Yes, it’s time again. In December 2004, we wrote our first (and infamous) piece on “Let’s Stop the Blah, Blah, Blah,” which suggested too many presentations at various conferences and other events said very little of real value. The jibe was aimed primarily at speakers from the consulting, solution vendors, authors, and sometime even the analyst community, who as we’ve noted before too often tend to be focused on sound bites and restating the obvious, rather than delivering any real insight.
“End user” presentations - those from true practioners - at least generally have some basis in a real life situation, and while not always delivering a lot of value, are much less likely to fall into true blah, blah, blah territory.
As always, I include myself in the category of those speakers who risk blah, blah, blah-ness, and recognize how hard it is, especially if you speak frequently on different topics, to keep totally clear of this terrain. I fully admit venturing there myself on occasion.
That said, I offer again here our presentation Audience Bill of Rights, which offers some reasonably guidelines for what you should expect and demand, and below our best of 2006 list.
A couple of presentation trends worth noting: First, as we suggested here a few weeks ago, the recitation of the same usual challenges in transportation (fuel, drivers, capacity, etc.) has fallen in my view into blah, blah blah land. I think we all now get it, even if not everyone has done much about it. (Note: still a few days to enter our Transportation Challenges Acronym contest – nice prize. Winner announced next week. As we should have stated originally, in the even of several entries with the same idea, we’ll draw a winner from that group.).
Second, there seem to be more and more (mostly very large) companies that have permission to present, but apparently only if they move through the slides so fast no one would have a chance to really grasp what the real points were. I know this may be looking a gift horse in the mouth to an extent, but geez, we should at least be able to read through the whole slide before it vanishes forever.
I attended many conferences again this year as both speaker and attendee, but find upon review that I focused more than ever this year on end user presentations, so my list of distinguished efforts is a little shy this year from the consulting/vendor/ academic/analyst group. That said, here we go. In rough chronological order, I really enjoyed (links where we wrote on the presentation material) these sessions:
Jim Gilmore (no relation) at the Spring Georgia Tech Supply Chain Executive forum, who introduce me to the concept of customer sacrifice, which is quite different than just thinking about customer satisfaction, and convinced us we were moving to an “experience” economy (think Starbucks), with implications for business and the supply chain.
Kareen Habib and a colleague from Deloitte Consulting Canada, at the Catalyst user conference, who did one of the best jobs I have seen providing insight into how to manage a large DC automation project, using an excellent case study of the new DC built in Montreal by shoe retailer Aldo. Really showed the discipline required to do it right, from someone who clearly understood every detail of the project.
Well-known technology author Geoffrey Moore, who was a key note speaker at the Manhattan Associates user conference. Summarizing his new book, Dealing with Darwin, Moore made a convincing argument about the inevitable progression of corporate and supply chain activities from being differentiated to more commodity oriented, and how those need to be outsourced. But he added an attractive approach to continually shifting personnel back into innovation initiatives. And it’s innovate or die.
Michael Aguilar, Sr. VP of Strategic Supply Chain Initiatives for Panasonic, who told a great story of how the consumer products company had transformed its supply chain by becoming much more demand-driven, and focused on sell through at retail, not just stuffing the channel. Especially interesting is that he came to supply chain from sales.
Dan Woychik of Ashley Shoes, who told a fantastic story at the HighJump user conference of how this mid-sized furniture retailer and manufacturer is managing to run a “long” supply chain on a very lean basis, doing things many much larger companies probably haven’t even thought of yet. More on this soon
Dave MacEachern at the fall G-Tech Supply Chain Exec Forum, who gave just an outstanding overview of where the market is right now for supply chain executive talent. Let’s just say you are in a good field right at the moment. Consider the total comp package of $2.4 million for a new Chief Supply Chain Officer one company is dangling. Unheard of a few years ago.
Michael Clark from Caterpillar (with the great title of “Velocity Manager”), who while not exactly delivering a presentation, had some fascinating things to say about the industrial giant’s evolution from a push mentality to building a pull-based supply chain, and what a challenge that really is, at a Demand Management roundtable sponsored by MIT university.
Steve Hagan, Kevin Thornberry, and Matt Greene on the Logistics Team at Toyota Motors USA, who in a panel style presentation at CSCMP 2006 showed how major logistics improvements can be made with comparatively few resources and modest technology support through focus, collaboration internally and with logistics partners, and a passion for really understanding the metrics and their drivers. Outstanding - presentation of the year runner-up.
Mike Brooks of Chevron, presenting at CSCMP 2006, on building a real-time supply chain dashboard. If you want to know how to do it, here is the guide book. It was among the most “real” presentations I have seen.
Dr. John Gattorna, also at CSCMP, who presented a very interesting perspective on supply chain collaboration and segmenting customers by supply chain service needs, which we’ve recently summarized in SCDigest.
If you get a chance to hear any of these presenters/ stories at some other venue, I recommend them highly.
Finally, my award for presentation of the year goes to Paul Mathews of The Limited Brands for his speech on aligning supply chain and the corporate boardroom at this year’s North American Material Handling Show. While Mathews has been delivering versions of this presentation for a couple of years, it keeps getting better, and is focused on a topic of large interest for supply chain execs. I admit to having used a few of the points he made in some of the things I have done since.
If I blah, blah, blahed anyone this year, my apologies. I’d welcome your thoughts on the state of supply chain presentations, and any you saw that were especially good this year.
What outstanding presentations did you see this year, and where? How could these presentations, by either practitioners or vendors/consultants, be improved at a general level? Did you see/like any of those on Dan’s list? What would you add to the Bill of Rights?