Thursday, March 10, 2011

Real Generals Talk Logistics and Winning in the Great Restructuring

There is an old military saying, which speaks volumes:

Armchair generals talk strategy. Real generals talk logistics.

Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes magazine, recalls this saying in his outstanding column on Innovation Rules: Ten Tips: Restructuring Winners, in which he identifies what elements will help corporations in the great restructuring, which necessarily follows a great recession. Frankly, there is a lot of relevance in his excellent advice to other organizations, including universities. He identifies successful companies such as: FedEx, Southwest Airlines, Microsoft, Apple, Genentech, SAS, and Oracle, which were started during the "rotten decade of the 1970s," during which IBM also managed to flourish.

What struck me about his ten tips for winning in the great restructuring, was that half of them I would classify under the heading of analytics, from his emphasis on identifying where costs can be reduced in your operations, to speeding up your deliveries, to providing leadership in service, as well as in design. But my favorite, was his statement:


As for the remainder of his tips, they round out what are fundamental to the success of corporations and organizations, alike. He advises to seek out the best talent, and quotes Bill Gates as stating that a great programmer is worth ten thousand times the price of only a good programmer. What really resonated with me, as well, was his emphasis on the importance of both internal and external communications (with IBM being a model for the latter and the military for the former). Excellent communications is one of my "pet peeves," and I wonder how much we have lost in the realization of the full potential of organizations because some of those "in command" did not provide the necessary information and did not get the important news disseminated.

Karlgaard ends by noting that integrity is essential and that everyone should know your purpose (see, it's about communication, here, too). I'll skip one of his tips -- branding, and will leave that to my marketing colleagues.

And, as for logistics, one of my undergrad students, who took my Transportation & Logistics class last term stopped by my office yesterday to seek advice because he wants a job in this industry, since logistics is his passion. I am sure that he will succeed.

If you wish to learn more about logistics and supply chains, please come to our Northeast Regional INFORMS conference at UMass Amherst, May 6-7, 2011. Information on a relevant tutorial at this conference is below.

Transforming U.S. Army Supply Chains: Management Innovation in DoD for Improved Efficiency, Productivity, and Cost-Effective Global Operations

Greg H. Parlier, Colonel, U.S. Army (retired)
Former Deputy Commander for Transformation, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command
President, INFORMS Military Applications Society.