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SummerCon 2017 Recap: Think Like a Designer, Collaborate with Compassion

By Hilary Grosskopf  June 20, 2017

Last week supply chain leaders and designers gathered in Detroit, the Motor City, for LLamasoft’s SummerCon 2017 to exchange ideas and insights about supply chain design. The conference keynotes featured renowned speakers from all walks of life – from music, to public policy, to magic, to social science, and of course, supply chain and logistics. The keynote speakers and session presenters talked about qualities of successful modern leaders in our growing, global society. Here are a few takeaways from what the speakers and session presenters advised supply chain leaders and designers to focus on for success.

Think Like a Designer

Don Hicks, CEO and co-founder of LLamasoft, opened the conference by encouraging leaders to think like designers. Design thinking involves look at the big picture and responding to the dynamic nature of supply chain design with creative solutions. Design thinkers must generate new ideas and be passionate about having them heard. Don stated that thinking like a designer is so important because good planning can’t overcome bad design. You can’t force good planning through a poorly designed network.

Don Hicks giving the SummerCon 2017 opening keynote address

Design is implemented not just at the supply chain modeling level but at the people level too, in order for an organization to achieve its objectives and consistently improve. Edgard Pezzo, Executive Director of Global Logistics at General Motors, talked about how GM redesigned the overall structure of the organization to align and improve company-wide performance.


Continuously Return to Your Purpose

Vincente Fox offered many deep, important pieces of advice but one often overlooked practice he emphasized is that leaders must return to their purpose daily. By reconnecting to your own purpose within the organization each day, you stay on track toward your objectives. You can more clearly understand where your role fits into the overall organization and you can better understand the purpose of others within the organization. Without clear connection to your purpose and the purpose of your team, it’s impossible to ensure your day-to-day actions move you closer to what you aim to achieve and contribute.


Balance Information & Tools with Human Interpretation & Management

In his keynote, Philip Tetlock noted that successful firms will not depend only on technology and tools; successful firms will be able to discern where tools are the best, scalable solution and where the human element is still important. It’s actually risky to just depend on your tools without complementing them with the human elements of interpretation, design, and management. In Cabela’s customer case session, Casey Nelsen agreed that in his experience as a modeler, tools are tools but it takes someone that truly understands the business to choose the right information inputs and evaluate the outputs for successful implementation. You can have the best tools but if you feed in the wrong information or you don’t check the outputs, your results will never be successfully implemented.

The Cabela’s team after their presentation on Backhaul Network and Transportation Optimization


Encourage Collaboration

Finally, the most widely talked about theme was the importance of organization-wide collaboration. Vincente Fox emphasized the importance of leading with compassion and making sure you are not siloed. He stated that in this growing, global society, isolation is the last thing we need. Isolation of your team within the organization can negatively impact supply chain design projects by missing or misinterpreting important relevant information. Michael Chun from Starbucks noted that this year the Starbucks COE (Center of Excellence) has been increasingly successful by responding to the changing role of analytics within the organization and by continuing to involve business partners in analytics and supply chain design projects. It’s important to collaborate by involving all business stakeholders to ensure inputs are complete and relevant and that the results are interpreted and implemented correctly.

Michael Chun presenting best practices from the Starbucks Center of Excellence

SummerCon wrapped up with a night at the historic Fillmore Theatre, where attendees enjoyed live music and made plans for future collaborative efforts toward the purpose of improving global supply chains. It’s our responsibility as leaders and designers to continuously challenge ourselves to return to our purpose, design and contribute new ideas, and collaborate. Because, as Vincente said, “We’re all a part of the arena of the world we’re building.”


About the Author

Hilary Grosskopf is author of Awake Leadership and a consultant at Awake Solutions. Her supply chain and analytics career began in the world of retail at the Home Office of Anthropologie, Free People, and Urban Outfitters. Her work there ranged from global transportation, to customer analytics, to supply chain and logistics. In 2015, she moved to California to continue her retail journey and serve as a leader at Restoration Hardware’s Home Office. In 2017, she published Awake Leadership, a guidebook for leadership and collaboration, and began providing her supply chain, analytics, and leadership consulting services to small, growing businesses. She has a bachelors and masters degree in systems science and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.