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Category Archives for "Strategic Supply Chain Simulations"

Value of Trust in Supply Chain Management

Why Trust in Supply Chain Is Important?

Recently, the value of trust in supply chain was brought home to me in a graphic manner. An owner of a medium sized business (who was trying to be one of our well-wishers) showed me (and one of our new recruits in sales management department) the way they were using dummy websites to generate leads for their business. He also mentioned that nowadays this is a very common practice to create dummy websites, even dummy companies and fake addresses for the sheer ease of doing so and anticipated potential benefits.

He wanted to encourage us to do the same thing. We listened to him politely, thanked him for his opinion, and refused to go down that path.

He was firmly in the camp of people believing that you have to fake it till you make it.

Obviously there is a huge contingent of people who follow this philosophy. To justify themselves they often quote Richard Branson saying this:

I don’t know if this phrase was truly said by the man himself. However I would feel a little bit uneasy if pilots in their airlines adopted this mantra. It basically means that they accept the job as a pilot hoping to figure out how it works later, meanwhile they are going to fake it till they make it.

I know I have carried the example to an extreme, and pilots do need certification before anyone offers them a job as such.

However, I am also aware that there are more subtle considerations such as aircraft types, routes and even airport characteristics where most pilots will not accept command of an aircraft till they know for sure they can do the job.

Like them, I am firmly in the camp which says ‘make it real and keep it real.’ The risks are far too high; and the numerous opportunities to train and learn without exposing your passengers (or business network partners) to the unnecessary risks make it almost callous to do otherwise.

Yet, many people persist.

Deficit of Trust in Supply Chain, and Its Side Effects

This belief – fake it, till you make it – is usually based on the assumption that nobody will offer you a job if you’re perceived as not qualified for it.

On the contrary, you are the best person to judge whether you are truly competent enough to take on a job. At the same time, with the job offers comes the responsibility of choosing, whether to accept it, or not; the responsibility of evaluating your own skills, experience and competence for this particular job.

Unfortunately, there are far too many people forsaking this  responsibility that can only apply at a personal level.

That is also the reason why there is a lot of trust deficit in the business world.

If you are faking it, your reader, your audience, your client, your customer will most likely know that you’re faking it. It is just a matter of time.

Whether you are a motor mechanic who’s faking the knowledge of the type of motor that you’re repairing or you’re a heart surgeon or any job in between. Faking it is definitely not going to make you happier or more successful for the simple reason that your customer will always be uneasy with you. Furthermore, in your heart you will always know that you are faking it, which is not the best thing for your self-confidence and self-respect.

Supply chain management is not a unique field which requires a large amount of trust between people to collaborate. In fact, trust is a fundamental requirement for all collaboration, cooperation and joint activities between human beings.

It becomes even more significant in supply chain management where it is both individual trust and institutional trust.

Why is trust so important anyway?

There is an important reason why I mention it.

As supply chains become more and more sophisticated, as they become more entangled and evolve into business networks, the need for trust within the supply chains becomes more and more intense.

Let’s take a specific example to make this generic statement more real.

Suppose you are a soft drink manufacturer, and the suppliers of empty cans has a captive plant right next to your bottling plant, you have a good chance of hearing about their business ups and downs and know well in time about events that might affect your supply. Now just substitute this captive supplier of packaging by a bunch of suppliers half way around the earth who might have significant cost advantage (because of manufacturing cost, for instance), and see how important it will be for you to keep open clear lines of communication in order to run your business smoothly and efficiently. people in round

Companies typically want to engage with supply chain partners who will be able to deliver on what they promise, barring a totally unanticipated event. If your business network partners are not fakes themselves, most likely they will not engage with you further when they find out that you’re faking it.

Components of Trust in Supply Chain

Although trust in supply chain management is a very popular topic, it is evident that establishing trust within the business network can be very challenging. It takes time, patience and effort of each and every supply chain partner. It can be even more difficult to maintain trust over time. As the concept of trust is rather abstract, it is also hard to measure. At the same time, despite all the difficulties and efforts you can be sure that developing trust with your suppliers and customers is worth the efforts.

So what is trust and what are the components of it?

How to make sure that there is enough trust between you and your supply chain partners?

Is it always worth the investment of your time and effort?

Is there such thing as too much trust within the business network?

First of all, trust in supply chain management, as in any other cooperation between people, includes numerous factors.

You should maintain good communication at all times between you and your partners. Communication also means honesty and openness. Fairness and loyalty can also be very helpful in establishing trust. Another integral part is the competence and your openness about whether you are qualified for this particular job or not. This kind of relationship requires goodwill and willingness not to exploit your partner’s vulnerabilities. This is even more important because of the confidential information which is shared between supply chain partners and with management consultants.

Levels of Trust in Supply Chain

My colleague, who was at the meeting mentioned at the start of this article, wondered aloud about the advisability of trying to create some websites to generate additional leads for our training business.

And my answer was an unequivocal “no”.

The reason was very simple.

I like to make it real – and keep it real. exercise-in-ground

I gave my colleague an example of the difference between level of trust required for a pharmacist, a general practitioner and an open-heart surgeon.

When you go and buy a medicine from a pharmacy, you do need a certain amount of trust. You need to be confident that the pharmacist will indeed give you the formulation that the doctor has prescribed. You need to be sure that it is pure, unadulterated and sold at the market price.

However the level of trust required from a general practitioner is much higher. Because you will have to literally remove your clothes in front of him. In this case you need the confidence that your general practitioner is able to examine you, to find out what was wrong.

This trust requirement further multiplies when we are talking about a heart surgeon. You need to be completely sure of your heart surgeon as you need to entrust him your own body, because he will be actually cutting you open and looking literally at your heart. Imagine a heart surgeon who lives with the philosophy mentioned earlier.

In the situation where people need to share confidential information, where the profitability of your business depends largely on the competence and honesty of someone else, it is critical to make efforts in order to develop trust. A low level of trust in this case may give a bit more independence and space at first but later on it will definitely result in lower productivity and profitability in supply chain.

people-workingTrust in Management Consulting

Management consultants by their nature need to establish a very firm bond of trust with their customers. The clients need to be able to entrust them with a lot of confidential data and information as well as their innermost strategies so that management consultants could work successfully and effectively.

To be able to establish this kind of firm bond of trust you have to make sure that there is no possibility that your customer misunderstands any of your marketing messages. You should be unambiguous about your market position. It takes us to the next point.

It is always better to say clearly and honestly if the required skills or competences for a particular project are not within your company’s skillsets.

Let me make it real with another example. Very often when we formulate segmented supply chain strategies for our clients’ business, we need to understand the customer segmentation criteria. As part of that activity we need market research data, which is obviously outside the competency set of our business. I am very clear with my clients when such situations arise. I also say that I am in a position to recommend a few good market research firms, if necessary, but customers are welcome to choose any others that they want to use so long as the required segmentation data is available at the end of the exercise.

Sophisticated clients always appreciate a consulting company which is honest about where their competency starts and where it ends. On the other hand there are consulting firms who pretend that they are able to magically do everything.

In most cases they end up doing nothing well enough, and in the long term they usually lose not only the trust of their clients, but also their own self-respect.

Trust in The 5-STAR Business Network

Looking beyond management consulting, as mentioned before, trust is important for collaboration between supply chain partners. When you are working with your supply chain partners – suppliers and customers – in innovation, in order to create new products faster, in enhancing the profitability and reducing the cash-to-cash cycle, you know that relying on fakes will only come back and bite you at the worst possible time.

Typically deep understanding of customer segments is required to be able to configure a segmented supply chain so that the end-to-end business strategy is in coherence. This activity obviously requires an immense amount of trust running all the way through the entire business network.

However, similar to the example comparing a pharmacist, a general practitioner and a heart surgeon, the required trust will always depend on the situation and on the level of collaboration that we need from each participant within the 5-STAR Business Network.

These Global Business Network Winners Know – ‘The Game Has Changed Again.’

When I explain to people that supply chain 3.0 is real, in general, I get three type of responses.

  1. Most of the McKinsey (or their clone) trained strategists ask me to show data to back up this assertion.
  2. On the other hand, more intuitive executives (mainly from sales and marketing background, as I observe) ask me to explain the benefits of supply chain 3.0.
  3. Finally, the third group – those who I call the transformational leaders ask a simple question – how can we use the power of supply chain 3.0 in effecting beneficial business transformations.

In this blog I will address the first question. I will leave for later blogs the remaining two questions and other arising questions such as: how does supply chain 3.0 differ from the previous versions of supply chains, and, why it was even necessary to ‘invent’ supply chains in the first place.

Business Network

It is an important question – “where is the data to clearly demonstrate that Supply Chain 3.0 is real?”

The data driven crowd has a legitimate concern lest a couple of isolated examples be seen as heralding a trend. Having trained at a similar top-tier consulting house during my formative years in consulting, I fully understand and endorse their questions.

Why?

Because all of us have seen people taking isolated instances and exceptions and making them so big in their own and others’ perceptions that these appear to be the predominant trends. Nay-sayers will take a few stray instances of setbacks, blow them out proportion to support their naysaying.

On the other hand, almost all investment projects also have their share of overly optimistic projectionists.

In the end, only data reveals the overall picture and clarifies the confusion.

Another reason, the usual suspects might be missing is because we looked far beyond tactical operations into the strategic contribution of supply chains to corporate results. For example, rarely has anyone tried to gauge the impact of supply chain collaboration on innovation, new product development, pipeline of products, product phasing etc.

For this reason, when I wrote the book The 5-STAR Business Network, our team did a 6 year longitudinal study of the top 1200 corporations around the world.

There were other reasons why this study was conducted – which are given in Chapter 14 of the book.

The full research methodology and the resulting ranking of the companies is also given in the book, but for our purpose here it is interesting to note that 62 companies out of the entire starting sample of the top 1200 companies in the world scored 20 points out of 25, which is our cut-off for the Supply Chain 3.0.

Firstly, the companies themselves come from around the globe – Novo Nordisk is from Denmark while Fanuc is from Japan and Falabella is from Chile. That was to be expected – if you make your research wide and deep enough you will find good companies everywhere. No country, or continent has monopoly on excellence.

Are there companies which are better than Apple and Amazon?

Interesting to note is that Apple – the darling of supply chain crowd – is only ranked #60 in the rankings.

And, due to its low margins, Amazon – just missed the cut.

So, apparently, the winners may not yet be as big as Apple and Amazon – yet they use their capital much more effectively.

So who are the top 35 companies in these rankings? You can see them in figure 1 below.

For the time being ignore the 5 colour coding, as well as funny three-letter acronyms (TLAs) in the figure. I am absolutely sure, that this figure is unlike any other figure you might have seen before. Note a few things below:

Excellence is a Global Privilege

Firstly, the companies themselves come from around the globe – Novo Nordisk is from Denmark while Fanuc is from Japan and Falabella is from Chile.

That was to be expected – if you make your research wide and deep enough you will find good companies everywhere. No country, or continent has monopoly on excellence.

So much for all the hype about the Asian century. Sure, development in Asia is creating unprecedented opportunities – but good companies around the globe are using that trend to their benefit. You do not need to be an Asian company to be excellent, but neither are all non-Asian companies uniformly good.

Secondly, because this ranking is based on study conducted over 5 years (not at a single point in time) the standards of excellence are much higher. Also, this is a global study hence the sample base was much wider.

For this reason many of the usual suspects that you might have seen elsewhere in magic circles and quadrants etc. are missing.

Strategy is what you do when you don’t know what to do; Tactics is what you do when you know what to do

Another reason, the usual suspects might be missing is because we looked far beyond tactical operations into the strategic contribution of supply chains to corporate results. For example, rarely has anyone tried to gauge the impact of supply chain collaboration on innovation, new product development, pipeline of products, product phasing etc.

But in our research, we took these into account. For details of the research methodology, caveats, cautions and warnings about not applying these results for investment decision making please read Chapter 14 of the book The 5-STAR Business Network“. This is critical because I do not want you to take the results out of context and make decision based on flawed assumptions.

Time has come to talk about the 5 funny acronyms in the figure. This is because we want to see how these are linked to the strategic contribution of supply chain management to overall corporate results.

So, what do these TLAs stand for?

Figure 2 below shows the details: Figure 2: Five cornerstones of Supply Chain 3.0

Each of these names are quite self-explanatory and most people reading this blog will not need too much explanation. I will only briefly outline them here, because detailed explanation and examples mean that I will be recreating the book The 5-STAR Business Network or a version of it in this blog. One more important conclusion needs to be drawn from the data presented in Figure 1.

So much for all the hype about the Asian century. Sure, development in Asia is creating unprecedented opportunities – but good companies around the globe are using that trend to their benefit.

You will notice that rarely is there a company which ranks high on each of the five key cornerstones of supply chain 3.0.

Yet, all the 62 excellent companies that meet our criteria for supply chain 3.0 excel in at least three of the five key cornerstones.

That shows you do not have to perfect to arrive at supply chain 3.0 – you only need spikes of excellence in at least three of the five key areas.

In the next two entries, I will write about each of these five pillars in more details.

 

Learning – A Company Case Study

By – Stuart Emmett

Executive Summary

A questionnaire was used to explore feelings and experiences of students undertaking a company management development qualification programme. The questionnaire examined four areas

  • Why Learn?
  • Learning experiences
  • Reflections on learning
  • Learning styles

The questionnaire results are detailed in this report (shown as the strengths and weaknesses) The message for companies is they must:

  • Build on the strengths found by individuals
  • Recognise the reality of the weaknesses and proactively manage them into strengths

Companies must recognise the conditions for effective learning and building these into all leadership, management, learning and development practices and programmes.

The Learning Programme

This was a company learning programme for management development; this involved students working to achieve a nationally recognised professional qualification at the current equivalent of a NQF level six in Supply Chain Management.

The Questionnaire

In order to examine the learning processes used, a questionnaire was designed to explore a range of questions about the feelings and experiences of students. This questionnaire examined the following four areas: –

  1. Questions on the reasons why students wanted to study for the qualification.
  2. Questions on students experiences whilst they were completing their studies.
  3. Questions on reflection about their studies
  4. Questions on students learning styles

(1) Results-Why learn?

The results showed various reasons why they wanted to learn. Many different responses were given, (this, however, maybe in part due to the open nature, of the questionnaire). It was very clear however, that the main reason for wanting to learn was to increase knowledge and understanding. Other reasons given were to make life more interesting, to meet other people etc. Similarly, the question about the students intended outcome had also mixed responses, but the majority however; indicated the prize was the gaining of a qualification. Other responses indicated were, to make progress, to be able to apply and use the qualification.

(2) Results-Learning Experiences

Whilst undertaking studies most students reported that they were able to use their existing experience and knowledge during the programme. Half of the students felt they had learnt a lot, whilst the other half felt they had learnt something. 25 per cent of students felt they were given no guidance at all, on how to learn. 87 per cent of students reported receiving feedback during the programme. 75 per cent of students were very clear that no formal support had been given at work, despite, a formal mentoring programme being set up at the start by the company using senior and line managers. Clearly this had not been effective. When asked further about their support network, around half of the students had received informal help/support at work. They also had a support network from other people; indeed all students said they were helped in this later way. Finally, all students felt they had opportunity whilst learning, to think and reflect, and make conclusions about their learning. 75 per cent of students also felt they had opportunity, to use what they had learnt.

(3) Results-“Reflections”

In thinking back about the learning experience, the main problem students identified was finding the time. This is also reflected by a few students reporting the main time problem for them, was working shifts. In answering the question about how students had overcome their study problems, students were, generally and remarkably, non-committal. Some of the ways however reported on overcoming problems were; for example, making time, having perseverance, and using holiday time. When asked why some people might choose to drop out of the learning, mixed responses were found, but the responses made were mainly about lack of motivation, no support, no time, and finally, getting behind and then getting depressed. The main reasons reported for keeping going were not to let down colleagues and others in the group. Clearly, a group-training format had also supported the individuals questioned. Learning was felt to be important to students and their responses were: “develops” me, gives me a challenge, expanded the mind, allows me to see the bigger picture, and, keeps the mind fresh. Students had clear views about what they needed to do to be better learners and responses mainly included having a more disciplined approach plus, concentrating more on the planning of study time and to listening without prejudice.

(4) Results-Learning Style

On learning styles students were equally divided with their self-perceptions and fell between equally between being visual / seeing learners, and being experiencing / doing learners. Furthermore, the majority felt that they were activists and would try anything once.

Results-Summary

In putting together the strengths and weaknesses from the questionnaire results, the following is a summary: Strengths were as follows

  • Students have clear reasons for doing the programme.
  • Programme builds on existing knowledge.
  • Provides feedback.
  • Good informal support network.
  • Able to use what has been the learnt.
  • Group peer pressure/support.

Weaknesses

were as follows:

  • Lacking guidance on how to learn
  • No formal support network at work
  • Finding time to complete the assessments
  • Lack of clarity on how to overcome the learning problems
  • Many reasons for dropping out
  • Undisciplined learning approach

Messages for companies

It will be seen that individual students were motivated, had informal learning support and were able to use what they learnt; all these are good strengths for companies to build on. Companies can however recognise the weaknesses reported by students and be pro-active to manage these. Learning lessons here are for the provision of:

  • Formal guidance on learning
  • Formal support networks
  • Time for assessments
  • Encouraging a disciplined learning approach.

Support and guidance (both formal and informal) is critical in learning. The students above clearly had informal support, but no formal support. How therefore support is accounted for, planned for, and actually undertaken is a “must” to be considered by all companies who sponsor learning.

Effective Learning Conditions

For learning to be effective, the following learning conditions are needed:

  • Gaining attention and motivating.
  • Giving the expected outcome.
  • Stimulating recall by using past knowledge.
  • Developing new opportunities.
  • Getting learners responses.
  • Giving learning guidance.
  • Giving feedback.
  • Appraising performance.
  • Providing for transferability.
  • Ensuring retention and encourage practice.

There is much above that shows the importance of giving support and guidance to individuals who are practicing learning. The following are some examples of how to do this:

  • Motivating = encourage and support, continually
  • Develop new opportunities = ask “how can I help”
  • Learning guidance = provide how to learn courses/discussions/self help groups/ study buddies etc
  • Feedback = say “well done”
  • Appraising =ask “how can I help you to develop”
  • Transferability = create opportunities to use and apply the learning

It should not be difficult to help and support employees learn. When doing this, a company demonstrates that it believes that learning really matters.

This report is based on:

“Improving Learning & for Individuals & Companies,” 2002, ISBN 1-90429-831-1

“How to Mentor and Support Learning,” 2003, ISBN 1-90429-865-6

“The Learning Toolkit” 2008, ISBN 978-1-852525-620 “The Developing People Toolkit”, 2008, ISBN 978-1-852525-651

All written by Stuart Emmett, after spending over 30 years in commercial private sector service industries, working in the UK and in Nigeria, I then moved into Training. This was associated with the, then, Institute of Logistics and Distribution Management (now the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport). After being a Director of Training for nine years, I then chose to become a freelance independant mentor/coach, trainer, and consultant. This built on my past operational and strategic experience and my particular interest in the “people issues” of management processes. Link for the blog: http://www.learnandchange.com/freestuff_23.html  

Note:  Stuart Emmett co-operated with our very own Vivek Sood to co-write the book GREEN SUPPLY CHAINS – AN ACTION MANIFESTO. This book was one of the first books in the world on the topic of Green Supply Chains, and as such is used in Universities around the world for executive training and research purposes.

How to Identify Cost Reduction Opportunities

hudgeon12By Doug Hudgeon The Cost Reduction Tip Certain problems when you first look at them seem intractable. But once you understand their natural fracture lines, breaking them up and solving them is actually quite easy. Most business process problems fall into this category and cost reduction problems are no exception. The natural fracture line for cost reduction opportunities are people and COGS. It’s easy to get lost in arguments about what is and what is not included in COGS so it’s best to simply think of COGS as costs that do not vary with the number of staff you have. In fact, I’ll call these non-People costs in this and subsequent posts. For example, desktop support costs are driven by People costs whilst marketing expenses are driven by non-People costs. Certain expenses can fall into both or either category such as data centre costs where your data centres support both your intranet and internet sites. For these, you can split them by percentage or just lump the entire expense into the biggest driver – People or non-People Identifying your cost reduction opportunities then is just a matter of categorising each expense line in your management accounts as being driven by People or non-People. Tackle the former by considering how you can deliver the same value with fewer people and the latter by identifying the drivers of that cost and looking at ways of minimising it. Sound simple. It is. Doug Hudgeon who is lawyer and vendor management professional who has branched into finance and accounting shared services management.

E- Learning; a philosophy not a manifesto

Stuart Emmett  takes a look at E-learning

Wherever we turn these days all kinds of “e” are quickly growing and developing around us. Now as my surname begins with an “e”, then I better be careful what I say. But this does mean that I do appreciate that “e” is only the fifth letter in the alphabet. Therefore, to use our full and diverse vocabulary, then many other letters are available to be used. “E” is only one part of many other parts, whether it is “e” commerce, “e” shopping, or “e” learning. The whole has to be looked at and with “e” learning, it seems to me that this whole, has at least five main aspects:

  • It suits some types of learning better than other types
  • It is a means to an end and not an end in itself
  • Some people like the “e” screen and environment, some do not, and some like a mixture of “old” and “e”.
  • It has already, replaced some methods of learning
  • It is, another valuable option in the tool-bag of learning

Please, read on for a brief consideration of each of these five main aspects.

1.0. It suits some types of learning better than it suits some others. In looking at “e” learning, then we need to consider which of the two general types of learning we are involved with – “puzzle solving” learning or “making possibilities” learning. These are fundamentally different, and require different learning methods 1.1. “Puzzle solving learning” uses programmed knowledge, which is applied to solve a current puzzle. Puzzles are those things that have a “best” solution and often a “right” answer.

  • There is a familiar, known, accepted answer.
  • Knowledge and facts are acquired and are used to bring about the required solution.
  • The knowledge acquiring will be often be more directive led, for example by say teachers/trainers.
  • The method used is basically, “if you do this, then…”
  • The individual is taught “how to” do something basically the same as everyone else.
  • It is usually about getting better at what is already done.
  • It is looking for efficiency by getting people to do things right.
  • It enables efficient performance control.
  • It has an outcome of basic “doing”. It is traditional education and learning.

1.2. “Making possibilities” learning involves more insight, critical reflection and thought being applied to solve a problem, which maybe more future orientated in its outcome.

  • It deals with situations, which have outcomes that are more uncertain.
  • It deals with complexity as paradox is usually, found.
  • It is not so much a case of finding the right answer, but more a case of, asking the right question.
  • In exploring situations, (when acquiring knowledge and solving puzzles maybe a part of the process), there is a requirement to go beyond this into innovation and creativity. This needs a deeper level of understanding.
  • More challenging questioning is used, for example, about what is needed and for example, by asking why?
  • Following this questioning, reflecting and thinking is used; this is then followed by experimentation and testing.
  • This leads, eventually, towards finding an acceptable outcome.
  • It is promoting effectiveness and doing the right things.
  • The individual will often learn from someone who assist’s, helps and guides by asking questions such as “what if” and “why”.
  • The individual learns how to “see it wider” to “critically evaluate”, and to “think it through for themselves”.

Clearly these two levels of learning are fundamentally different and preventing confusion is critical. The following may help to bring this clarity when having to decide upon an appropriate learning methodology: Is learning required:

  • For individuals to apply knowledge to do something to “standard,” and in accordance with current thinking and with relatively certain outcomes?
  • For individuals to apply knowledge, to develop new problem solving skills and then move towards handling more future related problems with uncertain outcomes?
  • For individuals to become more, of what they want/aspire to be?
  • For teams and groups to learn together to get things done?
  • To impact upon the development of the company?

“E” learning would seem to be much better for individual based, programmed puzzle solving learning, and also for, the more technical “hard” stuff. Both of these have more black and white answers with clear outcomes and expected standards. The learner needs to find “the right answer”. But “e” learning is perhaps of less use for the “touchy/feely” soft stuff and also less use for, the non pre-programmed, making possibilities learning. This type of learning needs more reflection, more innovation and challenge and finding out “just what is the question/problem!” It can involve team/group learning situations, where it can include those many types of interaction that are lost on the keyboard/screen.

2.0. It is a means to an end and not an end in itself For some people, technology becomes an end in itself. These people get a “technology fix” that becomes the “answer” to all known problems. As with all good sales pitches, “E” learning is often sold as a “Need” rather than a “Want”. Here, “E” learning is seen as having all the answers and that anything new will be automatically better. Tony Harris (Training Consultant) says “we must always retain control of the process and whilst change is a constant, we must not be constantly changing”. This is true, but how often are things changed because of “flavours of the month”, “everyone is going to be doing it”, and it is “new and nice to have”.

So often, what is really happening here is change for the sake of change and for technology “fixing”. But different learning methods are often about supporting the learner better. Certainly here, technology can be a useful means as a part of the learning process and “E” has some positive benefits to offer here. The Open University is actively embracing e-mail support to students, as does David Granville’s Scilnet “e” learning system. As David comments, “students now tell us that it is the most friendly and personal way to learn of any method they have experienced. We now have 85% of students on or ahead of schedule compared with less than 20% on the traditional methods. It proves that e- learning is not just about content, it is very much still about support”.

3.0 Some people prefer the “e” screen and environment however some people do not-and some people, like a mixture of “old” and “e”. When considering “e” learning, then we should never forget the user, the client, and the learner. Are not trainers, especially, all about making it easier for learners to learn-by whatever method? If “e” does this, then fine. If it does not, then let us use the learning method that will assist learning better. The “horses for courses” viewpoint must prevail.

“Some people are best suited to traditional classrooms; some people are best suited to competency based programms whilst a growing number are turning to the virtual classroom” (Tony Harris- Training Consultant). We should always be looking to improve the way people can learn better. Whilst some say, “if it is not broken, then why fix it”, the answer to this saying should always be, “but can we can improve it?” With any “e” learning, then any change or any improvement must be customer, user, client, learner focussed. If there are other gains to be had then good-but customer focus first please.

4.0. It has already, replaced some types of learning “E” learning methods have already replaced some former types of learning and in so doing, has replaced trainers. I know this personally though having some training work replaced by “e” learning. Changes pushed by technology have happened to everyone, and trainers should not think they are in an immune and unique position here. But then, are not problems, opportunities? The material still needs to be developed. The content is the critical part of “e” learning, the “bells and whistles” are useful but they will not sustain a poor content. After all-rubbish in, then rubbish out and recycling on poor existing material will not work.

Great opportunities exist with “e” to use more attractive and moving visuals, and checklist feedback questioning including sounds. Simulations, interactions can all add to make a more interesting, challenging and useful learning experience. The Internet is not after all a replacement of Teletext- the Internet is different and presents new communication opportunities .For example; a new market can be developed. This maybe on a potential world wide basis with the availability of 24/7 learning experiences that are instant, on demand and satisfy those who “want it now”.

5.0. It is, a valuable option in the tool-bag of learning Learning for me, is, any method and process which uses, personal-power, knowledge and experience to: a) Makes sense of things, (by thinking), b) Make things happen, (by doing), c) Bring about change, (by moving from one position to another). The method and process can be classroom, simulation, activity, seminars, workbooks, conferences, exams, projects, assignments, one to one coaching etc. as well as “e” learning.

“E” is not the only answer but it is one part- a growing, and therefore important, part- of the tool-bag. A strategic question to us all is “what new inventions and developments are around, that will take us into the next three years”. “E” learning is one of these new developments. It will be ignored at peril, but needs to be looked at with maturity-a maturity that uses it, where and when it is feasible and is capable of being used to its best extent. No “technology fixes” and ends in themselves please! As Tony Harris notes well “e-learning has its own life cycle, it is up to each individual to decide when to climb aboard and start peddling”

Acknowledgements With especial thanks for “skeleton fleshing out” via “e” mail, face to face/telephone chats, and Internet discussion groups, to the following people:

  • Tony Harris, Training Consultant, an “e” trainer/assessor, (amongst other things)
  • David Granville, C.E.O., an early adopter, and developer of “e” learning, (look at www.scilnet.com.)
  • Mark Williams, a UKHRD network contributor, (look at www.celemi.com)
  • John Kelly, a UKHRD contributor and CBT developer, (look at www.PressTech.co.uk)

This article is the full version of a shorter version published in Open Learning Today, BAOL, January 2001 with title “A growing part of the trainers tool-bag”

All written by Stuart Emmett, after spending over 30 years in commercial private sector service industries, working in the UK and in Nigeria, I then moved into Training. This was associated with the, then, Institute of Logistics and Distribution Management (now the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport). After being a Director of Training for nine years, I then chose to become a freelance independent mentor/coach, trainer, and consultant. This built on my past operational and strategic experience and my particular interest in the “people issues” of management processes. Link for the blog: http://www.learnandchange.com/freestuff_23.html

Change Your Processes Before Implementing New Software

hudgeon12By Doug Hudgeon The Cost Reduction Tip The success rate of software implementations is woefully low. There are lots of reasons for it ranging from overselling by vendors, overspecing by customers, lack of consultation with stakeholders, under-resourcing the implementation team, etc. But in my view, much of the source of failure comes from unnecessarily bundling high risk process change with the software implementation. For example, if you are implementing a new payment system that changes your approval hierarchy then look for a way to implement the new approval hierarchy before you implement the software. If you are implementing a new public transport ticketing system, change the fares before you implement the system. If you can unbundle your high risk process changes from the software implementation then you’ll improve your software implementation success rate – at the very least you’ll discover you have an insurmountable change management program before you spend any money! Doug Hudgeon who is lawyer and vendor management professional who has branched into finance and accounting shared services management.

Empowerment and Email

Stuart Emmettby Stuart Emmett

I am fed up with a lot of organisations.

Is it just me?

Do others find too many simple basic mistakes are being made these days by organisations? These mistakes are also being repeated many times and do not seem to get corrected.

Why is this?

One of my theories is that, email is the means to create the mistakes whilst the expected end result is empowerment.

Let me amplify.

These days external connection is possible to most internal levels within an organisation.

The power of the internet can deliver messages to anyone.

Those receiving emails are now able to handle and deal direct with customer requests.

And by “empowerment” this will also enable decision making at any level.

People are now therefore able to take decisions and deal direct with queries.

Now clearly there are numerous advantages to this, but there are some disadvantages also. My fear is that these disadvantages may be getting camouflaged and disguised by the use of emails and by the aura of empowerment.

It is fine allowing decisions to be taken at low levels, but these have to be correct ones and have to be taken responsibly. They can now also be taken invisibly to the senior management. Therefore when decisions are wrong, the consequences may not be apparent. The result can then be a spiral of confusion and frustration. Those on the receiving end may have little chance for recourse or correction of handed down decisions that have been wrongly taken (and effectively taken sub optimally).

Another result is that some customers at the receiving end will “walk,” others will complain to “deaf ears,” and some may report their displeasure to senior management; however senior management may be dismissive as “we do not have this problem with others”.

The fact is they do have problems, but it has become invisible to senior management who in their desire to empower junior staff, have made themselves separate from what is really going on in the organisation.

How do we prevent this?

Simply by returning to a principle of management visibility

Good managers are supposed to keep kept their fingers on the pulse. Requests from and responses to customers should be seen. Support and guidance should be given to junior staff when required. A manager must ensure they know exactly what is happening in their department and they must delegate effectively whilst retaining accountability and responsibility.

Why cannot this be done? Why do we allow email to “bypass” such best practice?

It now it seems with email and empowerment, that whilst the “e” can certainly stand for efficiency, it does not always stand for effectiveness.

Efficiency is however found as messages are quickly dealt with, however non effectiveness is found as the correct result does not always follow. So we are maybe doing the right things, we are not always doing it right.

But worst of all, what is being done maybe invisible to those who can change things. However it is clearly visible to those customers who walk.

Is it just me who is fed up?

Ps: for those great organisations that do not do the above; well done and thank you!

Stuart Emmett

After spending over 30 years in commercial private sector service industries, working in the UK and in Nigeria, I then moved into Training. This was associated with the, then, Institute of Logistics and Distribution Management (now the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport). After being a Director of Training for nine years, I then chose to become a freelance independent mentor/coach, trainer, and consultant. This built on my past operational and strategic experience and my particular interest in the “people issues” of management processes.

Link for the blog: http://www.learnandchange.com/freestuff_23.html

 

Note:  Stuart Emmett co-operated with our very own Vivek Sood to co-write the book GREEN SUPPLY CHAINS – AN ACTION MANIFESTO. This book was one of the first books in the world on the topic of Green Supply Chains, and as such is used in Universities around the world for executive training and research purposes.

An Industry shifts – Retail Supply Chain strikes again

Retail Supply Chain is Going Through a Massive Shift

As the US economy staggers and consumers remain austerity-oriented, dollar stores or discount stores are presenting a more viable model in retail supply chain.

So much so that big names such as Walmart has decided to adopt the “bargain” strategy by opening smaller stores.

Shopping centres in North America are witnessing an influx of bargain store chains, prompting a fall in vacancy rates at these shopping complexes to 8.6% in 60 major US markets last year. The figures came from Cassidy Turley research, who also noted a “seismic shift in retail shopping centers.” Over the past three years, bargain retail brands such as Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar have opened an average 2,000 new stores each.

Meanwhile, big names in US retail such as J.C. Penney, Sears, Staples and RadioShack are in a precarious situation where they draw traffic to smaller stores nearby. The two latter companies even announced earlier in March their plans to close a combined 1,325 stores. “The challenges of the weak economy are being replaced by the challenges of e-commerce,” said Garrick Brown, director of research at real estate firm Cassidy Turley.

“Dollar stores have just had insane, insane levels of new growth.” “Online retail undoubtedly has snatched some sales away from brick-and-mortar stores but the heat seems to be at the discount store sector.

THE-5-STAR-BUSINESS-NETWORK-Book-Cover1“However, bargain stores have an opportunistic supply chain with an unstable stocking model. With little supply chain planning and low margins, can they sustain their growth over the giants once the latter figure out how to catch up, or expand?” said Vivek Sood – CEO of Global Supply Chain Group.

Already, Walmart has started to tackle small discount stores by planning to open 300 new Walmart Express and Walmart Neighborhood Market stores by the end of this year. This came after the US giant posted lacklustre results in the last fiscal year, with a 3% drop in consolidated operating income, a 0.4% drop in sales during holiday shopping months and a 1.7% fall in foot traffic during the period.

It is even more challenging for Walmart as the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) indicated the lowest score for the giant as both department and discount retailer in 2013. Meanwhile, dollar stores scored very high in the ACSI survey.

“There’s room for manoeuvre as Walmart can utilise its vast business network and supply chain power to further segment its customer base and cater to their needs more efficiently. With the recent opening of hybrid and smaller store format, Walmart may be able to win customers on their fill-in shopping trips,” said Sood, who also wrote the “5-Star Business Network” book.

The key thing to remember is that the three retail supply chains – for traditional box retail format, for online retail and for discount stores – are widely different.

Online retailers can operate like 5-STAR networks working to secure customer orders on one hand, and the cheapest source of supply on the other hand. Matching supply to demand in the most profitable manner can allow to optimise profitability on every transaction if they know how to handle big data.

Traditional box retailers have a very traditional planning and control based supply chain based on forecasting demand and trying to optimise fulfilment most cost effectively. With eroding pricing power, traditional supply chain model is under intense cost pressure leaving the door open for online retailers as well as the discount retailers.

Discount retailers have an interesting supply chain model. Opportunistic purchases, shifting product mixes, end-of-the-line clearances and one-offs dominate the supply chain model. Lower prices attract customers and impulse purchases enhance the margins. That is driving the growth of this sector. However, this supply chain model depends on the weaknesses of the traditional retailers and cannot replace them, and therein lies its biggest weakness.

So, what can we expect?

Expect the traditional big-box retail to survive – though in a pared down, more expensive version of the current format.

Discount retail will remain a high growth, yet shifting format.

And online should continue to grow briskly as per the trend. It will be interesting to see what actually happens. This is not a clash of businesses – it is a clash of business models.

 

 

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