CLM: The Rules are Changing

The rules are changing? I wish somebody would tell that to the longshoreman’s union. I was recently in the center of the dock lockout imbroglio in San Francisco, having made the trip to attend the Council of Logistics Management’s 2002 conference. Business as usual for dockworkers apparently means a 70+ percent increase over three years, non-negotiable. Oh, and new technology? Forget it.

At the CLM conference, however, reason and enthusiasm for change prevailed. From opening to closing sessions, speakers offered suggestions on how logisticians can respond to the changing business environment.

Just as its members have to get off the beaten track and forge new business models, CLM is also rethinking its approach. Mary-Lou Quinto, conference committee chair, reports that member feedback indicated that the conference’s “proven track had become worn.” As a result, CLM revamped this year’s conference, reorganizing workshop sessions and adding executive development sessions and a new logistics/supply chain software education track. I think they’re getting it right—this was one of the better conferences I’ve attended in recent years.

“We’re reinventing CLM to meet the demands of the 21st century,” notes incoming CLM president Thomas W. Speh. CLM is moving swiftly to enhance member value, developing a broader market basket of services targeted to members’ needs. For example, the association’s research efforts are being reexamined, with CLM adding “how-to” information and case studies to its portfolio. In the works is a study that looks at connective technology and its impact on logistics. The association is also moving into e-learning, with selected conference sessions available in CD sets. In addition, the Council is enhancing its web site, and will add an online employment clearinghouse later this year.

While the rules are changing for logisticians and the association that serves them, some things haven’t changed—for example, the boardroom’s and Wall Street’s lack of awareness of logistics and supply chain management’s contribution. A whopping 85 percent of respondents to a member survey asked CLM to help them demonstrate the value of logistics. CLM is funding such research, which is scheduled to get underway in a few months. It’s part of CLM’s mission to advance the logistics profession and become “the major source of logistics knowledge,” according to CLM Executive Vice President Maria A. McIntyre. “We want to be seen as the portal for logistics and supply chain knowledge,” she says.

Yes, CLM—and logisticians everywhere—are operating in an era of uncertainty. But, if we heed the advice of CLM closing speaker DeWitt Jones, filmmaker and National Geographic photographer, we will “embrace change—to learn to transform a problem into an opportunity.” By thinking of the change curve as a possibility curve, and learning “to use the power of an accelerating possibility curve to take us where we want to go,” as Jones suggests, logisticians can help make the new rules of the future.