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Logistical Excellence: It's Not Business as Usual.

Logistical Excellence serves as an extension and further interpretation of the Leading Edge research done by the team at Michigan State University in the late 1990s. This well written effort gives both the practitioner and the academic insight into logistical excellence and change.

The analysis starts with a concise perspective of the logistics setting of the 1980s and some of the major forces in the environment. This serves as a foundation for highlighting eight different trends impacting American business today. These trends range from "The Focus on Customer Satisfaction" to "Strategy in the Competitive Environment: Implementation Has Strategic Value."

The authors effectively use "Charlie Change" as the backdrop for explaining the importance of logistical excellence in this decade. This technique is analogous to Al Rogo's challenges in Goldblatt and Cox's The Goal. Charlie is given the formidable task of appraising the firm's logistics capabilities and making recommendations for improvement. His journey teaches him the importance of logistics in today's dynamic environment, and how superior logistical expertise can be used as a competitive weapon in the marketplace. When Charlie begins to understand these issues, the next challenge he faces is trying to change the organization.

How does an organization change? The authors suggest a four-step change management model. These sequential steps are assessment (Chapter 4), internalization (Chapter 5), operationalization (Chapter 6), and outreach (Chapter 7). All steps are linked with a feedback loop.

Assessment, the first phase of the model, requires a thorough examination of the organization's current logistics practices and structure. Key questions focusing on the organization's direction, strategic objectives, and assessment of management's knowledge are outlined. Benchmarking with external organizations is suggested during this step.

From this assessment the firm can identify areas of improvement and begin the second step in the change process, internalization. Where there is change, there are barriers or resistance; these barriers must be identified and overcome.

The third step is operationalization of the implementation plan. This means moving from "concept to performance," and developing consensus with the entire organization.

The final step is outreach, which reaches beyond the firm's boundaries to include its suppliers and customers. These strategies may lead to the creation of strategic alliances, which are helpful in developing seamless supply chains.

While this prescriptive model is beneficial in helping the logistics professional create a strategy for developing logistics excellence, it falls short in operationalizing the process, especially in the last three steps of the model. This is not a fatal flaw, given the myriad of books and articles available on the topic of change and change management. The authors provide guidance on the road to change, rather than the specifics of change.

This effort does not take a "cookbook" approach. The authors spend only three pages (96-99) on "Overcoming a Lack of Customer Focus." Much of this discussion is on how important a customer focus is, why complainers should be listened to, and why everybody in the organization should be customer-focused. This issue touches on the topics of organizing and distributing information, organizational restructuring, challenging the "accepted" way of doing things, and clarity in strategy and mission.

Overall, the book is well written and flows in a logical sequence. The use of Charlie Change illustrates well many of the obstacles that managers will face in their own environment. The accompanying appendices and earlier Leading Edge research helps support the propositions put forth by the authors.

The book is directed toward managers facing the challenge of improving their logistical performance, and to that goal the book is successful. Additionally, the book can serve as a helpful reference for undergraduate students in upper-level courses. The propositions put forth in the final chapter are especially applicable for future logistics professionals.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society of Transportation and Logistics, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Manrodt, Karl B.
Publication:Transportation Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
Words:616
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