Accelerating Change -- Priority for Logistics Leaders

Accelerating Change— Priority for Logistics Leaders!

Your corporation needs the input of you and other leadersin prioritizing current initiatives, developing a collective vision andsoliciting ideas for accelerating progress.

by Roger W. Kallock, chairman of Chagrin ConsultingAssociates

After three years as deputy undersecretary of defense forLogistics and Materiel Readiness, my reflections on the slow process ofimplementing change in government are similar to those you are likely to haveas you read articles on the Postal Service and Marines logistics elsewhere inthis issue. However, I came to appreciate the unusual challenges of governmentlogisticians. For example, an early observation of Secretary of DefenseRumsfeld was that military leaders rarely spent more than two years on anassignment.

As officers move on to the next challenge, the vision of theproposed logistics improvement and the passion for making change happen go withthem. Unlike leading active military units, it is unrealistic to expect thattheir successors can duplicate the knowledge critical to lead improvement inlogistics processes. Another example involves the 535 congressional members onthe Board of Directors. The realities of their re-election goals and theirdependence on knowledgeable, active staff members expand needed support formajor change. Yes, priorities and urgency need to recognize situationalrealities.

After a 40-year supply-chain-related career, my recommitmentis to help others accelerate supply chain integration. Integration madepossible with today’s technology is needed for both tomorrow’scorporate and national success. Remember, because yesterday’saccomplishments are no guarantee of tomorrow’s success, continuedprosperity (whether business or defense) will not always involve responding tochallenges on foreign soil. Our integrated logistics processes must be ready.

What’s happening around you?

How do your daily activities affect your organization andadd to your skills? In many cases, the past year has seen organizations takinga hard look at expenditures. Downsizing, slashed budgets, program terminations,etc., are common. Over the last several years, the uncertainty of the Y2Koutcome, promise of major ERP-related successes, technological developmentswith the Internet, and the dot-com explosion have trapped many logisticsleaders into committing to unrealistic expectations. Now even leading softwaresuppliers are advertising “Start today and have global CRM in 90days.” Highly unlikely from my experience!

At the Department of Defense (DoD), senior logisticsleadership produced a report entitled Logistics Transformation: Update, Focusand Accelerate (available on the Web atwww.acq.osd.mil/log/programs/programs.html). As reported, each service and agency has initiated hundredsof separate independent initiatives.

Similarly, where does your organization stand onunderstanding and prioritizing what is really happening in the variousoperating units, information systems department(s) or customer-related programs?Are improvement programs regularly taking longer, costing more and having lessimpact than projected?

Refining the integrated supply chain vision

Understand that we do not all have the same goals. Forexample, military leaders are effective at implementing presidential directionwhether it involves conflict, peacekeeping, humanitarian support or otherchallenges seen to be in the national interest by the elected administration.However, these same senior leaders do not claim to be either efficient inexecution or effective in improving business processes in less tangiblesituations. As one senior Army officer told me, “We are excellent atteaching the same lessons learned to a new group of officers after everyengagement.”

As in the private sector, a clear vision of an integratedsupply chain is critical for each team member to internalize if productivechange is to be even remotely efficient. In the military, the new office ofLogistics Plans and Policy, together with representatives from each agency andservice, is refining the DoD-wide program with the stated objective ofdelivering integrated logistics. The specific goal is “WarfighterConfidence” as defined by the Right Materiel, Right Place, Right Time andat the Right Cost — all the time. After several years of hard work togain acceptance of this objective, it is heartwarming to hear military leadersindicate real progress, while reducing both cost and assets. Formerly, budgetswere cut without attention to expected impact on customer service to ournation’s warfighters — an approach without vision, in my judgment.

Accelerating the rate of change

Both public and private sector supply chain improvementinitiatives have taken far too long to implement. In our military, almostwithout fail, knowledgeable leaders with a common vision supported by goodbusiness process improvement programs are not around when the “going getstough” during implementation. Thus, successors frequently redirectprograms to their personal objectives, extend timelines, and even terminateactivities after hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent. In manysituations, this is done with full awareness of a supporting contractor who haslittle incentive except to indicate that he is doing what the government agreedto some time earlier. In my mind, time is the enemy of successfulimplementation of the integrated supply chains possible today.

As you read this issue and evaluate priorities, I encourageyou to reflect on your situation and recommit to making customer-focused,financially viable change happen. Then, set aggressive goals, monitor progress,implement integrated logistics processes and reward those leaders who makechange happen! MHM

About the Author

Roger W. Kallock is chairman of Chagrin Consulting Associates,in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. He is an active member of senior advisory groups in theacademic, philanthropic and corporate worlds. An experienced logistics coachfor many industry leaders, he can be reached at [email protected] or phone440-343-5954.

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