Calm in the midst of the storm

Bruce Dzinski is Senior Consultant at SD Retail. His retailing clients call on him to help them with workforce management, supply chain analysis, strategic modeling, operational process improvement among other related management consulting activities including outsourcing. His broad experience makes him someone whose counsel in difficult times is especially valuable.


GR: I seem to begin every one of these conversations lately with an acknowledgement of the dominating external condition that affects us all.

BD: The economy.

GR: Exactly. As you work with your clients what aspect of the challenging economic conditions is most prevalent in your discussions?

BD: Well, when everything seems to be in turmoil the most important management challenge is to stay calm and stay focused on what is important. I am working on supply chain management strategic issues for some of my clients that require attention in times of growth as well as times of contraction – the economic conditions are more an influence on what you do rather than whether you do it.

GR: So they influence tactics more than strategy.

BD: You must address both. You must take advantage of short-term opportunities to improve operations that mesh with a cogent long-term strategy. Long-term strategy depends on having a long term. If what we do in these current conditions isn’t done right, and done promptly, long-term issues may be a moot point.

GR: For instance . . .?

BD: For instance, if you have warehouses filled with SKU’s and they are not moving you need to quickly determine whether the effect of major price reductions is more likely to result in some financial relief or whether it will degrade your customers’ perception of the value of your products. You have to find that tipping point, make a decision, and implement it quickly.

GR: So having a mindset that enables you to shift gears rapidly based on contingencies is the key.

BD: That is always a benefit but it is especially valuable in times like we are experiencing right now. The ability to forecast accurately is very challenging right now. Balancing key tactical decisions with strategic vision is critical. The horizon between planning and implementation is very short.

GR: And the visibility of that horizon is more and more limited.

BD: Which means that important decisions have to be made with limited information. Nonetheless they have to be made.

GR: What does that imply for data management within the organization?

BD: It means that data management and data mining is critical and that systems and procedures have to be up to the task of providing management with mission-critical information accurately and fast.

GR: So it is not the issues themselves that have changed but the level of urgency surrounding them.

BD: For example, capacity is a perennial issue, but in times of growth the problem is increasing capacity to meet demand; in times of contraction or stasis the problem is flexing capacity quickly to avoid unnecessary costs. And capacity is simply one of the many links in the supply chain that require constant attention and decisive action.

GR: Thank you, Bruce. I am sure the times are keeping you especially busy.

BD: You’re welcome. And, yes, they are.

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