and large far-flung supply chains. Most of the large multi-nationals need to start focusing on developing more depth in their supply chains, along with contingency planning.


About Carey McKinney


Carey.jpgCarey McKinney is currently an associate professor of business management at Collin College where he has been teaching business courses for the past year and a half. He is also on the advisory committee for the honors institute at Collin College. For the 13 years prior to this, he managed the global supply chain demand forecasting and project management function in the telecommunications industry, as well as managing a network of major global suppliers in the supply chain. Carey’s responsibilities involved developing and maintaining the global supplier network, negotiating major capital acquisitions and major service level agreements. He was also involved in initiating major supply chain audits, developed root cause analysis and implemented corrective action plans and procedures.


Carey’s tenure in telecommunications industry was characterized by accelerated growth and intense competition brought about industry de-regulation in the mid-1980s. This was followed by the collapse of the Internet and Telecom bubbles, resulting in industry-wide consolidation and re-engineering. Carey’s industry formed a supply chain triage, consolidating suppliers and identifying those weaker suppliers that may not survive, passing on those smaller suppliers that they were developing to be major or critical suppliers in the future, to compete with their existing suppliers.


In addition, they were very much involved in re-negotiating service level agreements, purchase maintenance agreements and re-configuring the supply chain for the new economic realities of the time, such as accommodating increased supplier outsourcing because suppliers were required to take actions to lower their cost and improve their efficiencies. There were some positive and negative impacts to their supply chain from those actions, as well as accommodating in several instances some suppliers’ increased off-shoring, which impacted delivery schedules and timelines.


They then focused on restructuring those service level agreements and procurement agreements to include more of a risk sharing type of situation where they would share the risks some of their primary suppliers in that volatile environment.


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I recently interviewed Peter Balbus who discussed how we can make America's supply chains more dynamic and innovative.





How do you think we can make America's supply chains more dynamic and innovative?



A big part of the answer lies in shifting how we think of supply chains, away from the traditional three bids and buy procurement, to a truly strategic resource that most companies today are dramatically underutilizing. The business world of the 21st century is highly networked, and not just on the Internet or wireless apps on the iphone. Peter means real strategic business networking across the entire value chain, including the supply chain.



Peter thinks large companies are starting to realize that a significant amount of innovation can be affectively developed with or acquired from smaller companies who are better structured to risk manage the intricacies of strategic innovation.



Why do you think small businesses are the source of global innovation and job creation?



That really is the $64,000 question. Peter thinks it is a combination of factors. One of them is what Peter might call the Law of Large Numbers. It is not so much that big companies don’t know how to do innovation. In most cases they were founded by coming up with something that was so innovative you could build an entire company or industry around it.



The problem is that most innovation, when it is young, does not immediately lead to billion dollar markets. If I am managing a large company, let’s say a $10 billion company, I honestly can’t afford to develop new business lines that are in the ten, fifteen or twenty million dollar range. I don’t have the management staff, the shareholder approval, and if I am going to do something it has to make a significant bottom line contribution within a fairly short period of time.



By and large, small businesses are far better structured and they have far more ability and agility to bring new technology to a point of commercialization where we can demonstrate that a market exists. We can demonstrate that there is an adoption and where we can prove there is a viability of a business by having customers, a certain amount of marketing and sales and technical staff; that make the acquisition of that technology, or even the whole company, a viable option for a large company.


In other parts of the world we see much more of this happening. Frankly, for the most successful tech companies in the US, we tend to see an entire cottage industry; former employees and people who are providing very specific kinds of innovation or services to the larger companies.



Peter finds it very refreshing when he sees large companies recognize that these outside networks of small companies can be an integral part of their own supply chain. If they stop thinking of the supply chain as just parts and services, but access to innovation that the large company themselves might not be able to do, it dramatically improves and increases the ability of these companies to not only be more innovate but also to create jobs.



If we look at the Fortune500 there has been a net loss of jobs over the last 25 years. Large companies are more concerned with productivity enhancements. Frankly, coming out of this current recession, while their profits are up, they are not hiring. What we need in this country is more re-industrialization.



It is not just a question of innovation. Even companies like Google don’t employ that many people. They become large quickly, and that is about the end of it. What we need are small companies whose innovations lead to entire new industries. This is where growth occurs. Far more growth occurs with companies with few than 500 employees, than all the rest of the companies combined.



What needs to be done?


While Peter is not a huge fan of widespread government intervention, he thinks this is one of the clear roles for both State and Federal government investment. Some of the states which have created clusters of innovation and technology have done so because they recognize they can provide certain incentives to young companies to come to their areas.


In some cases it is the ability to provide financing or funding. In some cases it is a tax abatement for a brief period of time to allow a company to gain sufficient capital that they can afford to pay the full range of taxes.


Part of it is simply raising the visibility that innovation is going to come from these small companies. If the large companies are either unable or unwilling to solve our biggest challenges, because they are so attached to 20th century business practices, then it is up to us as consultants and conveyers of knowledge to raise awareness that it really is the small companies (in the US and worldwide) that are really leading the charge for broad based innovation.



How should employees or entrepreneurs get started?


This is a very difficult question. The answer takes the form of “it depends”. For employees in companies that are already at a point where they acknowledge that innovation and ideas can come from anyone and everyone within a business, Peter’s sense is to continue to provide ideas and insights to senior management. Even though in many cases the employee may not think that those suggestions are being considered, Peter can say as a consultant to senior management that they are being considered. Keep up the good work.



In companies that are somewhat behind the power curve, part of it is that you have to build a business case for the suggestion. You can’t just put a note in a box. You have to almost take a consulting approach and say “hey, I have got an idea, and here is why I think it is valuable. Here is the problem it is going to solve, here is the benefit that I think it will yield for our organization, and here is what I think the cost is going to be.”



Management does not suffer from a lack of ideas, with ideas coming from all over their organization both inside and outside. The best ideas are those that are fairly well thought through. Don’t just put a one liner that someone needs to do something about this issue on our manufacturing floor, for example. Take the time to build a business case. That is the language of business.



As a consultant, Peter thinks that we need to do a better job of raising awareness and visibility. There is always the balance of coming in and doing what they have been asked to do, but also providing perhaps some additional value by offering alternatives to what you were asked to do. This doesn’t always go over well. It is something you have to be very careful with. However, Peter is finding that more and more that if you built credibility in doing what you said you would do, clients are more open to alternative approaches. Part of it is gentle nudging more senior management to ‘think outside of the box’. This is the reality. The more outside examples of successful initiatives that you can bring to their attention, the better they are going to be.



Provide examples that come from their industry which are fairly closely related to the kind of ideas you have. In summary, supply chains and supply networks are one of the great untapped potentials that exist in this country. It is a way of accelerating not just innovation but economic growth. The more we can pull in the small companies into constellations of being providers to the larger companies, the more and faster the economy is going to expand.


Peter’s Views on Innovation


Innovation is an area that Peter feels passionate about. It really is one of the more untapped but much more fruitful sources. Peter is on a personal mission. Every time he hears that innovation is crowd sourced or that innovation comes from contests and talking with your customers, he wants to cringe because this is not really where innovation comes from. While it can be a source, and depending on the industry some get more value from this than others, but by and large (especially organizations with complex supply chains, most likely industrial) you don’t get a lot of innovation just by asking your customers.



You get a tremendous amount of insights just by looking the other way, sitting down with suppliers who very often have ideas which they would love to share. The smaller the company the closer senior management tends to be to the market. It is somewhat counterintuitive, almost like looking in the rear view mirror to forward, but it is not. Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying that if he had asked his customers what they wanted I would have built a faster horse. There is a lot of truth to that.


We confuse product improvement with innovation. They are really two very different things. You can ask your customers what they want to improve your products, which you should. But if what you are really trying to do is bring real sustainable competitive advantage that isn’t just an obvious next step, then your customers are not necessarily going to be a good source for that.


As it relates to your internal operations and manufacturing, for example, your customers are not going to tell you how bring innovation into the shop floor. However, your suppliers might.



About Peter Balbus



PeterBalbus.jpgPeter has been an active participant in the wonderful world of strategic innovation for about 25 years, working with clients across a wide range of industries. Most of Peter and his team’s focus is on harnessing the power of their supply networks to foster what he would call Real Innovation in their business. By Real Innovation he means taking bold moves that yield sustained competitive advantage and profits, not just incremental improvements that are quickly matched by the competition. Peter’s formal education includes a degree in chemical engineering from MIT and completion of the executive program in corporate strategy at the University of Chicago.






Twitter:        @2020_Innovation





I recently interviewed Bob Gotsch where he discussed needed innovation in Lean Concepts in small to medium businesses ($50-$500 Mil) to improve their Supply Chain business processes to be recognized as "World Class" in 2015.


Why do we use the gemba walk to define the "as is"  back office supply chain business processes?


The gemba walk is a walk-through of a physical site, whether a manufacturing, retail store, distribution center or a back office, to understand what is going on in the business processes. There is a visual walk and there is a verbal walk where you will talk to people involved in the processes to understand what is going on now.


You then write the processes up and present them to the senior management sponsoring the process. The idea is that we want to know what is going on now and agree on what is going on now, before implementing any lean concepts improvements.


Why do we develop “collaboration" relationships within the client back office?


In the client back office you will find sales auto processing, purchasing, inventory management, and accounting- accounts payable /accounts receivable. Normally, these are under different managers, such as sales, purchasing and accounting managers. You have created a stovepipe situation where the worker bees doing the order processing and inventory posting normally do not communicate with one another. What you will find is that there will be short falls in information from the supplier, customer within the company on processing the information. This means these people doing the input work may spent a lot of their time researching issues, concerning pricing, part numbers which may be obsolete or new part numbers with no numbers assigned to them. This causes time to be spent on non-standard work and not getting the job done of processing purchasing orders, sales orders or processing accounts receivable/payables.


One of the things needed is a common IT platform and software program in the back office where we don’t have people keeping records on Excel spreadsheets and then transferring the information to the IT system they are using. What Bob has seen are conflicting input methods within a back office. This is time spent on non-standard work and you can’t do your job because you are researching issues to make your entries.

The collaboration is that each of the back office people need to be aware of what they are doing. They are using similar information and should have a point to share the information and there should be a common software system which they are working from.


Why do we develop "collaboration" relationships with customers and suppliers?


One of the issues that we have with our customers and suppliers is that our customers look at our sales people as order takers. They will let themselves run out of the product and then call the sales person and say they need it tomorrow. In many cases this could be a non-stock item. This in turn results in purchasing calling the buying and saying I need it tomorrow. This is not the type of relationship you want with your suppliers and your customers. You want a collaborative relationship with your suppliers. You want to do a supplier managed inventory system with them where you know what they have in stock. You are telling them what your one, two and three month’s needs will be.


To do this you need to have a collaborative relationship with your customers that you are privy to what their inventory and projected needs are. If you have a 3 month vision of your customer’s business and you have a similar vision of your suppliers business then the supplier can build to warehouse the product on a quick turn for your customer. The collaborative relationship is very important here.


The other relationship you would have is an S&OP relationship with your customers, where they are communicative with you about their stock on hand and future needs.


This is not easy to do. It is a concept that is workable but would take buy in from your back office, sales and purchasing people to build that relationship with the people they are working with. With the many customers and suppliers you have you would have to do this on a one-on-one basis. It could possibly take over one year to put together, depending on the number of customers and suppliers.


Why do we need an organization review to support the new Lean Concepts Supply Chain operation designed to insure a World Class Operation by 2015?


If you have your typical back office arranged into sales order management, purchase order management, inventory control, and the accounting department – you will have created stove-pipe departments where the communications may not be there at the working level.


Bob’s concept is a horizontal flow of information between these departments. It may be that these departments are re-arranged under a supply chain manager. The processes he/she is requiring would come under him/her. There may not be a supply chain manager at the branch level or even a corporate level. There could be an opportunity to re-arrange the jobs being done to make this work. It could be the supply chain manager who is the person over sales order management, purchasing and inventory. Bob doesn’t think the supply chain manager would ever be head of accounting, but possibly could be reporting to the CFO to bring the accounting into it.


You are essentially changing the business processes from the vertical flow of information across to horizontal flow of information from the time the order is placed until it is delivered.


About Bob Gotsch


BobGotsch.jpgBob is a supply chain lean concept professional who practices strategic improvement, lean process improvement, and the Toyota production principles of continuous flow, JIT, employee inputs for improvements, S&OP, control scheduling of suppliers and support of manufacturing, distribution, repair maintenance and upgrades, logistics systems and material and inventory management. He has 10 years of experience implementing MRO procurement and lean tool processes in manufacturing and distribution warehouse operations, retail store simplification, and ERP and WMS software implementation manager.


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I recently interviewed Graham Roper. In Graham's opinion when things are going well is the best time to totally review the supply chain. We tend to do it in down turns when the main purpose is to reduce costs quickly and not specifically to improve the supply chain (which generally will reduce costs anyway.) At such a time it is driven down the chain, with strict dead lines and often limited to a very small group, as others who may have input are possible victims of the cost cutting. Do we need a bigger warehouse or maybe less stock? Who are the best people to discuss that - accountants, sales people or logistics staff - will the solution be the same in the good times and the bad?



About Graham Roper


Graham has been a freight forwarder for the last 20 years, working and living in Africa, Middle East and Europe. In the Middle East he spent a lot of time working within the freight forwarding division of a much larger group, and therefore he was more heavily involved in supply chain planning for the group. The group dealt with everything from motor vehicles, to parts to watches, household effects, etc. He had been on the logistics side of the supply chain for the last 20 years. However, when he was asked to be involved in an SAP implementation across the whole group he was able to get into the auto processing and stock issues related to the supply chain. Graham now works for a major international freight forwarder in the projects division for oil and gas.


Supply chain optimization versus re-invention


To Graham, supply chain optimization is basically that you have your business and your plans and now you are trying to bend it around to make it most effective on the supply chain. Or you re-invent, which is theoretically should have been done in the first place, where you plan your business from scratch. Graham questions what we mean by optimization. Do we mean the best possible supply chain or the best possible supply chain for the business you already have?


In Graham’s view, businesses start up because of someone’s passion or someone sees a gap in the market, and they are driven to grow their business. Normally, the last thing on their mind is a supply chain. However, as time goes on the supply chain becomes more important because it is the only thing that doesn’t add value. The supply chain generally adds costs, even though a correctly running supply chain can add value to your business. Yet, you don’t see it in money terms. You don’t buy it.


Supply chain optimization is the practical way of improving your supply chain.


Re-invention could do more damage to your business and your business ethics. You would have to change your business culture before you went to re-invent your supply chain or your business.


Most companies not following this advice


The problem is that most companies are almost forced into looking at supply chain optimization, rather than re-invention, at a time when costs need to cut or when they are falling short of stockholder requirements. They then look at the supply chain as a way of saving money through cost cutting. This probably is the time they shouldn’t be doing this because the more people you can involve in the discussions of how to optimize the supply chain, the better.


If you are doing it to cut costs then obviously sometimes you need to cut those people out of the discussions.

What makes logical sense to the supply chain for an accountant won’t necessarily do the same for the sales guy, and it certainly won’t be the same for the store man or the stock planner.


Graham has found that most companies don’t follow this advice. Rather, they do things at the wrong end of the cycle. The problem is when companies are making so much money, such as in the oil and gas business, why rock the boat? In Graham’s opinion, that is the normal process.


Implementation of Graham’s ideas in practice


Graham thinks companies need to be looking at things from the top end of the cycle, when they are heading to make good profits. This is the time to investigate into the supply chain. In the oil and gas industry, companies buy companies. However, they leave them as the successful companies they were during the good times. As the bad times come, they now try to integrate them. For example, when there were five warehouses, now they try to reduce them to two. While this is good stuff, because you reduce your costs and have synergies in your purchasing, warehousing and computer systems. Yet, in Graham’s opinion, companies don’t do this when they should be doing it. The right time to do this is when you implement it successfully over time with planning and consensus or input. Companies wait until it is desperation time. Then it can do more damage than good.




Can we really re-invent ourselves? The supply chain optimization is the point where we look for doing the best of a bad job, to make it a good job. For re-invention you have to be fairly small, or possibly break up into a different type of business.

I recently interviewed Oscar Bos, who has been in the recruiting industry for over 10 years and was heavily involved with Fortune 2000 companies where collaboration in the supply chain is a constant battle. He is originally from Holland and has been living in the US for roughly 12 years.



What is internal collaboration?


From a business point of view internal collaboration involves looking at how information is used, how inbound marketing information is used versus the sales, business development, and internal training departments. Internal collaboration is using the know-how of everyone within your company to share that information openly. By doing so you better everyone else and allow everyone else to know what is going on. This is very important and strengthens both team building and the joy of working with a company. It allows people to stay motivated in knowing what the company in its entirety is doing and what they are trying to achieve. It helps everyone become a part of the company in an open fashion, within having to pull a number or wait in line for a conference room where you can put in your two cents.


Challenges with internal collaboration


Internal collaboration still remains somewhat of an obstacle for employees to share what they believe can be beneficial to either team, individual, department, company and the overall company goals. People sometimes do not think their information is relevant; they tend to downplay the value of themselves within the company. The more collaboration is used internally and the more open collaboration is, the more benefit will be seen.


Overcoming the challenges


The challenges can be overcome by keeping everything open. K2 Partners uses Chatter from It allows for communications with brief short pieces of information and communication between people, but which can also be viewed by everyone else. When a question is asked and there are answers flowing in on that question, the results of it are posted as well so everyone else can see and acknowledge.


Motivating people to share the information and allowing people to share the information openly is a challenge you face on a daily basis. You have to remind people on a daily basis to share the company relevant information they come across.




K2 Partners has offices world-wide. If one person has a meeting in San Francisco with a client and they hear about that their client is planning to start a new project in Geneva. At that point the individual can let everyone else know what is going on. Collaboration helps you know what is going on in the industry world-wide. Everyone in the company posts their ideas and relevant information. As a result, when you go out to meet a new client you may have helpful information which can assist the development of new partnerships between your client and another company.


From the external perspective, we could be working with client XYZ in the US and be trying to penetrate this same client in Singapore. A colleague in Singapore can set up a meeting with a different manager or department in Singapore. They would then post the news and their questions on Chatter, the internal collaboration tool. This open sharing of information, without restriction between departments, is very important. Colleagues from one part of the world can then share information about their client to assist their colleague in make a sale to that same global client in another part of the world.


Recommendations for getting started on the collaboration journey


1. Keep an open floor, meaning keep the doors open. Whether or not you micro-manage, have an open floor policy. Allow people have a free flow of business relevant information.


2. The best way to promote internal collaboration and information sharing is from the top down. If it is promoted from the top down and the top executives, managers and directors are utilizing it publicly for the whole company to see, the rest will follow.


About Oscar Bos



An accomplished and proven manager who excels within a fast paced environment where analytical and quick on your feet decision making while adjusting to outside market demands and needs is a must and working in the business collaboration space to streamline strategic planning for global business development and successful and cost effective implementation of hiring processes and procedures.


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I interviewed Ulises Pabon, a seasoned business concept innovation expert. He shared his thoughts on creativity in the supply chain.  He explained the difference between optimization and innovation and expounded upon how companies are implementing new designs to complement strategic and changing business models. He says that supply chain innovation is like reinventing the business model, and finding creative ways to do it is the nature of the game. Eliminating Waste v. Creating Value.





“You won’t necessarily get what you want by fixing what’s wrong.  That’s optimization. But innovation is knowing what you want and designing for that future state.”



Innovation vs. Optimization



Ulises Pabon elaborated on the differences between supply chain optimization and supply chain innovation. Even though they may complement one another, integrate well together and serve similar goals, there are some conceptual differences between optimization and innovation. Pabon explained that optimization has more to do with eliminating waste through redesigning or reconfiguring the players or components in the supply chain. It can mean negotiating and coming to an agreement with the players to, for example, reduce transactions or eliminate x amount of the packaging from the raw material, so that less resources are used.



Innovation is primarily concerned with creating new values, said Pabon. Rather than determining where the waste is and how to eliminate it, innovation focuses on adding value to the supply chain. The people who are involved in innovative strategies and deployment look at the entire business model with the intent of inventing new configurations. Pabon provided an example: an airplane tire manufacturer, rather than focusing on how to best sell its tires to airlines by searching for an appropriate distributer, might contact the airlines directly, offer the tires for free and charge for usage per landing. This is an innovative business model that will increase the manufacturer’s profits.



Reinventing Business Models



There are many examples of innovative business practices. Some might go unnoticed by all but a couple of the most proximate players, others make headlines in business news.  One example of the latter is Starbucks.  Rather than looking at the traditional way of typing players along a channel, they devised an entirely new business model.  “We could argue that what Dell did to the PC business would be another example of a company that has reinvented the supply chain,” says Pabon, “as is Apple.” He points out that nobody would have expected Apple to become the number one music retailer in the world, since they were thought only to be a computer company.  But with the combination of iTunes and iPod they pretty much reinvented the whole business, and they didn’t do it by optimization or cutting corners.



According to Pabon, there is a design principle that comes into play when performing business innovations: you won’t necessarily get what you want by fixing what’s wrong. Fixing what is wrong is akin to  optimization strategies, whereas the strategy of innovation aligns itself with new states, techniques and inventions.



There is nothing at all wrong with fixing what isn’t working, says Pabon. It is most likely well worth the effort. But it’s very important to look at the supply chain as a whole, especially the value chain, and to attempt to identify ways to reconfigure those players in a profitable way.



Other Ways to Be Innovative



“There is no universal template on how to approach innovation,” said Pabon. However, one promising plan of action might be to get away from the desk and go explore the components of the supply chain; meet the players face to face and listen to their concerns. In a global economy, it’s difficult to understand the players by looking at spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations. Things become much clearer when you visit in person; you can see for yourself how raw material is being transported and transformed along the value chain.



Pabon offered another tip for engaging in strategic innovation, one that is more subtle: he suggested observing beyond what the customer is saying and assessing the more passive needs. This might not be easy, but often times new configurations can arise based on what is difficult to verbalize. He draws a parallel to a book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, which teaches students a new methodology - how to see the space between objects. By focusing on and identifying with the space between form, you can see the form more clearly and in a different light.



It’s important, of course, to sustain the standard methodologies as well, such as tracking how value is moving throughout the supply chain, but creativity or design thinking can be invaluable.There’s no single recipe on how to innovate; many companies are experimenting in a variety of ways, which is essentially the nature of the game.




About Ulises Pabon



UlisesPabon.jpgUlises Pabon is an expert in total quality management and organizational change. He began his career in electronics engineering and manufacturing and has served as the chief operations officer for QBS, Inc. since 1992. QBS, Inc. is a broad-based management consulting firm that integrates professionals from a variety of disciplines, from engineering to economics to psychology, to assist organizations in an overall revamping of their value proposition or business model. Ulises’ specialties include business concept innovation and management systems, creativity and disruptive innovation tools, process and organizational design, economic development initiatives, balanced scorecard implementation and personal development tools.


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I recently interviewed David Meggitt, a Value Network Analysis practitioner who discussed what he does and how it can be applied to supply chains.



What is Value Network Analysis?


Value Network Analysis is a dynamic diagnostic method that highlights and empowers where organizations need to take remedial action for change, growth, and success. This is not the formal definition found in Wikipedia. It is David’s and it is a bit more operative. It combines four things:


1. A way of viewing how organizations really work

2. A method of analysis

3. Group engagement to co-create quantum leaps in performance

4. Able to link with complementary techniques to affect change and renew systems.


Value Network Analysis was initially developed by a colleague Verna Allee in the late 1990s. It is now supported by a global community of researchers, practitioners, and investing companies. It was a 10 year journey. It is also open source and is easy to apply within small groups or cells of people, as well as enterprises and business ecosystems of any size. It most likely will need some initial facilitation to introduce to organizations or apply in more complex situations.


It shouldn’t be confused with other terms for Value Networks. In fact, it was initially used by Clayton Christensen and colleagues when at Harvard Business School to illustrate the challenging paradoxes when pursuing disruptive technology innovations. In the technical literature David and his colleagues distinguish Verna’s approach which is considered to be more comprehensive than Christensen’s view, by using the descriptive term Allee’s Value Networks.


How is Value Network Analysis Used?


One of the key things to appreciate is its simplicity. It could have emerged in the 1970s if  information systems specialists had not needed to focus on systems as opposed to a  people-centric view, which is what Value Networks is about. It is all about people. Let us picture in our minds what really happens in an organization. We have a mixture of informal networks and the formal procedures and processes, with more of the latter as the business matures.


Consider, also what Peter Drucker, that giant of management thinkers, advised. Think “contribution.” If we now add “deliverables” we get another key bit. Finally, think about people rather than process – in fact, hide process until you really know what you want to co-create together.  We can represent those things on a simple diagram which links together the roles we play with the deliverables flowing around, that we all contribute to each other.


We uniquely combine the formal side of the organization with the informal or social networks where the real energy resides and innovation originates.

The really powerful thing with this is that we can get on the balcony and view our field of play below to see where change is needed. This borrows a phrase from Heifetz and colleagues in the recently published book ‘The Practice of Adaptive Leadership’. For more on how the informal blends with the formal we look at the work of a long term collaborative colleague within the Value Network Community, Professor Charles Ehin.


David thinks we are becoming equipped to balance the ordered side of organizations, which we control, with the emergent side which we cultivate. Interestingly, the idea of fusing order and chaos is now appearing in stories of successful companies. So people are looking for a very simple way of combining the formal and informal sides of a business.


We are now entering a new phase, Value Networks 2. The last 10 years has really been about Value Networks 1, getting the foundations and standards sorted out. Value Networks 2 is about making the approach really accessible to all employees, or to embed it seamlessly in automatic value market and other innovative mechanisms, which users won’t see. Practitioners around the world are be pursuing their own individual endeavors on this, so watch for developments.


Putting Value Networks into Practice


There are a lot of examples of how it has all been applied. One of the great sources is a digital book published online by Verna and Oliver Schwabe, “value networks and the true nature of collaboration.” David’s favourite story is the one featured on the home page of his website Holistic Creations. It discusses a CEO of a Canadian company who articulated his vision using a Value Network diagram to inform and involve his employees on a journey of transformation (in his own industry) to tackle new opportunities presented by the new eco-environmental challenges that are with us all the time now. He brought in new relationships between participants in his business eco-system.


David has personal experience in a range of value network applications, including, for small businesses and organizations, business communities to support entrepreneurship, financial services processes for grooming businesses for sale, and discovering business models for entrepreneur businesses. Additionally, the Breakthrough Blueprint for use by small work groups to achieve performance breakthroughs is now available. David’s experience with large organizations includes the improvement of a FTSE 100 company’s production of management information for its £1bn client support program and supporting organizational change specialists in UK government departments.


At the highest level, David worked with both sector and economic challenges on the back of the banking crisis. In the former, he helped create a view of a business ecosystem that can help the built environment become more eco efficient by channeling banking sector funds to useful ends. In the latter, a value network view of the world’s first economic model paved the way for fresh thinking about how to representing a new economic model for current times.


Basically, anyone can approach any challenge given the Value Network mindset and the simple tool it provides.


How Can Value Networks Be Used in Supply Chains?


In the U.K. there is an initiative which has been going on for some time called SC21 (Supply Chain 21). It is about transforming supply chain performance. The key thing, certainly in the engineering and aerospace industries, is that we want innovation and want to see it coming up through the supply chain. Rather than people playing a pure supplier role, they are at certain points brought in to contribute co-creatively, to improved or entirely new products. Value is created through the collaboration of enterprises for the end customer and at intermediate points for other applications.


With Value Network Analysis we can view the way people interact in the supply chain in a way that looks at the roles various people play, the deliverables they are offering at the time, and the perceived value of what they offer at any point. We can actually begin to give people the power to contribute and co-create, bringing new innovations when allowed.


About David Meggitt


DavidMeggitt.jpgOver the last 40 years, to support his work, David Meggitt has been a member of institutions representing civil engineering, management, management consulting, financial services, information systems and company directors. Personally, he has been married over 40 years with 2 children. As for beliefs, David is a keen advocate of the unifying call of most faiths to be co-creative in sustaining for future generations our groaning earth and its population. This is why since 2003 he has had a strong focus in co-evolving, with many colleagues, the Value Networks offering.



David has his own business called Holistic Creations Network (HCN) which has existed since the mid 1980’s and it is currently dedicated to Value Networks. HCN operates within a branded business ecosystem called Meggitt Bird, which fulfills a transformation agency role.


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I interviewed Rohit Talwar, a veteran trend watcher.Rohit discusses global trends and makes some interesting points about the Middle East and green business:



Rohit has watched communications evolve to the point where we are all more aware of global trends -- population growth, environmental trends, new sites and new technologies, the rise of China and India, and the gradual economic shift from west to east -- it is all part of our everyday vernacular. Equally important, is the fact that we are more aware of how to use trends for fueling innovation



Rohit believes the key to leveraging trends is allocating time to think about how the larger trends, and some underlying trends, around technology, behavioral change, the way people are using innovations like social media to communicate, even attention spans, will effect business. "All of these things are changing," he says, "and it is essential to allocate time to think them through and really understand what they will mean for the customers you serve, the markets you target, the way in which you train and develop your people, and the way in which you engage with the marketplace."



Innovation Incubation



Innovation, Talwar Rohit says, requires a 360 degree perspective. You want to generate ideas within your organization, but you also want to bring your supply chain partners and customers into the mix -- really look across the entire supply chain to see who can provide ideas to help you address specific challenges. Today, it is not uncommon to find companies using the Internet to source ideas for their businesses, to make themselves magnetic, and to float new ideas.



Once you have attracted new ideas, Rohit advises, the next step is to create a streamlined process inside your organization to incubate and test those ideas with an eye toward turning them into practical change for the business. "It is a process that requires time and the allocation of resources, but most importantly, it requires very clear focus on why you're doing it, so that people don’t just see the innovation as a 'nice to have' activity that can be put aside when real work gets busy," Rohit said, "We've got to make sure that people understand that innovation is about creating the future of the business and securing the next round of revenue, profit, growth and employment opportunities."



When people understand the importance of innovation they are more likely to pay attention -- then, Rohit says, it's about having dedicated champions to make sure those ideas evolve into practical change that has been tested, refined, and eventually fully implemented.


The final piece of successful innovation incubation is to make certain people understand the rationale behind the idea by communicating it both internally, and externally, to you customers and partners across the supply chain. It is essential, Rohit said, that everyone understands the benefits and how it will effect them.



From a big picture perspective, Rohit Talwar said, "I think another critical enabler to this process is to really encourage people to think and give them permission to think, to allow people to have radical ideas, to have rules around the idea-generation process that say anything is allowed; you can put any possibilities on the table and particularly those that might challenge the current ways of doing things. The more open you are, the more you encourage that kind of thinking, the more likely it is that you’ll bring in some ideas that will bring about real groundbreaking change in the organization.”



Supply Chain Trend Watching in the Middle East



According to Rohit Talwar, "There has been a huge amount of wealth generated through oil revenues in particular, and that has led to an investment boom in the middle East. At one point last year, the figure was over four trillion dollars of investment going into different types of projects in the region." And while Rohit acknowledges that the boom has waned some, he is still seeing a push by key players, particularly Saudi, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, to diversify and ween their economies away from oil dependency.



For example, in Abu Dhabi, we're watching the Masdar energy city being built, which will be the world's first waste-neutral, carbon-neutral, energy-neutral city. Right now, Rohit says, there are people developing new models and processes that will power buildings with renewable energy -- they have also recently piloted fully electric driverless taxis -- if they are successful, these innovations can be rolled out across the world. Saudi Arabia is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into high-tech cities driven by a whole new set of economics with a very real focus high-tech infrastructures and industries, as well as the industries that support them.



What we're witnessing in the Middle East, Rohit says, is the beginning of countries moving up the wealth ladder, along with rising income standards of the people, which equates to the consumption of more goods and services. That, coupled with elaborate construction projects, Rohit believes, will have an enormous impact on the logistics industry. "These countries will require a very effective supply chain to deliver a very broad range of goods and services in an efficient manner. That, in turn, is creating a demand for the skills of supply chain management, so the Middle East is really on the radar of the entire supply chain industry,"



About Rohit Talwar


rohit.jpgRohit Talwar is an award-winning speaker on future insights and strategic innovation, and has addressed leadership audiences in 40 countries on five continents. Profiled in the UK's Independent newspaper as one of the top ten global futurists, Rohit Talwar's expertise has been sought by 3M, BBC, Bayer, De Beers, DHL, IBM, Intel and many other multinational organizations.


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I recently interviewed Kevin Hardern where he discussed how small organizations can compete on more or less even terms with larger ones. Larger ones can focus on customer service issues…



How can small organizations compete on a more level field with larger ones?


I think this is really starting to become a thing which can be done, over the last 2 or 3 years really. As I have said earlier, I have seen these ways of technology change from telephones to Internet, PC banking, home computers, over the decades. I see social media, enterprise 2.0/web 2.0, the kind of thing we are doing now. It is an opportunity for smaller organizations to do just that. In the past large organizations had big advertising budgets and marketing spends and have benefited from it. Smaller organizations have really struggled to compete.


If you have a local drain cleaning organization for example, it can’t produce a massive budget to advertise itself. It probably does its drains just as well as a large corporate, but you look the large corporate up because they are the ones who have the ties on the TV. Now what is happening is individuals, particularly consumers, are working on the basis of recommendations they find on the Web. They are basing their buying experience on what other people say about suppliers. They say this on the social media, particularly Twitter and sometimes FaceBook and YouTube as well.


If you look at the Dove parody on YouTube there is a thing called Dove Evolution with 12 million views. Dove really made a big thing out of it with advertising. There is a thing called a Dove parody with about 4 million views, made by a very small organization which takes an alternative view. They kind of got a third of a hit with what must have been a hundredth of the spend, and that organization got that much more exposure.


Individuals can even do that. United Airlines has done the same on YouTube with the guitar parody which you might have seen. YouTube is a quite a powerful vehicle and easy to use for small organizations, or even individuals, to take on large companies.

YouTube and Twitter when used well, small organizations can make as big an impact on and get into their markets as big organizations have found with exploiting channels in the past 20 or 30 years.


Small organizations really need to think this through and see how it fits within their business organization. There are many examples of small organizations doubling their turnover within 6 months based on some interesting things they put on Facebook or Twitter.


How can larger firms focus on customer service issues to get them resolved quickly?


The same way really. What is happening with Web 2.0/Sales 2.0 is that consumers are reporting their bad experiences with companies. Within hours there will be a whole conversation cropping up about it. Large organizations have realized this and have set up customer service units to pick this up, rather than waiting for a physical letter to come in, going through admin etc.


They are picking this up at the source, engaging in direct message conversations and actually getting problems resolved. We are seeing this in the UK in financial services and I have personally experienced it in telecom. A colleague of mine posted a thing about a British Telecom broadband service. He was having a really poor bandwidth experience and was getting nowhere for months. He posted this and I re tweeted it and included BTCare. Within an hour they picked it up, contacted him, and the problem is now on its way to resolution. He got their attention and is now much more comfortable than he had been for months.


If you look at the BP oil disaster which was certainly a major PR disaster for the CEO, you can see what BP as a company has done on YouTube in terms of customer service and their own image. If you think about it, it probably wasn’t managed that badly. There was a whole stream of video on what was going on and how they were trying to cap the well. There was a constant awareness of where they were and what they were trying to do, which I think mitigated what could have been a much worse situation.


Large organizations are getting into it [social media] in a big way in customer service.


Do you have any other experiences related to social media?


We have come across a plumbing organization in the UK who was a small local plumber who was happily getting along with his business. They came up with the idea of running a little competition on FaceBook. The competition involved photographing and posting central heating systems, asking people what things were and if they got it right he would give them a voucher on the next plumbing job.


Just by running this competition for 6 months increased his turnover by 45%. This cost him nothing. He wasn’t spending on advertising. He was just generating a bit of interest. He didn’t have to place an advertisement. He could just do it in the evening. It was a very marginal cost.


A photographer in the hills in the lake district in the UK started Tweeting. A local company within a week picked up the fact she was there. She got a job which effectively made her the local representative for her area on that newspaper, just by making herself visible on social media.


I think the message I would give people is that social media, as it is being talked about now is that it is a great new thing that will change the world. I have been around long enough to see several things change the world – from computers in the 1970s, call centers, Internet, ATMs in banks, and they have all made significant improvements in customer service and at the same time reduced the organization’s costs.


Enterprise 2.0 is just the same. It is another one of those, but you have to manage it and you have to think about it before you implement it.



About Kevin Hardern


KevinHardern.jpgKevin Hardern focuses on change management, making organizations more effective and efficient. He has been involved in IT since the early 1970s. In the early 1980s he went into business change management (which wasn’t called this at that time). He worked for a large retail bank in the UK where he helped set up 24/7 call centers. Through this he got involved with implementing change to make organizations more efficient and effective. He carried this into the early 90s, getting involved in the Internet, PC Banking, saving organizations money, and improving customer service. Kevin then got involved with mergers and large scale change at that level within financial services, consolidating banks down from large to more centrally driven structures. He also became involved in the merger of two large UK banks Lloyds and TSB in 1997. This was implemented over a 3 year program involving change the brand and the whole operations. The project was a 250 million Sterling spend over 3 years and came into completion just after Y2K.


Skype: kevinhardern8144

Twitter: silverfoxmentor

Linkedin: Kevin Hardern

Facebook Kevin Hardern


Kevin has been working on his own for the last 7 or 8 years. He has worked in Cairo Egypt on bank mergers. Since 2005 he has worked with smaller companies within the UK. He tries to bring his experience from larger organizations down to the smaller organizations.

I recently had an email interview with Dr. Wayne Guppy Ed.D. (Med). Wayne is President and Chief Consultant for a company (Paradigm Reach Consulting) that provides the research and design of medical education interventions for both live and e-learning environments. He often facilitates major medical meetings that have small group or highly focused/innovative learning modules aimed at changing attitudes, skills or supporting the functions of care teams.



What are your views on collaborative decision making?


This type of decision making is needed in an environment that fully appreciates limited resources. We have seen so clearly the waste and the inefficiencies of large organizations with silos with any number of competing internal agendas. To engage in collaborative decision making is to accept it as an ongoing style and not just a skill set used when a major change is needed. True learning organizations will share information better and will accept the insights of all their valued employees. Top down management has proven that too many disconnects take place and the end product or service often suffers.


How is e-learning relevant to collaborative decision making?


Organizations /Companies that fully embrace e-learning have a serious advantage when it comes to collaborative decision making. Well organized e-learning support a curriculum that mirrors the functional challenges of the organization. Over time the back door data that develops shines a light on performance gaps, barriers and even system barriers to excellence. When the employees at all levels of the company take part in e-learning, the team awareness is heightened and collaboration along with innovation becomes the natural outcome for all. The outcome at a human resource level is a staff, that share insights more openly and their skills are often called upon beyond their departments. Yes, a network that shares expertise and even tracks the impact of policies, procedures and actions across the entire organization.


How Can Organizations Use This Approach?


In order to use this approach, organizations need to build an e-learning system that delivers value to the individual participants as well as to the entire organization.


They need to build into their personal performance plans highly specific success factors that encourage full engagement on the learning portfolio approach as well as the culture needed to share more openly. These two areas need to represent 50% of any person’s performance plan and be weighted to 60% for any decision to promote an individual.


The organization needs to foster circles of excellence teams that are cross functional in nature.

Once learning becomes a day to day function, then the impact of change will be much less dramatic and adjustments to change will be smooth and ongoing.


Where have you seen success?


Newer companies in the high tech or service industries like Google. Smaller companies such as Quarry Integrated Communications in Waterloo, that even has its own university structure to support a dynamic learning environment. What stands in the way of success is largely the old constructs of what learning and education must feel like as well as old constructs around career competitiveness.


Based on confidentiality agreements some of my existing clients can’t be noted since they see the ability to support team learning as a significant competitive advantage.



About Dr. Wayne Guppy


wayneguppy.jpgThroughout his career he has enjoyed a blend of experiences from being the senior manager in charge of “marketplace development “ for all new products offered by Glaxo/GSK Pharmaceuticals to being the education consultant under contract for eight years to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the office of Professional Development. In this later role he was very involved with the culture change needed for medical specialists throughout Canada as they embraced the use of learning portfolios.


He has been an entrepreneur who started several successful companies throughout the 1990’s that were focused in the world of medical devices.


He currently provides support for a select number of companies who themselves consult in medical marketing, technology and healthcare or in change management and team learning.


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I recently interviewed Rod Collins to hear about his book on leadership which was published last summer. It is called ‘Leadership in a Wiki World’. The essential thesis of the book is that in our new digital age, which we have been in for about a decade or two, the technologies we use will require a significant transformation in the management technologies of the way we run businesses. This is because networks are now smarter and faster than hierarchies.


The book focuses on a new management model that is being practiced in plain sight but is off the radar screen in most companies. It is in plain sight because there are companies such as Google, IBM, Whole Foods, Best Buy, W.L. Gore & Associates, Amazon, and Ebay who are all following a different management model that is much more a form of Peer to Peer, rather than top down. Networked structured organizations do operate more as a Peer to Peer, rather than top down.


In the book, Rod focuses on the five disciplines that the companies who are practicing this have in common. In part the book is based upon Rod’s own experience as the former chief executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield federal employee program. They used this management model between 1997 and 2007 to turn around a business that had sustained two years of virtually no growth and low performance. They took the business to a level of extraordinary performance which it did not have in its previous 50 years. Rod attributes this success the different way of managing.


Rod wrote the book because he wanted to put down in writing what they had done for 10 years. Over the course of the research he found out there were other companies in a similar space. This is where he pulled out the five disciplines.



What the book is about


The book outlines a new management model which Rod thinks is emerging more quickly than many of us realize. He calls it Wiki Management. Other people have other names for it. What is important is the fact that this new management model is based on a networked model, rather than a hierarchical model. As a result, the primary relationships in this new model are Peer to Peer, rather than top down.


This is emerging today because of the explosion of digital technology. We have had a technological revolution of which we are still trying to understand its full extent. The simple fact is that digital technology makes networks far smarter and faster than hierarchies. For example, looking at the recent events in Egypt you can see the first Wiki world revolution. None of us could have imagined this would have happened ten or fifteen years ago, which signifies the power of this new technology.


Rod believes this is transforming the way the best organizations manage themselves. The digital technology is re-shaping the face to face technology for how businesses organize themselves.


Book is based on real-world experience


In 1997, Rod was the general auditor for the Blue Cross Blue Shield federal employee program. Auditing is a fairly predictable business. He was asked at that point to take the leadership of the operations for the business. At that point they had sustained two decades of low growth and low performance. For example, in the mid 1970s their market share had dropped from 62% down to 39% within one or two years.


Over those two decades until the mid 1990s they had only recovered roughly four points in the market share. They had a performance index where 100 was excellent, 120 was walking on water, and 80 was threshold. The business as a whole was at 78. They were operating below threshold. The charge was to improve the growth and performance.


The first thing Rod noticed was that they followed a command and control, top-down hierarchical management model, which really didn’t make sense because the business was an alliance of the 39 independent Blue Cross Blue Shield plants. They could get directors, but there was really no pressure for anyone to necessarily pay attention to them. They didn’t have that type of clout. Yet, they were using that model because it was the only one most people know.


The company realized they needed to do something different, which they did. As a result, within two years they had gained four points in market share and increased the performance index from 78 up to 96. The nice part was that they were able to sustain the growth in performance. Over the 10 year period from 1997 through 2007, they grew sixteen points in market share and had achieved an unprecedented 104 in the performance index. They knew individual organizations could hit 100. No one ever thought that the whole program would hit and sustain 100. Yet, they were able to do this.


Rod attributes this success to this new management model. One of the primary reasons Rod left Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2007 was that he realized they were doing something different. He needed to articulate what they had intuitively done. In doing research for the book Rod realized that there were a lot of other companies that who were doing a similar management model, companies such as Google, Gore & Associates, Ebay, Amazon, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and IBM. What is amazing is how many companies are out there working with this alternative model in plain sight. However, we don’t really recognize it.


Rod discovered there were five disciplines which they all have in common. These are very different from the things done in traditional organizations:


1. Understand what is most important to customers. Most companies, despite their rhetoric about the importance of the customer, start with what is most important to bosses.


2. Build shared understanding through open conversations. People are free to express their opinions, whatever they are, as long as your opinions are not immoral, illegal or unethical. If you have a different point of view you are free to speak it. There is no party line.


3. Learn how to leverage collective knowledge. This was really important inside Blue Cross Blue Shield. They came up with a process called ‘work through’, which is a way to turn a hotel room into a Wiki page. It gave access to our collective knowledge. In the process of doing this they discovered that the most untapped resource in almost every organization is the collective knowledge of its own people. What companies lack are the processes to tap into this. ‘Work through’ was a process they developed where they were able to do it.


Another example of leveraging collective knowledge is Google’s search engine page rank. They were a late entry into the market, but their innovation was that they used the wisdom of the crowd to write the pages. Obviously, the market preferred their collective learning approach to the traditional approaches that had been used in search engines before that.


4. Focus on learning metrics. This is different from what traditional companies do. Most are focused on outcome metrics because that is what Wall Street cares about. The problem is that as a manager outcome measures are terrible tools because they are like scores in a sporting event. When the game is over the game is over. There is nothing you can do. Management’s job is to unearth the learning measures that let you know whether or not you are on track to get the outcome measures in time so that you can do something about them.


In these days of accelerating change the other powerful dimension of learning measures is that they let you know when there is nothing you can do to improve the outcome because you need to change your business model. They let you know when to adapt, as opposed to correct.


An example of a company which is probably doing this well is Netflix. Rod is willing to bet there is someone within the company looking at the proportion of DVDs rented to movies downloaded and the number will be going negative. Instead of beating up on the sales people saying ‘rent more dvds’, Netflix is re-inventing itself and coming up with a new business model that contemplates that there will be no DVDs in about 10 years. Yet, Netflix plans to be in this space. This is an example showing how focusing on learning metrics prepares for the future, whatever it may be.


5. Hold people accountable to their peers. This is probably the most controversial and difficult for most traditional organizations to adopt. When you do this, rather than holding people primarily accountable to their bosses, it changes the nature of the organization. Everyone in the organization becomes each other’s customer.


This accountability ties in to compensation. People realize that they can’t succeed in terms of their pay unless others succeed as well. This sets up an organization that is designed for collaboration. The problem with top-down hierarchies is that a lot of times they are designed for internal competition, which is not in the best interest of the company.


If you hold people accountable to their peers you turn workers into mutual customers, they all keep their eye on the ultimate customer, and the business is able to collaborate and move much more quickly.


How to measure employee contribution?


There are different ways this can be done. For example, most like the first company in the US that adopted this model was W.L. Gore & Associates, the makers of Gortex. What is astounding about them is that this company was created in 1958, long before computers and the digital revolution. The founder of this company, Bill Gore, wanted the company to be very different. He came back out of DuPont. He spent 17 years there. He recognized that the most important dynamic in his new company would be that no one would have the authority to kill a good idea or keep a bad idea alive. This meant there would be no bosses.


For W.L. Gore & Associates entire history there have been no supervisors. Today it is a 9,000 person company in 30 countries around the world. There are still no supervisors. Rod believes they probably have the most elegant performance evaluation system on the planet. Everyone in Gore is evaluated by 20 people and everyone evaluates 20 people. At the end of the year there is one instruction in their performance evaluation tool, which is as follows: “please rank your 20 people from highest to lowest in terms of their contribution to the company and hand it in to human resources.” The results are weighted and based on these results the compensations are determined for the following year.


Gore takes a very bottom line approach to contribution. It doesn’t get into the myriad of detail that you see in a lot of performance evaluations. It is a rather simple process.


If you think about it everyone inside a company probably touches about 20 people in terms of getting things done. This process turns those communities of 20 people into mutual customers. The process encourages people to take more rather than less work, which was an issue Bill Gore had to deal with since there were no supervisors. It must work well because W. L. Gore is continually on the list of the top 10 best companies to work for, and often occupies the number 1 spot.


Recommendations for moving towards new management model


Rod thinks it is extremely important because he believes if companies don’t adopt this, they are designed for failure.


The pace of change is too fast, so fast that the past is no longer a proxy for the future. Innovation is no longer an option, it is a requirement. Companies have to move into this direction if they intend to be around for the long term.


One of the things Rod is seeing is that the life of a business model used to last 30 or 40 years in the mid 20th century. Today, we are down to 7 or 8 years, and it is dropping.


This means that executives have to have the competency to re-invent their businesses every 7 to 8 years. This requires a tremendous amount of innovation. Top down hierarchies are not designed for innovation. They are designed for maintaining stability and the status quo. This new model which builds off of Peer to Peer networks and which amplifies the voices of all the workers within the company is much better poised to drive innovation and to keep up with the pace of change.


Rod’s essential advice is that it is important to adopt this new design if companies expect to be around at the end of the next decade.


The book, ‘Leadership in a Wiki World’ can be purchased on



About Rod Collins


RodCollins.jpgFor the past 4 years Rod has managed his own consulting company called Wiki Management. He helps business leaders re-design their management architecture so they can leverage the power of collaboration to manage the pace of change, which is accelerating greatly, and to be more innovative. Before this, until 2007 Rod spent a long time with the Blue Cross Blue Shield federal employee program. During the last five years he was the program’s chief executive. This was a rather large $19 billion business alliance of the 39 independent Blue Cross Blue Shield plants.


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I recently interviewed Koh Niak Wu, Scientist at Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, A*Star. We discussed the need for multi-disciplinary talent in supply chains.





Niak Wu is from the Agency for Science Technology and Research in Singapore, also known as A*Star. A*Star is the lead agency for first rate scientific research in Singapore. A*Star takes a look at key economic clusters, provides intellectual and human industrial capital specifically to the local industry. Under A*Star Niak Wu is from an institute called the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology. This institute develops high value added manufacturing technologies and human capital to boost up local industry.


More specifically, Niak Wu is in the Planning and Operations group which takes a look at supply chain management. They go to companies and discuss their current competitive strategies. They try to move these companies up the value chain.

Need for multi-disciplinary talent in supply chains


Recently, Popeyes(R) Louisiana Kitchen announced a savings of USD $16 million from supply chain initiatives. According to this article dated April 14th, 2011 they have a cross-functional team taking a look at both supply chain management and finance through what they call supply management services. They managed to revamp their entire supply chain for their food business.


Niak Wu and his organization had a recent project which proved that multi-disciplinary supply chain talent is needed. They have worked with a company which has a solutions center. For any of the new projects which come in, the company mixes up people from finance, human resources, manufacturing, QA, engineering and maintenance. When a new purchase comes in all of these people get together in a room and look at potential for new facilities, production lines, opportunities in different regions to set up multiple sites, etc.

Niak Wu’s Experience


In a recent project with a US MNC in Singapore, Niak Wu realized that with any supply chain project most people work in silos. For this project they got people together from different departments to work on cross functional activities. They all got together on the project and took a look at the supply chain, moving from demand forecasting to inventory planning, supply chain management, business process re-engineering, all the way to operational activities on the shop floor.


They are beginning to realize that people from different areas of the supply chain are coming together to move companies up the value chain. At this point Niak Wu found it quite interesting to have different people from completely different disciplines all coming together and speaking different languages, but with one goal of moving the company up the value chain. As time passes they are beginning to realize that people with different backgrounds and understandings (how they see supply chains), is becoming increasingly important. As the new generation of workers comes up, Niak Wu believes we need more people who can offer different insights into how things work. For example, there is a need to use social media to move companies up the value chain. The younger generation can also contribute towards looking at different ways to improve the company’s operations and operational processes.




Niak Wu currently believes that people working in the supply chain arena should be aware of the different things happening in the external environment. Technology is moving very fast. Most of the time, the majority of us can’t catch up with technology. However, if you have an understanding of how technology works and how different perspectives and areas benefit a company, they can all get together to look at ways of improving the company.

Niak Wu also recently read an article which stated that people from different parts of an organization look at supply chains from a completely different angle. Based on these different angles they can then propose different initiatives that can operationalize ideas to make a supply chain leaner and meaner.


About Koh Niak Wu



Surname: Koh
First Name: Niak Wu


Scientist at Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, A*Star.


Personal website


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My name is Dustin Mattison, a blogger on the Kinaxis Supply Chain Experts Community. The recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand have sparked heightened awareness of risk management among supply chain professionals. The purpose of this post is to challenge the thinking of supply chain professionals, with the use of some data and a model I uncovered from the NASA website. If it were possible to predict when the next supply chain super risks would take place, would you take action to mitigate to risk to your supply chain?


What I will be presenting is not conclusive evidence proving we are approaching the onslaught of more earthquakes this Fall. We currently do not know how large the incoming celestial body is. If it is really is a comet, its passing by the Earth probably won’t cause much of a disturbance. However if it is a Brown Dwarf Star or Neutron Star we may really be in for trouble. The ancient astronomers and seers such as the Mayans predicted an event like this would take place in 2012. Were they right?


Is it a mere coincidence that we have recently been experiencing large earthquakes every time this object comes into alignment with the Earth and Sun? What will happen the next time it comes into alignment? Could it have a bigger impact the closer it gets to the Earth?


If you are in China and can't view the video below, try downloading the video here.( 在中国的读者请下载。。。)




Looking at a NASA mathematical model of comet Elenin, it is clear that a comet (or perhaps a star) has already penetrated the solar system and is on a path towards the earth. It is expected to come close to the earth in the fall of 2011. What we do not know is the size and mass of comet Elenin.


Elenin is presently being tracked as it goes through the asteroid belt on its way into the inner solar system. It is expected to do a hard turn around the sun, crossing and coming in between Mercury and Venus before starting its journey back out. As it leaves it will pass very close to the Earth and the Earth will pass behind it, plowing into its tail.


In the video you will see this explained graphically. What you will see with mathematical precision is that every time this celestial body comes into alignment with the Earth and sun we have a huge earthquake. The last three alignments produced the Japanese 9.0 quake, the one in New Zealand and before that the one in Chile. On March 11th Elenin was much further out. Elenin will be much closer to us the next time it is in alignment.


Is Elenin a normal comet? If so it would not have the mass to generate a gravity pull that would affect the earth when the earth swings around into alignment.


It is important to remember that the simulation on the NASA website is just that, a simulation. What actually happens may deviate from the model. If the simulation is correct then this incoming body has a comet-like mass and the effects on the earth as it passes probably won’t be cataclysmic.


However, if this object is a Brown Dwarf Star or Neutron Star, then its path would deviate from the simulated model and the results would be more severe.


Within the last 24 hours of 5/6/11 we have experienced the following earthquakes:















The whole solar system seems to be heating up, the sun is becoming active and earth-changing events are becoming more frequent and intense. Greenland experienced sunrise two days early, which is a strong sign that something is off with Earth’s orbit.


What are the possible safe zones for supply chains?


1.   150+ miles from the coasts.

2.   600 feet above sea level.

3.   Stay away from volcanoes.

4.   Move away from earthquake/seismic/avalanche/fault zones such as the New Madrid Fault Zone in central USA.

5.   Move away from dams that will break.

6.   Move away from nuclear power plants that could become compromised.

7.   Move away from large population areas where food riots will escalate into chaos and mayhem.



How will this affect your supply chain risk management?


Should supply chain managers take action to mitigate potential risk?



About Dustin Mattison




Dustin Mattison is a blogger on the Kinaxis Supply Chain Experts Community. He is also an Internet marketer and entrepreneur with an interest in building collaborative communities of practice.


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I recently interviewed Michell Rock from RevenFlo, an internet marketing company. Their team built a small community in Rock Hill, SC where they have a new collaborative between York Technical College, Winthrop University and a company called RevenFlo. They are building a collaborative worforce development program offering an oppotrunity for college students to get working experience. Michelle shares her views on the importance of collaboration in business.


What is the Hive?


The Hive is a collaborative program started by Jason Broadwater who owns RevenFlo, as well as Greg Retherford, the President of York Technical College. The idea behind the Hive is that there are 28 students working on 5 different non-profit projects anywhere from Internet marketing to web development, as well as some design, video and writing. The students are asked to put together and execute projects under RevenFlo’s supervision.


What does the Hive do?


The Hive serves non-profits with website services including an internet marketing program. The internet marketing program includes going outbound with articles written by the students, as well as outbound interviews that are posted in relevant places.


What are your views on collaborative partnerships?


I think collaborative partnerships are wonderful. It is the way of the world right now in an economy that isn’t that stable. There is power in a group of strong, or once strong industries or organizations to get together and try to make things work in this economy.


The Hive collaborative has been a great way to introduce students into the workforce. It also tries to give them a head start on life by introducing them to the right people and given them a head start into the work force, which unfortunately right now is hard to do.


What industries can this model be applied in?


The industry I work in is web design, development and marketing. However, I can see the collaborative helping any industry. We are actually working on collaborating with other organizations to create another workforce development program similar to the Hive. We have taken the model from internet marketing to other domains.


Where do you see the future going with collaborative partnerships?


Because of the economy we will have to start working as groups. There is more power in a group. There is a future in collaboration. A lot of larger businesses are joining together and becoming more powerful as a group. Collaboration will be happening a lot more. All companies can benefit from it.


How to get started with collaboration


Implement your idea of collaboration. Just do it. I don't have a particular model. The founders of the Hive just went for it. They were two buddies that had an awesome idea and just made it happen.




About Michelle Rock




Michelle Rock works with RevenFlo, a web design and internet marketing company. RevenFlo employs contractors in web design and development, marketing writing, video and photography to support contractors to clients who are either marketing their website or building a new site from scratch.


They also run the Hive, which is a collaborative program between RevenFlo, York Technical College, Winthrop University, and the city of Rock Hill, SC.


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The Hive


1. Please provide a brief background of yourself.




Mario Estrada is a 17+ year logistics veteran who has worked for a variety of companies in roles varying from Industrial Engineering, Project Management, to Business Development. He is currently with LynnCo Supply Chain Solutions, a company specializing in North American transportation network optimization and management.


LinkedIN Profile



2. What do you think are the challenges with e-learning applied in a business setting?


The main challenge is maintaining the person’s attention. When Mario was at UPS, they had several opportunities for e-learning. In fact, it was one of the items used for self development during annual reviews. Mario was more interested in project management classes so that he could eventually obtain a PMP. The big challenge that he saw with it was that the modules were not as interactive. They would read a few slides, give you a few scenarios and quiz you to see if you understood before taking the test/quiz.


When Mario was working on his MBA, he had a couple of experiences with online learning and thought that in some ways, the classes were more challenging and time consuming than those in person. Mario thinks one of the issues has to do with time, his experience is that e-learning is more time consuming.


The second item is that most people multi-task. He questions how much they actually get out of the training. They never pay attention to what is being taught.


Thirdly, it is more of a psychological thing, which is the question of why people are taking the course in the first place. Some will do it to truly better themselves, in which case they will gain much from the training. However, Mario can imagine people taking e-classes just to fulfill a requirement (to meet a company requirement for training credits or for a license). They actually may not learn nearly as much as possible.


And finally, the UPS online training they had was not interactive, meaning that they did not interact with a facilitator or other students. Mario’s experience is that human beings tend to learn more from peers.


3. What are your experiences with delivering or receiving learning experiences inside a company?


Mario was doing project management specific training with UPS. This was training that would allow you to receive your PMD. The material that was presented was of good quality. It had the proper information that was maintained on the PMI website with the curriculum.


In the past Mario had a role within UPS where he would conduct training online. He was actually a facilitator. From a delivery perspective his experience was that being a facilitator and giving homework may be more effective.


Having a facilitator or someone to lead a discussion and having feedback is really important in order for the individuals to get something out of it. As soon as you starting getting people involved in sharing opinions, you suddenly start sparking interest. When you spark interest people stop mult-tasking and pay attention to the discussion. Mario believes people will get more out of it.


4. Any suggestions for improvement?


Mario thinks one key way to improve is to have a facilitator to hold things together, including a forum that could bring other learners together. During one of his MBA classes, they were required a certain number of post to a question posted by the facilitator. There are also other opportunities for people to collaborate online. We learn from others, we are social beings. Therefore, Mario thinks this would also help. This was a positive thing that he experienced in the few of classes he had online with the University of Dallas.


Most major universities and companies are offering e-learning as an alternative to the traditional classroom. However, we need to be careful in the way it is conducted Mario believes if we want people to receive training we need to hold ourselves accountable and make sure the employees learn. It is not just a checkmark of completion. It is more interaction, learning and improving from that particular training exercise.

Re-inventing Collaboration – Review of the history of people management practice


To understand why this went a way to some extent and is now beginning to reemerge.





Why were self directed work teams introduced, and what caused their demise?


In the 1970s in the US and Europe the industrial scene was challenging. There was raging inflation in the Western economies and the advent of competition coming from Japan, in particular. If you look at the data around that time you see Japan’s GDP grew from 1970 to 1980 by 420%, whereas in the US GDP grew by 170%.


To combat these threats, many businesses began to embark upon a journey of business process re-engineering, underpinned with the introduction of self directed work teams. The motivation for the self directed work teams was clearly the threat of competition eliminating the jobs. In addition, the teams doing this felt the positive recognition for working in the team based efforts and enjoyed the job enrichment it provided.



Was this the complete demise for collaboration?


Not really. What we have seen in recent times, especially with new technology which enables people to work closely together, is teams forming around the technology, particularly in the areas of marketing and new product development. In this case the goal is clearly to reduce the development product cycle. This has been the major driver for these teams.


As far as operations go, it has mainly been a case of operations moving abroad and teams disbanding, forming more around training of other people in other regions, building working structures to define process operations and training offshore teams to work with the operational processes. When that journey was complete we found people starting to position themselves in and around supply chain activity as a much different environment than the one people were used to before having the manufacturing and operations close by.



How do you see the future for enterprise wide collaboration?


The challenges are even stronger today. The world has hit a recession and businesses are facing this particular challenge. The need to drive enterprises to reengineer themselves in light of the challenges is greater. There have also been international challenges. Most recently, we have seen the impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Those events themselves will force reengineering because your supply chain suddenly faces huge challenges.


The need for the supply chain operations to optimally operate is greater. We also have rising fuel charges, a situation with rising costs for the workforce, in particular China. At some point we will find some manufacturing which migrated offshore will come back onshore, or at least closer to the point of consumption. With that we will see a big need to reengineer. Labor costs have to be controlled so you will need to introduce automation. You will have to bring manufacturing into new regions. All of this will require self directed work teams.



What are the necessary steps for a reintroduction of enterprise collaboration?


It goes back to the basics of what people have learned, or possibly unlearned, since the 1970s and 1980s. It is probably worth going through those steps to remind ourselves what business process re-engineering really meant for us at that time, and how self directed work teams were a key part of that process.


The steps necessary to make it happen is that business leadership has to define the strategic goals. This is the role of the leaders. They need to make it very clear and create that vision for where that business is going. They need to share that with the business change agents, the people who will fundamentally drive the effort in the trenches. Those change agents will need to, upon hearing the strategic goals, needs to translate that down to operational strategies that align with the goals. The change agents consider each strategy and determine impact upon the strategic goals. From that they can determine the implementation effort required for each strategy. Taking implementation into account, they can prioritize each strategy.


Change agents present implementation proposals to the business leaders for acceptance. Change agents refine the plan and calculate the change impact over time. With that you would get a baseline that you can set. You can then set a target over time which you can send back to the business leaders and translate all of that back towards the strategic goals.


What you are now looking for from business leaders is for them to modify, listen and discuss those plans with the change agents. The key piece now is to consider how they are going to appoint champions to appoint business leaders for particular teams.


Change agents then work on a self directed basis, selecting team members for each project forming around the goals they set for each particular task, forming objectives and looking at tactical implementation plans and present these back to the appointed champion for their team for final approval.


Teams would initiate implementation and meet with the champion on a predetermined milestone date so that touch points occur frequently.


When the project is complete the team measures performance against the original goal and the team performs post implementation and lessons learned.



From all of this, the team then presents this back to the executive team with the lessons learned. At that point hopefully the mission will be done and you can celebrate success.





These are the key steps for self directed work teams. Alan thinks this will change a lot of businesses in the current mode. Businesses, in particular with offshore operations, have tended to be more focused on dealing with third party manufacturers and operations at a distance. This is going to really come back to a case where you have to relearn the way things were done when operations were closer at hand when you were managing them.



About Alan Bishop




Alan Bishop has been working in operations for 20 plus years, both in the UK and the US. He has been in the US for 12 years, working in the high tech industry in supply chain operations. Recently, he has branched out to work on his own on a project basis. Alan believes collaboration is necessary, given the challenges we face today.


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