October 2003 | Commentary | Checking In

Passion Play

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Most readers I meet are reserved, practical, low-key, disciplined, taking a considered approach to the task of managing many variables as they strive to match their supply stream to their demand. That's why I was a little surprised to hear the following at this year's CLM Conference in Chicago.

"As logisticians, we're steadfast in our passion for the profession—unwavering in our relentless pursuit of satisfying customers' expectations at the lowest possible cost. Regardless of the situation around us, we continue to pursue excellence and deliver quality while maintaining the passion so necessary for us to be successful in our businesses."

So says this year's CLM Conference Chair Rick Blasden, senior vice president, ConAgra Foods. In fact, passion was the sub-theme for this year's CLM proceedings.

My Italian heritage focused in on a word you don't often hear in connection with logistics. Well, perhaps passion is evident when product is not where it is supposed to be, but logistics is usually approached in a pragmatic, disciplined, and scientific manner. Passion?

Sure, you can use Six Sigma techniques to break down, benchmark, measure, and improve every element in the logistics process, but as that old guy in the movie Jerry McGuire said, "If the heart is empty then the head doesn't matter."

"Regardless of the situation around us," says Blasden. What causes us to dig deep and draw together the resources to craft a new process to solve the insoluble? An unrealistic anger at being bested by a seemingly insurmountable problem? A remembered sense of pride recalling past triumphs over all supply chain odds?

Passion gives us the heat that drives us to do things that perhaps a rational situation analysis would determine impossible, or at least not worth the extra effort. Yet in times of rapid change, coupled with economic stress, sometimes that extra effort is needed to ensure an enterprise survives.

Let me share with you an observation made by W.J. Persch, recently retired president of crane and component manufacturer, Demag Cranes. After more than three decades in our industry, having experienced firsthand much of the volatility of the past 30 years, Persch catalogs characteristics that organizations need: Survivors "surround themselves with talent. They provide the training/tools/time to address complex tasks; they see change as an ally; they create a culture that is not risk-averse; they are flexible while holding to core business values; they are service oriented, curious, creative, and passionate about their work."

There's that word again.

As you struggle with trying to squeeze value out of your process and boost customer service, or as you are frustrated by a new process that can't seem to be nailed down, new regulations, or unrealistic customer expectations, draw on the passion you have for your profession. It will provide the heat needed to help you cook up solutions that may seem out of reach or unrealistic, but could make all the difference to your company and your career.

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