About Dalip Raheja

Dalip Raheja is President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG). Dalip has over 30 years of experience managing large organizations and change initiatives. He has worked across the spectrums of supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and management consulting.

How Good Are Your Collaboration Competencies?

collaborationIn a recent discussion with a client who is the Global VP of Services, the question of Collaboration came up from a unique perspective.  In his industry, they often partner with competitors and suppliers to respond to and deliver solutions to their customers.  And while they feel pretty good about their negotiating competencies, he was very concerned about the lack of collaboration competencies,  especially where you are faced with multi-faceted relationship structures (competitors and suppliers).  And when he layered on the fact that they were projecting a very healthy growth trajectory over the next 3-5 years, I had to point out that their ability to respond to that kind of demand  was totally dependent on their ability to develop those collaboration competencies as quickly as possible.  Now before you think that this may not apply to you, I would ask you to think about all those critical supplier relationships you have that for whatever reason you will never be able to break and therefore the only way to enhance the value of those relationships is through Collaboration? Or the amount of Collaboration you need internally to be successful in your role?

As our discussion continued, these points became quite apparent to him.  For his organization to meet those growth targets (and their order book over the next 2-3 years already supports those growth targets), they were at risk because the critical competency that was needed was Collaboration and as we all know, developing a competency has a lead time associated with it,especially one that typically doesn’t get a lot of attention.  The Collaboration competency requires a totally different way of thinking and traditional competencies around negotiations can get in the way.  For our client, this critical competency  was sorely needed within his organization when  dealing with those external relationship structures.

Developing these competencies can actually be a competitive edge for every organization.  Let’s take the example where you have a supplier who has a near monopoly.  Your ability to mine more value through Collaboration with that supplier gives you an edge or  your ability to create a new supplier (as a credible threat) might require collaborating with some of their other customers in the same predicament. Where there are long standing supplier relationships that your stakeholders will never let you change, you can still generate significant value with those suppliers through Collaboration.  Your sales organization may be contemplating entering a new market and the only way you can provide them with a Supply Chain to support that new market is through Collaboration.  How about when you might have to Collaborate with competitors to create a new Supply Base because it’s a regulatory requirement.

In our experience in dealing with this issue with clients, we have often found that the attitudes held by senior leaders around collaboration are the most challenging.  And unfortunately, those attitudes are allowed to permeate through their organizations.  Your organization may be totally different :-) ?  Organizations are designed with competing goals which add to the complexity.  Our basic attitudes have long been developed (as early as school) in a competitive environment, not a collaborative one.  I still remember the biggest challenge my kids had when they went to college was with team assignments that had  no active intervention from the professor.

We think that this will soon be recognized as one of the Next Practice competencies that create an explicit competitive advantage for organizations.  And if your goal is to stay ahead of the curve and Best Practices that others are pursuing, then Collaboration should be your clarion call for 2015.  

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Closing The Skills Gap By Borrowing From Germany!!

apprentice

While there are a number of reasons, the biggest seems to be that not going to college is considered a failure while the same is not true in Germany.  Called the TVET, Germany has had an apprenticeship program in place that encourages students to apply for 2-3 year training contract that allows the public and private sector to partner and provide both additional education and practical on the job training – Germany has the lowest unemployment rate amongst the young.

On the other hand, you have companies that are severely constrained in their growth in the US because they cannot find people.  Here is one frustrated CEO:I wish that we could go to the school system and be able to hire machinists, tool and die makers…these 12 people that we’re trying to hire are keeping us from growing”.  At the same time, “Most companies (American) don’t see technical and vocational training as one of its key responsibilities” according to Andreas Koening.

South Carolina has taken a totally different approach and launched a very aggressive apprenticeship program (thanks to the influence of a number of German companies there) and gone from 800 to 11,000 in a short time.  This has helped them close critical skills shortages in manufacturing.  In addition to the German influence, they also have public sector support in terms of tax credits. They have also gone beyond the traditional building trades and included nursing, pharmacy, IT etc., to expand the scope and interest.  Brandon started during high school and is now working and going to college-“I get paid for my hours at work…and I get paid when I’m in class”.  While not for everyone, this is clearly a path to middle class that has been missing for quite a few years.

Many other economies are starting to take notice and Germany is helping launch many localized versions of their TVET.  Manufacturing work is much more sophisticated today than it ever was and the skills gap will continue unless companies figure out more creative ways of acquiring those skills (build them) instead of posting want ads and waiting and waiting and waiting.  As Tom Perez (Labor Secretary) says, apprenticeships can be a sleeping giant for the US economy – if we can just convert the parents who keep thinking that a college degree is the only way for their kids.  And they can always get a degree and have their employer pay for it – while they work.  And we don’t need to restrict this approach only for manufacturing?                   

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Ebola, Halloween and Supply Chain Risks

chococalteWhile there is no comparison to the human suffering and tragedy, the Ebola crisis does have some lessons to be learned from a Supply Chain Risk Management perspective.  We discussed some of them as they relate to the “Ebola response” Supply Chain here and here but there is also the risk associated with Supply Chains that are supported in West Africa – a prime example being Cocoa.

 If you have not noticed, your favorite chocolate bar is already more expensive and cocoa contracts are at a three year high.  According to Jack Scoville, the spike is largely related to Ebola fears.  While cocoa is largely grown in the Ivory Coast and Ghana and the Ebola epidemic is in the neighboring countries of Liberia and Guinea, the fear is  that it will spread to the cocoa fields. Even just the perception that it might, had that perception taken hold, would have been enough to start driving farmers away from their crops.  The way that risk was mitigated was by closing the borders to human traffic.

 The resulting risk created though was that the entire migrant labor for cocoa harvesting comes from Liberia and Guinea.  The impact of this is totally un-predictable as the harvesting season is currently underway.  While the hope is that labor will be available from other sources, the potential impact of this will be significant on the cocoa crop and therefore chocolate prices.  Which is probably why the futures contracts on cocoa are baking that risk into their pricing.  And  by the way, the agronomists and economists, who would be visiting the cocoa fields to project this year’s crop, yield, quality etc. to price out cocoa futures cannot do so as they have not been willing to travel because of Ebola fears.  The level of uncertainty surrounding cocoa is probably unprecedented.

Now place yourself in the shoes of your peers who are in the Chocolate industry or just substitute cocoa with your critical commodities, and Ebola with any significant major disruption (another Ebola like event, terrorist event, natural disaster, etc.) for your suppliers or their suppliers.  Does your Supply Chain Risk Management process incorporate such events and know what to do when they occur?  Or, does it ignore the existence of such risks?  Have you checked with your key suppliers and asked them to share their risk process with you so you know how much “pass through” risk you have.  What if 75% of your key suppliers are dependent on a small region in China or India – is that too much portfolio risk for you to assume? And this risk is prevalent whether we are discussing products or services.  What if the risk (Ebola) was able to contaminate your supply chain and cross borders as an intrinsic part of your supply chain?

For living proof of this, all you have to do is to look at McDonald’s (and KFC, Burger King etc.) and the impact it has had on them – and they are a vaunted Supply Chain organization.  Tainted meat from a Chinese supplier has had a significant impact on their sales, market share, brand, earnings, stock price etc. and  they all are still a long way from recovering from.

Halloween is coming and while no one is predicting any impact on demand because of any connections between Ebola and chocolate, high prices will definitely mean a lot less chocolate for the kids in their bags.  And that also means a lot less chocolate for me to steal from those bags the next morning.

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When Supply Chains Kill Thousands That Could Become Millions!! Part 2

ebola2We had recently written about the Ebola catastrophe and how it was poised to jump borders and go from an epidemic to a pandemic.  While not yet a pandemic (thank your favorite god), it has not yet been brought under control and continues to spread.  Spain just had their 1st case and the US just had its 1st casualty in Dallas.  News reports now indicate that there may be another case in Dallas and a police officer who was a first responder in Dallas may also have contracted it.  Spain (and Europe) are extremely concerned and now the concern has spread to dogs.  The pet dog of the nurse that contracted it was euthanized out of fear that it might have the virus and may spread it – without any actual proof that the dog had the virus or was capable of spreading it.

 Here is what we wrote a few weeks ago, “After scaling manufacturing, ensuring distribution is still a major challenge.  Transportation can only happen if the pilots/crews are willing to go to these areas.  That means they need to feel confident they will have access to the drugs, if they are infected.  That’s a totally different flavor of Supply Chain Risk Management than we are used to?  That logic extends to the distribution channel that actually delivers the drug to the patients (doctors and nurses) and there is a huge shortage of that currently in the infected areas and the supply continues to dwindle as medical professionals are leaving in droves for fear of infection.  That risk has to be mitigated for that channel immediately.” And this continues to be a major risk that has not yet been mitigated.  As mentioned above, the police officer in Dallas and the nurse in Spain are all part of the “Supply Chain” that is responding to the crisis and unless we are able to manage that risk – we cannot respond! 

Evidence of this can be found in the response by the U.S. Thousands of troops are being sent over to construct 17 field hospitals to provide immediate care in the infected countries.  But these hospitals are exclusively for the responders– because it is clearly recognized that this is the major Supply Chain risk facing the crisis.  Unless we can create a supply chain that can deliver what is needed, where it’s needed – we have no chance of containing this.  There are tons and tons of badly needed supplies and medicines that are wasting away in the ports of the infected countries because there is no “supply chain” that can deliver them to where they are actually needed and consumed.  The crisis will continue to worsen untill this risk is fixed – the people who dispose of those that died from the disease have recently gone on strike.  The impact of this could be catastrophic as disposing of the dead is the biggest threat.

While all this is going on, the U.S. has announced strict monitoring at the airports in the infected areas AND has recently announced similar measures at the U.S. based airports.  Every expert opines that these measures have very minimal impact, if any, on managing the actual risk.  If these measures had been in place, they would not have flagged the infected individual in Dallas.  Similar measures put in place for SARS had absolutely no impact in controlling the spread of that infection.  Yet, governments feel compelled to take these measures to satisfy the demands of the general public to do something – anything to control the problem.  All these measures do is to make people feel better.  If you have gone through the security process at any airport and felt safer – you will understand the dynamics at play here.  Every expert will tell you that these security measures at airports have minimal impact on actual safety – they are put in place to make the public feel better.

Supply Chains  have an integral part to play when disasters strike and the risk management around these supply chains are totally different.  We invite comments on this very critical issue facing us globally and what we can do as a professional community.

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9 Tips for email from Eric Schmidt

emailI must admit that while emails are obviously phenomenally efficient and fast as a mode of communication, there are days when I dread opening up my email in the morning, only to  be faced with an avalanche of useless junk – I’m sure you’ve had days like that too?  I’ve seen these types of hints before but when  I saw the name behind this one, I was intrigued.  So here they are.  I would love to hear back from you to see if any of these make any sense.

 1.       Respond quickly: That’s obvious and his logic makes sense – especially from a stakeholder management perspective.  However, there are times when I need to let things percolate in my mind so I may deliberately want to slow down my response to send a subtle message.

  2.       Be crisp:  Yup – could not agree more and one that I struggle with.  He quotes Elmore Leonard, “I leave out the parts that people skip”.

  3.       Clean out your inbox: I  find this very ironic given the author of Google is probably responsible for half the email I get and regardless of how many filters I set up – I still get tons of email that I have no interest in. So Eric, you could do your part to help out here???

 4.       LIFO: Another obvious one but I have found relevant emails when I’ve gone through older emails in my humongous inbox looking for something else – I bet you have too?

 5.       Be a “Router”: This basically refers to forwarding information to others who will find it relevant.  The issue here is that you are defining what is relevant for someone else.  I know that being the recipient of many such forwards that a lot of them I really had no interest in but someone assumed that I did.

 6.       Don’t use bcc:  Hmmmmmm, Not sure I understand why or agree with it.  Do you?

  7.       Don’t YELL:  I’ll agree except when you are really frustrated with customer service reps who have screwed up your cigar order for the 5th time – then it’s time to YELL!!  Or when you are trying to get your kid’s attention.

 8.       Make it easy to follow up on requests – And when they don’t for the 5th time, then is it okay to YELL?

  9.       Help yourself to search:  I found this to be the most intriguing because a lot of time is wasted by all of us in searching for that one email that we know we got but cannot find right now and need it right away.  The Search function is the least utilized and one that could save a ton of time if we learned  how to do it better.  Using descriptive words and then knowing how to use them in your search is fairly obvious but one that we often ignore.

 What is you experience with email?  Any long term frustrations?  Helpful hints for the rest of us?  Would love to get an email back from you.  :-)

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