I interviewed Matthew Weilert who discussed Supply Chain Resilience.
It’s good to speak with you again, Matt. You were telling me about your travels; you recently did a world tour, and today’s topic is regarding resilience. Can you give a little background about this topic of resilience and your recent trip?
You bet. I’m excited to talk with you again, Dustin. I had the privilege of touring in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. I’m very excited to tell you that in Turkey, we have four new ambassadors who are excited about bringing the system key risk-modeling process and risk-discovery process into Turkish businesses, specifically both finance and operations. We’re targeting midsize businesses in Turkey. In Cyprus we will be looking more specifically at the small-business sector. In Greece we’re targeting the large range of defense contractors. And in Malta it will be more a mix of university and operational; we’re going to blend the two.
It was a privilege to tour; the food in all four countries is fantastic. Thumbs up for Turkish Airlines getting me there and back. It was a great trip and a great experience for me to see that the lessons we’ve learned for building resilient supply chains are true especially overseas, at least in the four eastern Mediterranean countries where I was privileged to just recently tour in October.
With that, as a way to get started, I’m really excited to talk about the concept of resilience in the supply chain because it comes back to the heart of what you and I talked about in our previous discussion. Really, the simple things, the human relationships, are what build the technology; it isn’t the other way around. Essentially, Dustin, resilience is what you do when things go off plan; it really is not software; not hardware; it really is a people-to-people connection. That’s the essence of everything we do here at the nonprofit Chamber of Commerce for Risk that I chair. It’s helping people understand that the one-to-one business intimacy, the people relationships are what drive today’s supply chain and resilience.
You mentioned there are four lessons for supply chain leaders. Can you talk about the first lesson?
Essentially, we want to cover four steps. Resilience is driven by what I call granularity; granularity is how closely we observe the natural world around us, how much attention we pay to the world that’s flowing by us. The third point we’ll be covering is: You’ve got to love your people in a practical, day-to-day way. Loving your people means giving them the resources they need to get their jobs done. Don’t make excuses; get things done and help your people get rid of problems so that they can get done the jobs for which you hired them. The fourth really is how you build innovation, and, as we’ll discuss briefly, building innovation comes from these first three steps. The fourth really is implementing the first three.
In the first lesson—let me turn back to my notes for a sec—the first lesson is: knowing your business. This may sound overly simplistic because I’m not going to talk about how to drive trucks, how you fly airplanes, how you work very expensive software. I’m going to talk about running the human resources function so that you hire the best people, and the only way you’re going to do that is get an HR leader with decades of experience and actually reading people and understanding cultures. Every culture has a language. I don’t mean the words they speak; I mean the way that they live. Every culture either contributes to or detracts from the ability for a risk-free or risk-resilient culture.
When you find talented people, create the opportunity for them to have success in your organization by getting rid of the silly bureaucratic stumbling blocks that far too many of us experience on a regular basis. That’s essentially the essence of building what I call the milk stool. People, process, protocol, make sure that your supply chain is structured for success. If you have to have a government intervention to get two companies to work together, or if you have to have physical assets come together and have backup assets in play, for maybe a seasonal storm. Get these assets in place. That’s not a risk; you already know that seasonal storms happen on a regular basis, so get the assets in play, and don’t accept any excuses.
That’s why we’re very, very different [Our approach]. The heart of the matter is not the hardware and software; the heart of the matter is the people and allowing the people to follow the process which your experience knows, their experience has told you works. That’s pretty much the first lesson.
Get these assets in place. That’s not a risk; you already know that seasonal storms happen on a regular basis, so get the assets in play, and don’t accept any excuses. That’s why we’re very, very different. The heart of the matter is not the hardware and software; the heart of the matter is the people and allowing the people to follow the process which your experience knows, their experience has told you works. That’s pretty much the first lesson.
Thanks. How about the second lesson?
The second lesson comes from what I call the 11th-century Samurai Tea story that authors like Rick Warren have modernized with their concept of a purpose-driven life. The power in powerlessness; that’s a concept that has both Eastern and Western connotations.But the power in powerlessness says that you look around you and you let other people take **the** credit; you let other people lead; you lead invisibly, like the best waiter. The image of a good waiter is someone who’s never there until you need him, and when you do, he has exactly what you need.
That’s the essence of having behind-the-scenes geniuses who aren’t looking for fame. They make sure that the right fuel connections are there; they make sure that they right amount of fuel is ready when the vehicle needs it—whether that’s a plane or a truck or anything else—they’re there to make sure the job gets done; they’re not there to make themselves look good. That’s coming from the Samurai Tea ceremony where technical mastery and humility were woven together; that’s the Samurai concept. That’s an easy way to summarize what could be a semester-long course in logistics: technical mastery with humility. It really is that simple.
And how about lesson three?
I’m going to wrap over here. Lesson three is that the real currencies of business are not money. The real currencies of business are not Turkish Lira or Euros or the U.S. dollar; the real currencies of business are relationships. What do I give to you? What do you give to me? And how do we establish a medium of exchange where we both are well-fed, well taken care of, well-sheltered from storms, and we have the ability to shine in our respective disciplines? Those are the currencies that are most important.
When we give the humble people who don’t want credit, when we give them the spotlight, in the appropriate vehicle, subject to their position of expertise, then we are paying it forward, like the saying goes. The essence of everything that we do is taking the human dimension and bringing it forward into areas of extremely high technology, like aviation or like international supply chain logistics. It’s the same message delivered in a thousand unique ways: People precede and people trump technology each and every time. If you want that technology to work right, you’ve got to treat your people right.
That is the simple lesson that, again, could be expanded into a semester-long workshop or semester-long collegiate course on supply chain logistics: Work with people, give them the tools they need to succeed, allow them to flourish by doing whatever you’ve got to do on the back end to allow that flourishing to occur, and then work in the currencies that reward people, which is not money. The currencies most important to business are business relationships, people-to-people relationships. That’s really kind of the summary of the first three.
Smart people share the care. Smart people let people be actual people, which means they’re not going to follow a script when they’re on a customer service call; they’re just going to get it done. There was a fascinating exchange captured in a YouTube video where a customer service rep acted like a Star Trek character, and the person on the other end of the line picked it up. It was just funny as all get-out, but they actually got the person’s technology problem solved while portraying Star Trek characters.
The reason it went viral on video is because people have had the situation where the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t sound like a person; you can’t get them to actually go off script and help you solve the problem. People who understand they’re in the business of getting the job done will go off script or they will put on a persona if that puts someone else at ease. Those are the kinds of people who are worth their weight in gold.
And what is the fourth and final lesson?
The real lesson that Olympic-level dedication to your craft brings out is that you’ve got to mature beyond mere technical knowledge. The German that I’m going to quote is named Eckhart Reiland. Eckhart Reiland is the regional president for Bosch Gasoline Systems, and there is a story that he tells about having cross-disciplinary insight. It’s a fairly long story, but the message is: How do we get someone to understand a new topic?
The way that they understand that new topic is very much aligned with a story my grandfather told me—and I’ll wrap up with a silly story that my great-grandfather told me. There was a ship captain, and he was seeing a light bob up and down on the horizon, so he told his radio man to radio that ship, that they would have to change course. The message came back and the radio man was a little bit scared because this captain was not a pleasant person; this captain violated all the examples we just gave. The radio man says, “Sir, you will have to go three degrees or three degrees right. You cannot remain on your present course.”
As the radio man exploded, the captain just said all sorts of vile language and said, “You tell that idiot in that dinghy that I’m an aircraft carrier, and he will change course.” The message comes back and it says, “The idiot in the dinghy respectfully tells you that he is a lighthouse, and if you continue on this course, he will attend your funeral and console your widow.”
I was presenting this–as I was relaying this story that I adapted from a very learned gentleman in the gasoline industry, the entire crowd breaks up. [Laughter] Because we’ve all heard people who just blow up for no reason when they’re actually the ones who have to change.
That single story kind of wraps up our former point of hiring talented people. You’ve got to have the talent to be an aircraft-carrier captain. Give them the tools they need. He had all the resources at his disposal. Then be humble enough to recognize the surroundings you’re in and make the changes. Change course when you need to; don’t crash into the rocks because you refuse to change course. The lighthouse story is simple, it takes a moment to tell, and it really helps people of all cultures—anyone who has a coastline, anyone who has a maritime, seafaring tradition—to understand these concepts of being humble to develop a resilient supply chain culture.
With those four, I think we’re running close to our time, and I’m really excited to have gotten a chance to share with you again. Anything you want to wrap up with, Dustin?
Thank you again for sharing your views about resilience and what it is. I look forward to future talks as well.
Dustin, thanks again, and I’ll look forward to the edited version. For sure, let me know as soon it’s up; I’ll be excited to view it.
About Matthew Weilert
Board Chair: STETA Group (systemkey.org) | Publisher at STI Press (stipress.com)