Teamwork: Critical & Achievable for the Supply Chain

team-work

Some of my best childhood memories are of the time right after exams when I went to visit my grandparents. My sister and I were royally treated and completely spoiled: special food, treats, and delicacies; special toys; and plenty of pampering, love, and affection. My grandfather had done well and their home was a big house with a huge front yard.

Every morning, my grandmother would be up at dawn spraying a mixture of water and fresh cow dung on the front yard to repel insects and germs.  Next, she would draw the white Kolam or the Rangoli decoration with ground limestone. On festival days she would do the same, but use rice flour to discourage ants from take the food that had been made for the people. The idea was that the ants would get distracted and spend their time and energy moving tiny particles of rice flour instead of going after the sweets and delicacies that had been cooked for the people. It worked. The ants would nicely line up, tag team and move the rice particles all day one by one.  The entire day would be gone by the time they finished and the next day, a new Kolam would be in place for them to move.

Since we were kids, we often left crumbs and bits of sweets or pastries in our wake. After we went to bed, the ants would get to work. The next morning, we would see that a long line of ants had formed we had spilled. They would be working in a disciplined fashion to move t every single particle of the left over food to their homes. These ants always had the best discipline, working in perfect formation as a team, as a community. As humans, we can learn a lot from the ants about teamwork.

team-work-ants

It reminded me of a Harvard case study I read in graduate school.  A coach, mandated with the job of creating a winning rowing team, created a golden team of experienced rowers to represent the school.  He also invited some less experienced athletes to be part of a second string team. He pitted the two teams against each other and was surprised that the B-team won the race. He had expected the experienced rowers, with their refined technical ability, better conditioning, and hours of practice would have the advantage.  These less experienced rowers, though, performed well as a team, while the A-Team did not work well together. The A-team complained about each other, disrupted each other’s work, and wouldn’t look to anyone for leadership. There was a lot of ego involved. The rowers from the experienced team started complaining about each other, while the rowers from the junior team said they needed to improve as a whole.


Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. So far, Smart Gladiator Wearables have been used to ship, receive, and scan more than 50 million boxes. Users love them for the lightweight, easy-to-use soft overlay keyboard and video chatting ability, data collection ability etc. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 17 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit the company at www.smartgladiator.com. Also follow him at www.pugasankara.com.

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