Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Same Problems, Different Fields

This week's article on the flexibility and uncertainty of supply chains reminded me of an article I read recently on a completely different topic. It turns out that you can substitute lines in an article about supply chain management into one on foreign policy and see the exact same concepts apply.

The volatility from the implications of a global downturn "wreaks havoc on traditional supply chain planning."[1] One executive bemoaned that "every month, we produce a rolling three-year plan but right now I can't see even three weeks ahead." [2] And how are intelligence experts doing lately with foreign policy? "Academic research suggests that predicting events five years into the future is so difficult that most experts perform only marginally better than dart-throwing chimps." [3]

Meanwhile, supply chain managers have recognized a need to adapt and make quicker decisions. They actually use the language of foreign policy: "Companies that adhere rigidly to unrealistic plans may find themselves sitting on piles of inventory or fighting price wars...some companies are establishing supply chain "war rooms" to make fast decisions." [4]

Much of the supply chain article highlights the need for flexibility, quick thinkers, and steadfastness in the wake of volatility. I think the similarities in both the descriptions and language used for the issues facing supply chain managers and foreign policy analysts underscore the inter-connectivity, uncertainty, and rapid changes that mark the era of globalization. They say that the flag follows the dollar, but in this case both are simply reflective of the changing nature of global systems. [5]

[1] Glatzel, Christoph, Stefan Helmcke, and Joshua Wine. "Building a flexible supply chain for uncertain times." The McKinsey Quarterly, March 2009.
[2] Glatzel.
[3] Horowitz, Michael and Philip Tetlock. "Trending Upward." Foreign Policy. September 6, 2012. <http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/06/trending_upward>
[5] "Smedley Butler on Interventionism." Accessed September 10, 2012. <http://www.fas.org/man/smedley.htm>

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