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Supplying Thought: The Company You Keep

20 Feb 2017 12:16 PM | Christon Valdivieso

Authored By: Christon Valdivieso

Edited By: Afton Knight


A subway station in Chicago has two escalators. One only goes up, the other only goes down. Your company wants to build another single direction escalator. It has done the research and it comes down to your decision. Do you build one that goes up or one that goes down?


I came across this question recently and found the various answers I got to be quite interesting. Some initially took the easy way out and said, “I don’t know” while others, like myself, sought the most profitable solution for the company. Most of the supply chain people I discussed this with took a while before considering flow, bottlenecks, queue time, or even variability of demand. Each is a reasonable—and understandable—response, but the supply chain focus seemed to be secondary? Many of us are quick to relate to the bottom line, but not the process by which we achieve it.

It is said, “You can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep.” In the office, we work with various departments and colleagues to reach some bottom line objective. While leadership initiatives come and go, there is always the push to maximize the bottom line. There is nothing inherently wrong with this “bottom line” mindset, but it easily becomes “the company we keep.” If supply chain professionals are to grow and add value, they need to remain in the mindset of how the supply chain, and their process, impact the bottom line. The fact is while entry and secondary managers learn about and get certified in supply chain, they get immersed in a world of profitability.

The shift, then, needs to be towards an immersion into the mindset and language of our profession. Similar to a language immersion, a mindset immersion has two main benefits:


1)    Familiarity with real-world, practical applications of the language and concepts; and

2)    In-depth understanding of inhibitors and processes

Just like learning a new language, immersion adds benefits that a classroom cannot provide. It not only reinforces learned principles, it demonstrates aspects of the language that simply cannot be replicated in the classroom. For industry professionals this equates to participating in professional organizations, reading blogs, teaching concepts to others, attending conferences, etc. In these settings industry professionals are surrounded by the language and the concepts that create success without the pressure of leadership direction. Understanding the benefits of immersion I supply this thought: How does the company you keep describe you?

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