Have you ever had a big project that you want to do, but life keeps getting in the way? This Blog was one of those projects for me. If it wasn’t for my oldest daughter, Alexandra, and Joelle at Moxie Design Studios, it might not have happened. But here we are.
I’m excited to talk to you directly, without a corporate PR filter and unencumbered with some product or service to sell. Today I’m out of the corporate world and splitting my time between academia and industry. In this “Act II” of my career, I’m not trying to position myself for promotion or do things because “I have to.” I completed my Ph.D. later in life and rise early every morning to consume the latest business and supply chain information because “I get to.” If my work can help even a few of you, that’s a win.
Yes, technically, I’m still selling.
I think the University of Tennessee’s Supply Chain Program is the best in the country; that’s why I joined them. UT has a world-class faculty, and the University values the supply chain program and doesn’t bury it as a subset of operations, finance, or marketing. There are other top universities like Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Penn State, Arizona State, and Iowa State that can say the same. What separates UT is its heightened focus on applied research. To be sure, I value academic research, and UT turns out world-class Ph.D.’s, but I don’t have the patience or runway left to wait years to publish an article that, on average, will be cited less than five times. Much of the research I do comes from real-world challenges faced by business leaders who need answers today, and “today” is always the best time for positive change.
I’m also keeping one foot in the industry through my business, Thrive and Advance, LLC. I came up with the name during the 2019 NCAA Basketball Tournament, which is famously about “survive and advance.” The firm’s purpose is to help both established companies and startups better navigate the challenges, opportunities, and uncertainties that are holding them back. Luckily, my wife had the sense to realize that “survive” did not capture the spirit of the firm; it’s about “thriving.”
At the Intersection of Academia and Industry
Most of my work is at the intersection of my academic research on disruptive innovation and my lived experience in supply chain and innovating in a Fortune 50 company. Consequently, the impacts of eCommerce, automation, robotics, autonomy, additive manufacturing, sustainability, and emerging business models on supply chains have dominated both my research and consulting over the last year.
I also have a book coming out later this year called “Organizational Velocity.”
Organizational Velocity is not a how-to book; it’s a how-to-think book. It describes the continuous learning process of observation, acceptance (or not), and action (or not) that creates a virtuous circle of progress. The book addresses the friction inside corporate offices to address before Velocity can occur. It’s the difference between what theoretically should happen and what does happen. For leaders in the trenches, the situations addressed in Organizational Velocity will be as familiar as a Dilbert cartoon with a pragmatic path forward. It’s not a quick fix or for the faint of heart, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
My Consulting Focus
My consulting focus over the last year has been on the pandemic and eCommerce-driven disruption in the supply chain. Areas of expertise include:
- Small parcel industry and strategy
- Supply chain investments and M&A
- Disruptive industry trends
- Consumer expectations moving to same-day delivery
- On-demand delivery startups shaking up the status quo
- New fulfillment; on-demand, ship-from-store, and urban dark stores
- Sharing economy and digital marketplaces
- People, automation, and robotics
- Next-gen transportation: Connected, autonomous, and electric
- The new middle-mile battlefield on the ground and in the air
- Industry 4.0: Additive Manufacturing, Blockchain, and IoT
- Organizational Velocity – understanding and overcoming your barriers to growth in the digital economy
“It’s just business” is one of the most pervasive and damaging myths I’ve heard over and over during my career. Yes, sometimes actions are taken for the greater good (“good” being a very subjective term), but they always impact people. These people are not cogs in a wheel; they are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, friends and relatives. I’ve seen the cascading positive and negative impact on people from both good and bad decisions made by people in leadership. Consequently, if sharing what I’ve learned can help a few leaders make better decisions, it will have a cascading impact on their people. Again, that’s the win I’m looking for in Act II.
Blogging is one of several channels I’ll use to help individuals and companies reach their objectives. Other channels include:
- Teaching, Researching, and Writing – University of Tennessee Global Supply Chain Institute
- Monthly Newsletter – You can sign up here: alanamling.com/newsletter
- Company and Conference Speaking Engagements – See my website for a list of current speaking topics or let me know what I can customize for you.
- New Book: Organizational Velocity – We’ll make the book available on alanamling.com as soon as it’s released.
- Workshops (TBD) – We’re working on several workshops to help you become OV, a Forever Company built to pivot to opportunity.
Why the “Strategic Supply Chain?”
The pandemic crystalized one inescapable fact in business; supply chain management has moved from the back office to the front office. It’s not a cost center; it’s a strategic investment in the future of the company. Companies didn’t necessarily make the supply chain the strategic center of their company because they wanted to. They had to. For any product that a consumer can touch, the supply chain is now as much a part of the customer experience as any other characteristic of that product. In times of rapid change and uncertainty, it may be the most critical characteristic. It’s nice to have soft toilet paper, but if you can’t squeeze the Charmin, you’ll take anything.
I feel very fortunate that my research in disruptive innovation started when the logistics industry was still relatively stable. By the time I completed my Ph.D. and began teaching, researching, and consulting, industry disruption was in full swing. Companies are dealing with supply chain disruptions, capacity constraints, labor shortages, and rising costs. Simultaneously, the on-demand consumer is becoming ever more demanding. Technology is removing barriers in place for decades, and new operating and business models are forming; new competitors are entering the market continuously. Companies need help, and that’s what Thrive and Advance is all about.
Solving for Insufficient Wealth, Access, Skill, or Time
One of my dissertation committee members was the late, great Clayton Christensen. Words can’t express how much his words and actions have impacted my life. He had a way of making the complex simple. An example of this is how he described the customer value proposition. Help your customer solve for insufficient wealth, access, skill, or time. Whether I’m writing, teaching, researching, advising, or consulting, I always have that philosophy at the top of my mind.
I have a perspective formed from a 27-year career at UPS, the hundreds of management articles I’ve read as part of my doctoral studies, and the thousands of business and military leaders I’ve worked with and interviewed. Everyone takes a unique path through life. My course isn’t any more or less unique than any others, but it does give me a worldview different from yours or anyone else. In this Blog, I hope to provide a transparent perspective of my views on management and supply chain issues. Use what rings true to you; discard the rest. More specifically, I hope to bring a worldview you’re not getting anywhere else—a no-BS perspective on the latest trends and events impacting the supply chain with tangible go-forward options.
With Transparency Comes Risk, but You’re Worth It
This Blog is a collection of facts, opinions, and recommendations. If I overstep my bounds, offend anyone, or missspeel any words, the blame is on me and me alone. I’m not running these blogs through the University of Tennessee or a PR firm. I understand that I’ll be stepping on my toes from time to time. I hope when I do, you’re not offended but have a good laugh at my expense. I’m happy to pay for it.
Do you have topics you would like me to address in this Blog? If so, please contact me through the link on the home page. As I see specific topics begin to trend, I’ll tackle them in this Blog.
Let’s begin the adventure.
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