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Engaging Environments and People

By Karl M. Kapp, EdD, CFPIM, CIRM | January/February 2013 | 23 | 1

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APICS MagazineWe: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement
By Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse

Published in 2011
John Wiley & Sons
236 pages

Actively engaging all employees in a manufacturing organization is critical for success in today’s economic climate. However, achieving this ideal becomes impossible when employees are unhappy with their jobs. 

Authors Karsan and Kruse surveyed more than 10 million employees spanning 150 countries; and, unfortunately, their data underscore the disengagement of employees and highlight how disenfranchised many workers feel. Based on their research data, the authors studied how organizations can create links between the success of the organization and the success of individuals. Their book provides guidance on how to establish an engaged workforce. 

Karsan and Kruse define employee engagement as “the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplishing tasks important to the achievement of organizational goals.” Engagement is about having employees who make others feel good and who feel good themselves. 

In one chapter, the authors describe one negative factor on engagement called the spillover effect. This occurs when one area of an employee’s life seeps into other areas, such as when a bad day of work leads to the employee later yelling at his or her spouse. 

A bad or disengaging workplace can have negative consequences on health, marriage, child behavior, and overall quality of life. The authors state, “Working for a bad boss may be as harmful to your heart as smoking.” Their advice to managers is to think of all the effects they create, not just on workplace productivity, but on other areas of employees’ lives. There are many examples of these types of tips and strategies to help managers better engage their people. 

In concluding the book, the authors state that the downward trend in employee engagement and satisfaction must be reversed. However, this problem will not be solved by workers or managers alone—these groups must collaborate. Managers and executives always should be actively thinking of how employees can become involved with new processes and initiatives. If you are looking for ideas based on research to make your people happier and more enthusiastic about their jobs, consider this book. 

APICS MagazineTaking People with You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen
By David Novak

Published in 2012
Portfolio/Penguin 
237 pages

David Novak, author of Taking People with You, is chair and chief executive officer of Yum! Brands. Yum! is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and is the world’s largest restaurant company in terms of system units, claiming about 38,000 restaurants in more than 120 countries and territories. Yum! is ranked 213 on the Fortune 500 list, and its revenues totaled more than $12 billion in 2011. Many attribute the success of the brand directly to Novak’s work. In turn, he attributes his achievements to encouraging others to be their best and to “taking people with you” to the top.

The book is about the methods, ideas, and concepts for accomplishing the goal of taking people with you. Novak encourages others to learn about themselves, their abilities, and the needs and desires of others. While a wide variety of leadership topics are covered, there are several key elements in the book. One is the advice to become an avid, lifelong learner. Novak credits this trait for his own success and his company’s profitability. 

Another leadership idea is to “think big.” As Novak writes, if sales growth last year was 3.5 percent, don’t aim for 4 percent this year. Aim for 15 percent. Even if you miss the target, you will be better off than if you kept the smaller goal. 

As a tool for meeting big goals, Novak offers a road map, using the acronym DANCE as a mnemonic device. This represents the following five stages: 
  • Desire—know your outcome and know why you want it.
  • Action—take big steps to get to that outcome.
  • Notice—become aware of exactly what results you’re getting.
  • Change—make adjustments until you get what you want.
  • Extraordinary—as in “dance the extraordinary”—in other words, celebrate successes. 

At the end of each chapter, the author offers helpful tools to challenge readers to assess how they are doing on a key leadership aspect. The tools adapt ideas from the book into actionable steps for readers to better understand themselves and others. Sometimes, the tool is nothing more than a thought-provoking question, such as, “What is the single biggest thing that will grow your business or change your life?” Other tools are more sophisticated, such as one that helps plot readers’ lifelines, examining past events that have shaped their lives. Taking People with You will help guide your thinking about working with others, creating influence, and fostering great talent within your organization. 

APICS MagazineLogistics Clusters: Delivering Value and Driving Growth
By Yossi Sheffi

Published in 2012
MIT Press 
368 pages

A logistics cluster, as defined by Yossi Sheffi, is a “region with a very high concentration of logistics activities relative to the local population or economy.” One example is the city of Memphis, Tennessee. The city has only 1.3 million residents but handles more than 3.5 million tons of air freight per year. Memphis ranks near the top in the United States in terms of air freight, rail shipments, and inland barge freight, making it a significant logistics cluster.

Logistics clusters offer important economic opportunities in a tough climate. To help organizations and governments better understand logistics clusters, the author provides examples taken from such diverse clusters as the Silicon Valley and the Panama Canal. 

Sheffi offers a number of attributes that contribute to a successful logistics cluster. The first factor is favorable geography, which includes having large expanses of inexpensive land; a climate that rarely disrupts operations; and proximity to various types of transportation modes, such as ship-to-rail, rail-to-truck, and air-to-truck. The author also describes the need for support from an efficient government, as government is the main source of public infrastructure and key assets, including roads, canals, ports, and airports. 


Education, research, and innovation are three more items that contribute to a successful logistics cluster. Sheffi says centers for higher education and research are the engines of innovation for software applications, advanced logistics processes, and novel supply chain concepts. The new ideas then flow back into the local cluster through reports, consulting, student internships, graduating entrepreneurs, and the commercialization of university intellectual capital built around the industry of the cluster. 

Another key area for success is coordination and collaboration among local, regional, and national transportation authorities, as well as local urban planners, chambers of commerce, and real estate developers and zoning authorities. 

One final element of a successful logistics cluster is the presence of a variety of organizations providing value-added services. These services go beyond simply moving product from place to place—they also transform, modify, augment, tag, sequence, and repair goods. The required services of a logistics cluster serve to fuel growth in related market segments. 

In addition to explaining their characteristics, Logistics Clusters offers some fascinating insights. The book provides a basis for organization leaders to start thinking about the roles their companies play in their own regions and logistics clusters. This book is recommended for any business aiming to expand or solidify its place within the market. Not only should procurement and logistics professionals read it, but executives as well. 

Karl M. Kapp, EdD, CFPIM, CIRM, a professor at Bloomsburg University, is author of Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning and coauthor of Integrated Learning for ERP Success. He may be contacted at kkapp@bloomu.edu.


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