I have what I think is an interesting book collection—from bios of US Presidents and Founding Fathers to Titans of Industry, industry transformation stories on railroads and shipping (this month’s The Interview is one), and a sprinkling of contemporary titles. What is fairly consistent in the past is the history altering events in the life of business.
We are also living in an age of transformative cultures, from extreme makeovers to American idols. As I read Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, I am struck by how the metamorphosis or the second act might have a more profound impact on the world, as well as your personal sense of accomplishment than the first. So we provided some guides to your new role.
We are living in transformative times, and you are at the center of that. Forces confront the globe—for example:
- August 10, 2006, 24 terrorists arrested in London. US Congress called into question over commercial transportation security practices.
- July 12, 2006, A report published by Nature magazine stated that: based on confidential genetic sequence data, they published a chart showing that a total of 32 mutations were identified in viruses collected from six patients in the Indonesian family cluster case. Contrast that to previous reports from the World Health Organization, which gave the impression that only a few mutations had been found. The report further states that one mutation confers resistance to the antiviral drug Amantadine, a finding that also was not reported by the World Health Organization.
- July 24, 2006, Thailand is facing its first outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in birds in 8 months, along with flu-like illnesses in a number of people in areas with sick birds.
- July 26, 2006, The first new fatality confirmed that the victim died of H5N1. The confirmation came shortly after poultry farmers and a senator accused the agriculture ministry of covering up the re-emergence of the disease following “massive deaths of poultry in many provinces” starting early in July.
- The World Health Organization & the CDC are about 2–3 weeks behind reporting because of countries that try to cover up and also because of third world countries who do not have the resources to accurately track and treat out breaks, much less educate the locals on proper precautions.
New sequencing data recently released also shows new data on more respiratory transmission between birds. This is truly bad news, it makes a case for much easier airborne transmission for all mammals—remembering my high school biology, that means us. All these changes are occurring without the benefit of any lessening of virulence of H5N1, unlike a hurricane which weakens when it hits dry land.
- July 24, Commerce releases the latest trade numbers. This shows that we buy approximately 21% more (imports)—than we sell (exports)!
What struck me when I looked at this current data from May 2006 was that I had seen this before—well, something close to it. The department of commerce publishes the balance of trade numbers constantly. The charts pretty much look the same—except that the yellow section keeps getting bigger.
- And one more interesting new tip: Wal-Mart is joining the Green supply chain movement—committed to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and increases in the use of organic cottons, etc.
The point of all these is that for many years, these issues were not the concern of business—our job was to make products and then go to battle in the market place and sell them.
Our role now has increased to the corporate lawyer, risk assessor, diplomat, techie, environmentalist, and financial/performance wiz! Last year the Katrina disruption was not isolated to New Orleans residents. Internet traffic was disrupted, interrupting the transmission of business transactions on the web from firms around the US, as well as transportation. Small disasters can cause big consequences as we learned in Massachusetts last month—one loose screw—no joke—released a
12-ton section of ceiling panels
in Boston’s Ted Williams Tunnel, killing an innocent woman, causing the closing of this essential conduit, and creating long term traffic grid lock!
This month we have a rich tapestry of articles from our masters on the changing role of the Supply Chain Manager. These insights are not just for supply chain managers, but for anyone who depends on the effective flow of goods, information, cash and ‘open for business’ capability in this new dynamic world. Over 80% of US businesses source their material for overseas, so supply chain is not a topic for the transportation department, but a true corporate executive role with CEO focus!
I encourage you to contemplate these issues—our world is changing rapidly—and we need to have the attitude and skills to be part of a positive response.
This topic is so important that we are dedicating our annual conference to the development of the leadership skills for the 21st century. We will be on the ocean in Bermuda—a time to contemplate, whether you ride the waves or go to shore.
Speaking of Waves, enjoy your summer!