Supply Chain Expatriates, Risk or Opportunity?

In last decade, the economic boom in China and its future dominance in key industrial sectors has been a tireless news event and is still an exciting hot business topic. With the rapid business expansion in China, multinational logistics companies are desperately in need of local management personnel to staff new offices and routes.  However, multinational logistic enterprises are experiencing hard times to find qualified candidates recruit them and retain them in China.

The biggest reason that I choose Operations Management (supply Chain Management) as my concentration is that I perceive this as an exciting opportunity to work oversea as an expatriate in China.  I want to develop a broad base of business skills, knowledge of Supply Chain Processes through my MBA courses.  China is evolving and changing everyday; it’s great to be a part of that and witness the improvements that benefit the average Chinese person. I hope that in some way to contribute to the process.

According to the Journal of Logistic Management, the role of the expatriate has never been more important and challenging. The article states supply chain and logistics manager have interviewed Chinese based western expatriates and local professionals on many assignments spanning appointments in operations across the supply chain.  The interviews show that expatriates will be a willing and eager segment within the work force; Chinese people want to learn from best global practices, different management styles and achieve objectives. While expatriates looking for a new challenge will find lots of new learning opportunities and also have the opportunity to shape the future of a business potentially far in excess of their home country business.

Interestingly, expatriates who have completed the foreign assignment successfully are more likely to get promotion when they return.  If this is a win-win situation for both sides, why are more than 30% of expatriates failing to complete their assignment?  What are the major challenges as expatriates in China?

Based on a set of interviews with executives in global logistics companies, it suggests expatriates end their foreign assignments earlier because of the following reasons: cultural difference and languages barrier. These reasons have great impact on expatriates’ performances, motivations and satisfaction.  Most Western business expatriates in China work in unfamiliar surroundings, as they typically do not understand much of the language and the culture. More importantly, these expatriates lack cross-cultural training before they depart to China.

In term of cultural differences, Chinese emphasizes persistence, relationships ordered by status, personal adaptability, leisure time is not emphasized, frugality, and good or evil depends on circumstances.  While Americans emphasizes quick result, status not critical in a relationship, the importance of leisure time, spending, and belief in absolutes about good and evil.

Acknowledging these factors of Supply Chain Expatriates in China it is clear that they face both risk and opportunity prompting companies and individuals to prepare as best they can to improve the success rate of foreign assignments. What are your thoughts?




Shi, Yanhong and Robert B. HandField, Talent management issues for multinational logistics companies in China: observations from the field.International Journal of Logistics: Research & Applications; Jun2012, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p163-179, 17p

Goffnett, Sean P.; Cook, Robert L.; Williams, Zachary; Gibson, Brian J. Understanding satisfaction with supply chain management careers: an exploratory study. International Journal of Logistics Management. 2012, Vol. 23 Issue 1, p135-158. 24p. DOI: 10.1108/09574091211226966.

Portioil Staudach & Alberto Tantardini (2012), International Journal of Production Research; Jun2012, Vol. 50 Issue 12, p3257-3273, 17p, 2 Diagrams, 5 Charts, 5 Graphs


My Zynga! How does one fall so fast?

Words With Friends. FarmVille. Scramble With Friends. We’ve all heard or played these games, or we have watched our friends on Facebook or Twitter interact with these games. These games are created by Zynga, a company that is nearly six years old based in San Francisco, California. This past week Zynga’s CEO Mark Pincus announced an 18% job cut for employees throughout the gaming company.

Who or what could possibly be the cause of such an 18% job cut? Pincus, in his blog announcement, acknowledged the fact that Zynga has struggled with adapting and entering the mobile space like many other companies. Larger companies, such as Facebook, have also admittedly publicly to have struggled to get a firm grasp on the market that caters to smaller devices that have smaller screens where users expect a fast, seamless and intuitive experience – with less ads. Is this lack of leadership on Pincus’? Or could it be Zynga’s lack of innovation?

This move to lean the company is certainly one thing – focusing on the future. By decreasing the size of the company today, Zynga was able to fairly compensate the newly departed associates. By making this move now, Pincus believes that Zynga is saving money in the long run. He believes making the deep cuts now will allow Zynga to take the risks it was once able to take before it expanded.

There are many similarities in this recent move by Zynga, and the the past few recent years of Chicago based, Groupon. These small start-up online companies expand exponentially all too quickly which brings up the questions, is it lack of leadership? One difference between Zynga and Groupon is that Pincus acknowledging the issues, and addressing them head on from the get go where as it can be argued that Groupon’s first CEO (yet to be replaced), Andrew Mason, failed to take the initiative to help his company early on. Mason, after months of criticism, left by similar fashion – a blog letter written to employees riddled with his off-based humor.

Companies that scale too quickly can easily lose their focus and their identity. Pincus is taking a risk to help his company in the long run. It is a difficult decision to make, but could potentially be the right one to correct Zynga’s projection path. Do think Pincus is making the right move?

What’s leadership management?

When it comes to management strategies, we are firm on our beliefs and behavior towards the approach we take in managing a staff. We attend classes and read books on the appropriate methods of managing a team, but what if I told you that everything you know about management leadership has been wrong all along.

When you attend a leadership class, you discuss the tools and techniques you can use to alleviate the situations, but the real issue is never address. The major issue is people. When entering the work environment you are forced to work with many different personalities. With all the different personalities, you are bound to clash with someone. In perfect world, we would all agree and get along but unfortunately, this is not the case.  If the issues you have with people are never address, conflicts arise and create big problems. When attending leadership training this issue is often over looked by trainers.


In leadership classes, it is clearly defined that leaders have a fundamentally different task from the people they are overseeing. With the title of a leader, you are given an extra power that is linked directly back to fear from your staff.  This is the issue in leadership and corporate leadership.  If fear can be removed from the equation, staff will be more willing to communicate issues and ideas they have. Instead of looking at someone as a threat, you can be viewed as someone that was placed in the position you are in because you have put your time into the company and you are very knowledgeable. What if this was the message that employees received instead of the thought that the person who hired you has absolute power over you. It is no secret that real leaders use influence rather than the use of power to achieve goals, yet corporate America continues to run organizations as if this is unheard of. We have all these large corporate leaders attend these leadership training courses but the common worker is never invited. Why is that? Is it that magical secretes are exchanged and only the elite can understand them?

This style of management is not the way to go. We live in a world now that is so diverse that we can benefit from the exposure of different people, cultures, and ideas. Technology and global markets have given us the window of opportunity to take advantage of this and learn from each other. It is clear that the best people will not follow this style of management, they will not submit to the fear of the manager.  We need to start listening to all the issues and address them from the bottom and go from there. We need to consider everyone and see each other as equals and work together as a team with a common goal. We need to eliminate fear.

Enhancing Talent Management with Automization

Talent Management Systems


Sales may rise or fall, companies may grow or shrink, but it’s the people on the inside that determine whether a company succeeds or not.  With talent acquisition being such a hard and tedious task, it is getting harder and harder to find someone with the right skills to fill that position.  This will require companies to lean towards talent management software.  A talent management system must deal with the four pillars of human resources: recruitment, performance management, learning and development, and compensation management.  For a long time companies relied on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to handle payroll and time management.  With a talent management system, different modules can be built to serve each purpose required.  These modules help management, from bottom-level managers to high level execs understand what’s working and what’s not working for the company.

Additionally, talent management systems work through the cloud which will help cut out the IT department and save time on deployment.  You can literally purchase a talent management system and that same day have it up and running.  Having the system through the cloud also provides Over-the-Air (OTA) updates of the system and allows vendors to work easily together.  The up to date system prevents companies from using legacy systems for years on end.  Another advantage is that this cloud-based system works in real-time, allowing HR departments to run simulations on what-if situations and test the outcomes in real-time, this will help the HR department work hand in hand with the business to create strategy.

As I mentioned earlier about vendors being able to work easily together, more and more features are being added in real-time.  Video interviewing platforms, linking with social media, and resume management are just a few of the features integrated.  Along with these features, the layout of the system even looks like Facebook, making the system easy to use and easy to recognize for many.

With HR being one of the key factors of a successful company, talent acquisition needs to be streamlined to make workforce employment more efficient and relevant.  While  many companies have been working to change their talent management strategy, more than half have yet to even begin addressing this issue.  Companies like SAP on the other hand have realized the value of a true talent management system and have acquired companies such as SuccessFactors ($3.4 billion) and Oracle has recently acquired Taleo ($2 billion), and there are many other companies out there such as and that have their own system.

What are some other features that would be valuable?

How big of a role does talent acquisition play in a company in your opinion?


Source: “The New HR Management Model.” Fortune Magazine 19 Mar. 2012: S1-S5. Print.

“So-called Leaders” – Should They be Feared?

Leaders: The people in our office that we report to, sometimes look up to, but always try to please. Why are they in charge?

Someone believed that they had the ability to manage those underneath them, so they were anointed from above. Liz Ryan, expert on the new-millennium workplace and former Fortune 500 HR executive, explains, “Let’s not forget that what’s significant about the conferred-from-above leadership status is that it gives extra power to the person who’s been named leader. That power is inextricably linked to fear”

Is a person chosen for this position because they are influential  or because they successfully know how to instill fear in others? Fear should be eliminated from this equation, but is still prevalent in corporate management today. Workers are afraid that if they do not impress the person an charge, than they will be punished, or in the worst case, fired.  Those in leadership positions should be focusing on more important things: making sure they’re team is working productively together, and easing tension between members whenever it arises. Unfortunately, fear in this setting has a way of reducing productivity rather than promoting it. A leader should be put in this position because they are knowledgeable about the tasks assigned for the team. They are experienced and trusted.

In her article, Ryan describes the great number of leadership conferences and workshops she has attended. They are filled with ‘so-called leaders’ that are given quick tips about how to manage others, but few actually have these characteristics to be an effective supervisor. They are feared, but lack knowledge and influence. Often times these people are put in highly-regarded positions, but do very little in terms of work.

This bureaucratic style of leading is diminishing. Ryan explains, “The age of human workplace is here.” It is imperative that we escape this fear-based culture and focus on teamwork. While one person is in charge, anyone can lead when it comes to ideas and projects, and it is the leader’s job to facilitate this. If a person is not afraid of getting fired, they can freely express their ideas without their superior’s power constantly weighing down on them. A leader should be used as a knowledgeable resource and a coach that is willing to listen but is focused on the success of the group. Personal gain should take a back seat.

We will continue to report to our superiors, hopefully look up to them, and always try to please them out of respect, not fear.

This can all be rooted back to a few basic questions: Should fear be completely eliminated when it comes to leading, or does it have some positive effects as well? What makes a successful leader? How productive can someone be living in fear?


Are smartphones changing our youth?

Smartphone’s continue to innovate the way in which society functions. A growing trend in the US is creating Apps and games for museums across the nation. The growing trend hopes to capture the attention of children and teens to make their experience at museums more enjoyable, and more importantly more educational.

Many museums such as the Paul-Getty museum of Los Angeles, The Philadelphia Art Museum, The Metropolitan art museum in New York, The National History Museum to name a few. The museums are using technology in their favor; much of the American youth does not know what it is like to live without an iPhone, or iPad. Rather their generation has become dependent of technology, because of this technology can encourage learning. An example of such app is the Getty’s museum in Los Angles; the museum currently uses the app Switch. The App simulates an evil genie that replaces all the paintings in the museum with replicas that are not same as the original, making the child look for the differences between the two paintings. In addition, the National Science Museum offers a self-guided tour for children, which is narrated by different animals to increase interest. The Apps are wildly successful and many museums are rushing to create educational apps.

Museums are also using the sale of apps as growing source of revenue. Though the cost of the creation of the app is somewhat steep, I think in the long run it will pay off. The success of the Apps with the American youth I believe offers insight of what the future will entail. If the apps can enhance the experience for consumers as well as serve as a means of revenue for the owner it will change many aspects of our economy. It is important for industry leaders to adapt. This means that many faucets of our everyday life will have more technological interaction. It is a growing trend that management styles will have to reflect as well as technology quality management. It is vital that industry adapts, if museums can so can the retail and industry. Smartphones I believe have the ability to reinvent the way that society looks upon many goods and services.

Best Buy Boss: Bolster Business By Bettering Bungling Bureaucracy

Just as the title has way too many “B’s”, Best Buy believes it has too many upper-management positions in their organizational structure. With the company’s stock hitting a 10-year low recently, Best Buy believes leadership and organizational roles must be revamped to turn Best Buy back in the right direction.

Best Buy used to be known as the place to go (sometimes the only place) for any and all electronic needs. They had been leaders in the consumer electronics retail industry. Unfortunately, Best Buy has been relatively slow and complacent in terms of evolving and innovating their operations strategy. However, competitors have leap-frogged Best Buy from all angles. The last few years have seen internet retailers like Amazon and other large retail stores like Wal-Mart and Target capitalize on Best Buy falling asleep at the wheel.

Wal-Mart and Target have refined their operations efficiency enough to make them low-cost leaders. This is an essential part of why they can offer lower prices than many other outlets. They positioned themselves in consumer minds as the place to go to save money. Therefore, people figured if they save money at Wal-Mart for everyday items, the same must be for electronics. In addition, consumers also have the convenience factor of buying the electronics from Wal-Mart in that they could buy their groceries and other items there as well.

Amazon is also a big reason for Best Buy’s decline. While Best Buy and other retailers have an online store, Amazon’s specialization in online retailing has Best Buy “against the ropes”. Amazon beats Best Buy through lower prices, higher product variety, fast shipping, and in many states, tax-exempt purchases.

To stabilize the business, Best Buy’s new CEO, Hubert Joly, is condensing the management structure. They are cutting out high positions such as “President of U.S. Business” and “Chief Administrative Officer” organizing the company structure into three divisions. The heads of each division will answer to Joly directly. The reason behind the change is the hope that the company, can make a better connection to its functional-level employees (to be retrained as well) and customers. Best Buy has closed dozens of stores just this year and is reducing store sizes due to lack of in-store demand for certain products. With competitors doing the opposite, Best Buy’s relevancy  to consumers is fading.

It seems part of Best Buy’s sluggishness to be competitive had been a cumbersome organizational structure and the inevitable “bureaucratic red-tape” that hinders decision-making in an organization. In my opinion, this move by the newly appointed CEO is totally necessary for any long-term strategy to keep the company alive. However, I also feel it may be too little, too late for Best Buy to catch-up to its competitors. In the short-term however, I believe Best Buy will regain some traction due to the holiday shopping season and their new offer to customers of matching competitor prices on their items.

Will Best Buy eventually recover and be competitive in the market, or are their days numbered?

Harley Davidson vs. Glabailization

While most manufacturing corporations are following the global trend of outsourcing elements of the production process where cost are cheaper, Harley Davidson has accomplished cost reductions, improved productivity, and ultimately fulfilling a customer need without having to outsource. The reason why a company cannot produce motorcycles abroad is based on the target market of Harley’s. Most of their customers buy these handcrafted motorcycles because they are made in America, if they were to outsource, Harley could see a potential loss in production. This creates a unique situation for Harley on how to find a way to still stay competitive.

Instead of focusing on lower product cost, a Harley plant based in Kansas City decided to focus on labor management, and its unions. In this case, some things that boosted employee morale were factory teams and worker empowerment programs. This however was not Harley’s saving grace; it would take a innovated way of thinking about the production process, one that focuses on trusting the judgment and decision-making of the union work forces instead of simply controlling them. They’re employees are expected to do more than what the job descriptions sets out. Instead of just effecting manufacturing, employees must also take on task in actually running and maintaining the plant, while making their opinions valuable. As a result the unions can effect cost reduction as well as other things that normally plant managers would consider. Employee’s are not the only one’s with extended job descriptions, plant managers split task between each other and effect all parts of the business. This teamwork, has taken this specific plant from creating only one model, to about 4 in record time. According to the article, “Team building is not a benefit in it of itself and would not create great results. Instead, the key was setting up non-negotiable processes to define the context of decision making and to provide scorecards to keep track of performance”(Michael O’Neal). This suggest that giving employee’s the ability to effect management was not enough to make the business run better, it needed intensive structure to ensure that it worked. Thus, the planted created Natural Working Groups.

This meant that employees in a team could not spend more than 2 hours on one specific task and then had to rotate. This gave employee’s flexible schedules and the ability to cover each other’s shifts if an extraneous circumstance inhibited an employee from coming into work. The work forces were also giving the jobs a salaried plant manager would have taken on creating only one level of management between the floor and upper level management. An example that shows just how much impact the unions had on the plant was when an upper level manager wanted to install and $80,000 stainless steel floor for the plant, and asked the floors opinion on if it was necessary for the plant. The unions told them that it was not going to help productivity but simply make the plant look more appealing which ultimately would not affect productivity. With their input, management decided not to buy the floor and instead put it to something else that could benefit the company. Even when the plant was not performing, instead of laying off employees the took advantage of their rotational work groups and had employees train while others worked on production and then they would switch.

These changes and management innovations are a huge part in bringing Harley Davidson from near bankruptcy in the 80’s to a strong competitive force in the motorcycle industry today, while most of its competitors have reduced cost by outsourcing. They have decided to perfect internal operations to reduce cost at home. One of the most important things to understand about Harley’s structure is that it is under constant monitoring and structure to be successful. “Partnership requires care and maintenance”(O’Neal).




Do you think that is method can be successful in all industries?

Cash Strap? Need a Job this Holiday Season?

With the holiday season approaching fast, many major retailers are opening up more jobs in preparation for the high demand of the holidays. Experts estimated about 700,000 new, temporary jobs for this year, which is a slight increase from last year. As the economy is slowly moving out of the recession, many American families are paying back their debts, which give them the extra cash to spend this year. Hence, there is a great outlook for this holiday season for those of you who are looking for a little more income or just taking advantage of the employee discount that most of these retailers offer for their employees.

Looking at previous years numbers, most of these retailers are retaining their seasonal workers well over the holiday season. These temporary, seasonal jobs are turned into full-time positions, which for most workers are a good thing if they are looking for a permanent job. I have started seeing a lot of companies doing this nowadays. Rather than hiring full-time workers right from the start, companies would look into their pool of temporary workers first before hiring outside workers for any new positions. I’ve had a taste of this through the internships I have had done in the past. Most of the firms that I want to work for usually hire from their pools of interns and offer little to no position to those who have not worked an internship at their firm.

We’ve talked about forecasting in class, and this article ties in with this topic. With the increase in demand for goods and services this holiday season, major retailers are hiring more workers to meet this demand. Some even go as far as to open temporary stores, i.e. Toys “R” Us, in anticipation for the busy holiday rush. I think that this is a good boost for the economy as it may opens more, new jobs in the future for some people. Also, for companies, this is a smart move because they do not have to deal with making enough revenue to cover for the fix costs that come with permanent stores throughout the year. They can just rent a store for three to four months just in time for the holiday demand.

Questions to consider: Are you looking for a job? Would you be interested in becoming a seasonal worker? How are these companies handling their forecasts? What are the pro and cons of the increase in jobs during the holiday season?

Quality over Quantity

We have all been there or at least read about it.  Firms stating they are going to hire this many thousands of employees over the next few years.  Firms predicting an uptick in the market and hiring in advance to be able to meet demands with a mature workforce.  The fallout of the mass hiring is usually those employees sit stagnant for quite a few months until they are properly trained or certain workstreams sell.  Being in consulting I have seen this firsthand.  My firm staffed-up considerably in my area of focus with some of the new employees not place on engagements for up to eight months.  While they are participating in internal activities they are not billing hours to the client, thus are a negative investment for the firm.

Thus the concept of leadership’s involvement in recruiting, productivity, and retention.  Bringing in top talent, putting that talent to use, and keeping that talent in house for years to come should be the goals of management.  However, it seems like no matter how well run an organization is, these issues are all still prevalent.  Great leaders should focus on utlizing the current talent they have in house rather than hiring from the outside.  There are numerous pros to this line of thinking including the expense of bringing in new talent, the expense of losing current talent, and keeping employees engaged.

Do you have experience where staff was utilized rather than hiring additional employees?  Have you seen instances where employees where cross-trained over different disciplines in order to increase productivity?