Virtual Supply Chains – fast, connected, collaborative

UofW Interview clipA year ago, I was interviewed by Professor Peter Carr from the University of Waterloo, on the subject of  social media and its impact on Supply Chains. Prof. Carr was kind enough to ask me wonderful questions and to give me the time and space to speak on some of my favorite subjects. Given the interest that my recent articles about working in NOW mode seem to be generating, I thought it timely and pertinent to resurface this video for those of you who are at least intrigued by new ways of looking at the workplace, operations management and supply chain management.

The interview is 43 min long and covers many subjects so in order to make the video more useful for many, I am summarizing its contents below and giving you the time markers in the timeline of the video for each of the subjects. Depending on what you are interested in, you can fast forward the movie to the time marker of your subject of interest.

  1. Introduction and background [0:00] – keep in mind the interview took place in March 2012 at a time when I was V.P. Supply Chain at an organization I no longer work for.
  2. Major trends in Supply Chain Management today [5:17]: A) how the challenge of variable demand will lead to the collapse of long supply chain cycles. B) A new, holistic view of supply chain management (end to end). Integrating supply chains by connecting people to people through social media.
  3. Structured Processes and ERP’s versus Social Media [11:45]: how ERP’s and processes are good only for predictable things. What do you do with the things that are not supposed to happen? The role of improvisation by people and the notion of Spontaneous Association (as introduced by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams in the book Wikinomics).
  4. Command and Control Structures are outdated [14:30]: 20th century organizations worked well when things were stable. Today, change is constant and these structures will fail. A new paradigm of networks of individuals reacting spontaneously to events.
  5. Why should organizations be process-driven [18:45]: the role of business processes in a new enterprise paradigm of rapid reaction to the unforeseen. The notion of Practice as a basis of consistent improvisation.
  6. Role of social media making a people-network-paradigm work [23:15]: virtual spaces as the environment for rapid improvisation of solutions to situations by people of multiple skills. How meetings in conference rooms couldn’t accomplish this.
  7. How will the supply chain operate as a result of social media [26:25]: the reality of a very long supply chain incapable of reacting quickly to market surprises. How monthly cycles in business cause useless delays in the demand flow up the supply chain. Networking people across enterprises. Pharmacists, distributors, manufacturers and suppliers ‘seeing’ a requirement in the market at the same time and reacting at the same time.
  8. Jobs in the supply chain as these changes occur [30:20]: The collision between the Y generation and older baby boomers – people who grew up with social media versus people who learned business in the 1980’s. The younger workforce with different habits will overpower the business world and change the workplace to function in multi-tasking and in NOW mode. “Younger people will come in, destroy the hierarchical structure and create a networked world. This is brewing right now.”
  9. The challenge of migrating into NOW mode [34:30]: the difficulty of introducing social media in enterprises structured in functional groups. How functional structures are anti-social networking. People working in monochrome worlds. How to create a ‘rainbow revolution’ in the enterprise.
  10. Advise to young people entering the workforce in the next few years [39:30]: “you’re young, don’t get discouraged, it’s a matter of time that organizations will change. If it looks like things are changing, stick around and push the process… If they’re not, run like hell… Don’t stay in an organization that looks and smells like a dinosaur. The world of tomorrow is coming. Just make sure you’re in it when it does.”

I hope the video will be useful at least for some of you.


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