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Leadership in Transportation and Logistics

by Fred Moody

In this issue, our cover feature affords a quick look at the innovative practices of companies that have distinguished themselves by transforming their operations and demonstrated leadership in their field. One of the most critical points highlighted by this CLM focused cover feature, which is based on the presentations of three executives, was the value placed on innovation.
This often entails developing ideas and subjecting them to rigorous testing, trial and error. Nevertheless, IBM’s Thomas Watson, Sr., the inventor of the computer, is reported to have said: “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.”

Everyone hates failing, though. Finding flaws in conventional wisdom, testing assumptions and finding ways to mitigate obstacles to grow a business, clearly involves creating a corporate culture that cultivates informed and intelligent risk taking.

Based on my conversations with executives, this often entails eliminating bureaucratic barriers and eradicating destructive competitiveness inherent to many companies and organizations. Employees vying against one another for the brass ring can stop the seamless flow of information required for innovative solutions, and squelch integration in a company.

However, leadership that encourages people to take innovative risks does not mean a departure from high levels of quality control and measured and thoughtful business practices.

In most cases, the value of people was emphasized as critical to success by the CLM Toronto keynote speakers. These leaders take an interest in their managers’ and employees’ initiatives and help them to see work in a larger context of significance to their organization. They are able to engage their company’s intelligence and create new ways and means to provide service to their customers. This was evidenced by all of the CLM presentations, leadership involves articulating and sending clear messages to their organizations and other publics that show they want breakthrough processes and services developed through learning innovative thinking.

In the environment depicted by CLM’s speakers, innovation and leadership are clearly of unprecedented value in today’s global market. Since 9/11, governments are far more involved in trade and there is a lot more complexity. Some of it may be needless. But industry feedback to the government is helping.

There’s also long term concern about some logistics companies and their profitability. They require high levels of investment and the innovation and technology that they use changes at an astounding pace. It’s also noteworthy that companies spent on average 17 cents (U.S.) of every dollar on logistics in the United States. Today, an average of 8-9 cents of each dollar is dedicated to logistics expenditures but the expectation of perfect service has never been greater. Clearly, this array of challenges, encompassing everything from heightened insurance rates to trade barriers have culminated in making the call for innovation and leadership greater than ever before.