Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Beware FOMO and New Supply Chain Technology

 In November of 2019 I wrote an article entitled "What Do FOMO and LinkedIn Have To Do With Supply Chain". FOMO is short for "Fear of Missing Out" and the general thesis of my article was if you become consumed with chasing every rabbit down every rabbit hole for "fear of missing out" then you will likely not get much done. 

The same can be true about LinkedIn. I wrote this in 2019 and I submit it has become 100x worse than when I wrote this article. 

And yes, we can somewhat blame the pandemic for this phenomenon in supply chain.  Ever since everyone has been home there has been an explosion of podcasts and home grown "T.V." shows discussing supply chains.  Some of them are hosted by people who have worked for a very short time, if at all, as a practitioner of supply chains.  

The "free money" aspect of the pandemic has also driven an explosion in supply chain / logistics technology. Again, some have driven huge value but by far the vast majority have not.  They have just been the recipients of a lot of money sloshing around in the economy looking for a place to land.  

Practitioners have some culpability in this as well.  Many have scrambled to do something - anything to show their leadership they are trying everything to overcome the effects of disruption.  So, what do they do?  They layer technology on top of technology and it still does not get them very far.  This is FOMO.  This is "I am going to try anything and everything because I am afraid I am going to miss out on the latest greatest thing".  Here are my simple few suggestions for the practitioner to avoid this trap:

  1. Do the detailed work BEFORE you talk to a technology company:  This means you have to process map out how your business operates.  You need to identify the key metrics you are using and you have to identify what success looks like.  Use the Amazon methodology which is just what Covey taught us when he said, "Begin With The End in Mind".  Write the press release you will release 4 years from now.  What will you have accomplished. 

  2. Operate Manually First if at All Possible:  This will allow you to be incredibly flexible as you "test and learn" all different ways of getting things accomplished. 

  3. Follow the Tom Brady rule of focusing and ignoring all the noise. (See my posting on this: What Separates "Vital Few Metrics" from "Nice to Know" Metrics - And What Can We Learn from Tom Brady...). 

  4. Write the spec! This is not necessarily hard work but some may find it tedious.  This is the work where you get as specific as possible on what you really need and what will really add value to your organization.  The more detailed this is written the more likely it is you will not get enamored by "shiny spinning plates" but rather will identify and get what you really need.  

  5. Then and only then do you start inviting in technology providers and identify which is best to fill the gaps you identified by going through the 4 step process above. 
I am not saying not to "shop around and learn" but look at those interactions as learning - nothing more and nothing less.  Realize that as soon as you step into the bazaar that is a trade show, full of technology shiny toys, you are at high risk of FOMO kicking in and you being distracted by things that you do not need.  Much like going into a high tech electronics store and walking out with $1,000 of technology that you now "absolutely have to have" but 1 day ago you had no idea you "needed", you run the risk of doing the same for your company.  Except in this case, it could cost millions.

When you feel you are starting to get caught up in the FOMO mania, I suggest activating the "breathe app" on your Apple Watch and, just breathe. 

To that end, tonight, let's just meditate:

Great Update from Craig Fuller on Supply Chain in 2022

 I am sure many in this community follow Craig Fuller from Freightwaves.  I thought this was a very good interview on Bloomberg so I thought I would post it here. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

What Separates "Vital Few Metrics" from "Nice to Know" Metrics - And What Can We Learn from Tom Brady...

 I was reading an article about Tom Brady today in the Washington Post and it led me to think about metrics in supply chain.  How could that possibly be, you ask?  What does how a quarterback preforms in football have to do with supply chain?

First, in case there are those who do not know who Tom Brady is I would just ask you to google him.  Whether you like him or not as a fan you have to respect all that he has accomplished.  We literally likely will not see another like him in our lifetime, or maybe ever, as it relates to football and longevity.  9 super bowl appearances,  7 titles and 13 AFC Championship games.  When everyone thought he was done, he went off to Tampa Bay where he promptly won another super bowl.  ( I will not list them all here but if you want to know all the records he holds, I found this website).

The article in the Washington Post was titled: Tom Brady is telling his own story and doing it at his own pace(May require firewall).  The general theme was the success of Tom Brady (Besides raw talent - which a lot of NFL QBs have had and have been far less successful) can be boiled down to just a few items:

  • His ability to focus on the mission in front of him. 
  • His ability to ignore all the noise around him in terms of success (fan noise, social media noise, trappings of fame noise).
  • His discipline in controlling his time.  Everyone wants a piece of his time but he rarely provides it.  He does not have to be everywhere. 
He trains in February to win the Superbowl a year later.  That is what we would call medium to long term thinking and that is what metrics allow us to do in supply chain.  If we focus on a few, remove all the noise by ignoring the "nice to know", eliminate our natural FOMO (Fear of missing out) instincts, identify the critical outcome (spoken in the terms of a customer) and then relentlessly monitor and improve, we can be like Tom Brady and win a lot of supply chain super bowls. 

I believe people get in trouble in three areas when they devise metrics:
  • They are inwardly focused and not from the view of a customer
  • The critical few are not separated out from the "nice to know"
  • They do not have one or two (no more) clear outcome metrics.  Using our football analogy, think of the outcome metric as the score of the game.  All the individual stats that are produced (proudly by AWS) during the game are just input or driving metrics.  They only matter if they indicate and predict what the outcome of the game will be. 
Finally, we learn from Tom Brady (and Bill Belichick, the coach of New England) that it is all about improving.  You win the superbowl by winning one game at a time and not dwelling on the negatives.  My favorite press conference was after New England got destroyed by Kansas City one year and at the post game presser all Belichick said was, "We are on to Cincinnati".  Meaning, the game with KC is done, over, now it is about improving and winning the next game.  (Patriots ended up beating Cincinnati 43-17 and went on to win the Super Bowl)

Too often people are looking at "rear view mirror" metrics so much that while they are constantly reviewing the metrics they forget to look in the windshield to see what is coming next (Cincinnati).  Sometimes you have to just learn then move on.  A critical few metrics, where you isolate and ignore all the noise, will ensure you do this.   

In honor of Bill Belichick, below is the press conference I reference.  (You will have to go to YouTube to see these)

Have a great week!

As an added bonus, if you want to have a lot of laughs, here is a montage of all his press conferences which are epic: