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President's Viewpoint

The High-Tech Challenge

by Victor S. Deyglio

The value proposition of the Logistics Institute is the credibility of the P.Log. Everything we do – whether it’s launching the Institute’s on-line Logistics Gateway or developing a new certification program – focuses on sustaining the value of the P.Log.

P.Log. is a key that opens the door to many possibilities. For some, it’s career advancement. For others, it’s career achievement. For most, it’s an opportunity to build strategic skills. For all, it’s a statement of personal competence shared with others and built on collective credibility.

With the P.Log., one is a part of a professional community. This is not an elite position, but a position of responsibility. As members of a profession, our first loyalty is to that profession. This is what distinguishes a job from a profession, an employee from a professional. A lawyer, for example, will identify herself first as a lawyer, and only secondarily as associated with the firm of XYZ.

Building a professional community is about building culture. Culture involves core values, shared stories, and a fundamental base-line experience. Through the certification program, we establish that base-line experience; through our professional practices, we develop shared stories; through our commitment to ethical practices, we deliver core value in the business community as professional logisticians.

Ultimately, culture is about people to people (P2P). As we close the first year of the 21st century, we are proud to name more than 900 logistics practitioners among those who earned the P.Log. But numbers do not constitute a community. On the contrary, quantity demands quality in order to realize the vision of credibility.

Our commitment to “high tech” is resolute. The Logistics Gateway is not just a new business line, supplementing our core business, although non-logistics communities are showing significant interest in the Gateway platform. Nor is it simply an administrative process; our aim is not simply operational efficiency, although once the dust settles, efficiency will become normative (be patient with us, please). And the Gateway is not just a technology-based communication system, even if that is its major strength.

The vision of The Logistics Gateway is to build and deliver logistics professionalism as a community experience, that is, to initiate, mediate, support and sustain culture. The challenge: how do we effectively build P2P culture through technology and at a distance? How do we continue to generate core values, shared stories and a common base-line experience as a profession focused on The Logistics Gateway?

Let’s look at the new web module Team Dynamics and Communications (see LQ feature story). The process of developing and delivering this module illustrates how we are trying to meet the P-2-P challenge.

Meeting at a Distance: With the emergence of strategic partnerships and global supply chains, driven by worldwide competition, inter-organizational demands dominate business development. Team dynamics involve more than just members from the same department or several departments within the same organization; they involve the different agendas of multiple constituencies, often culturally distinct and geographically dispersed.

Information and communications technologies have transformed team dynamics in business contexts. Work is conducted on a 24-hour, 7-day basis. The development team in one time zone hands work off to counterparts in another time zone and productivity becomes a continuous flow. Teams communicate synchronously and others communicate asynchronously.

Building at a Distance: How can you build a team culture when none of the participants can be in the same place at the same time? How do you interact as a team when you cannot communicate face-to-face?

A group of instructional development experts and academics responded with Team Dynamics and Communications, an interactive, technology-mediated training module in team skills, for delivery at a distance.

The primary learning objectives of Team Dynamics are: to understand how teams function, whatever the locale; to learn how to build a successful and high performance team; to assess personal strengths and weaknesses as a team player.

Given that delivery is at a distance, the learning experience mirrors the challenges of global teams – team members in different locations, working at different times, without face-to-face communication. Technology mediates team interaction to develop a common team experience, with the strengths of facilitated Web-based communication to build insight into that experience.

Learning Dynamics: Teams, by definition, entail interactivity, whatever the challenges of location, time, or synchronicity. Team Dynamics is an interactive module that presents team experiences in two phases over an eight-week period.

Phase 1: Sim-Team is a team simulation delivered in a virtual learning environment via a CD-Rom (three weeks)

Phase 2: Real Team is a facilitated team experience delivered in a web-environment via the Internet (five weeks).

In Phase 1, participants engage in an extended case that simulates experiences they expect to face as a member of a new team. They interact with virtual team members on a time-sensitive, critical mission. They make decisions, receive feedback, and have opportunities to reflect on experiences. Their decisions have consequences within the virtual world of the simulation; collectively, there is a risk of failure.

In Phase 2, participants join a real team to work on a series of synchronous and asynchronous activities through a Web site. All real team members will have completed the same base-line experience found on the CD Rom. When they first meet as the real team, they will complete the work begun by the virtual teams. Collectively, they then develop insights into team dynamics, and design a “team charter template” applicable to global teams driving strategic supply chains. Phase 2 is a facilitated process.

Team Culture: At all times, participant experiences are interactive, either with a virtual team, or a real team. They engage in group-based, decision-making processes, and those decisions have consequences. Mutual accountability is a core team value.

Throughout the experience, they will develop skills to build team process, communications and consensus, as well as skills to motivate team participation and enhance teamwork. They will hone insights into team behaviour, leadership and culture. And finally, they will design practical tools applicable to team experiences at work.

People-2-People: At no time will participants in Team Dynamics communicate face-to-face. They meet in technology-mediated environments, even though Phase 2 involves a facilitator. Yet, this module is quintessentially a cultural experience. Through it, participants build team values that encourage such behaviours as: listening constructively, responding to points of view expressed by others, giving others the benefit of the doubt, providing support to those who need it, recognizing the interests and achievements of others.

Team Dynamics meets the vision of The Logistics Gateway to build logistics professionalism as a community experience. It initiates, mediates, supports and sustains culture around core values, shared stories and a common base-line experience. And it is Web-based. This is but one element in the brave new world of The Logistics Gateway.

As we begin the festive season, all of us at the Logistics Institute – Karyn Ferguson, Jackie Denholm, Cherrel Brooks and Sung Kang – wish you and your families safe and happy holidays. We invite you to explore and use The Logistics Gateway; it’s your professional home base. We challenge you to a new cultural experience: the first delivery of Team Dynamics is scheduled for January 8 – what a way to begin the new year!

Peace and Prosperity.