ASTA Management Academy
Thursday, March 8, 2012, 8:03PM
Today started with a discussion on supply chain management, a topic I was highly anticipating since as a journalist and editor I really don't have much experience in this area! And, I was not disappointed! Frank Dooley of Purdue provided a great overview of how SCM drives a firm's competitiveness. At the heart of SCM analysis is resolving tradeoffs – tradeoffs between more and less inventory, frequent and long production runs, fast and cheap order processing, fast delivery and lowest cost routing, and decentral, central and plant warehousing. After looking at several SCM factors, Dooley summed up that for seed companies it might make more sense to keep inventory high due to competitor pressure.
We also took a second look at financial management, working through a profitablity analysis that can help any company capitalize on their operating performance. And finally, we started a discussion on business strategy that we will continue in the morning by looking at a case study on the extremely competitive wine industry.
The week is quickly coming to a close, with just tomorrow morning's strategy session left. Tonight my brain is in overdrive with so many new ideas on the seed industry's fast paced business landscape. Watch for my final blog Monday morning that will give a few last comments on the Academy.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 11:30PM
Today I learned that I’m an “originator.” What does that mean…read on and I’ll explain!
The Change Style Indicator (CSI) measures your preferred style of change using a continuum-based model that has been divided into three sections: conserver, pragmatist and originator. The idea behind the test is to figure out which section you fit, so you can better manage your response to change and its consequences, both as a leader and a support person. After filling in the quick test, I scored high in the originator category.
Originators prefer a fast and sometimes radical approach to change. Their preference is significant and expansive change that occurs quickly. They may appear unconventional and spontaneous, and are always looking for change and a new way to do things. They will likely challenge accepted assumptions and enjoy risk and uncertainty. They may appear as visionary and systemic in their thinking. Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are examples of originators.
Conservers prefer current circumstances over the unknown. Their goal is to better utilize resources – people, technology, knowledge, capital - while preserving the existing structure. They prefer change that is gradual and incremental and enjoy predictability. They generally appear deliberate, disciplined and organized.
Pragmatists prefer to explore the existing paradigm in an open and objective manner. They are likely to advocate for change that is more reflective of the demands of the current circumstance, regardless of the impact on the existing structure. They prefer change that is functional and are more focused on results than structure. They may appear practical, agreeable and flexible.
During today’s session on “Leading Change,” we spent a great deal of time discussing the CSI, and the bottom line was that there is no “right” way to be. Businesses that employ a mix of the three groups see the most success as the diverse characteristics of each of the change styles provide unique opportunities for collaboration. This session really got us thinking about how our companies can lead change in the face of a rapidly evolving industry. When thinking about change within your company, I think the best quote to live by came from Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Very interesting stuff.
Today also featured a session on sales and marketing. What I found most interesting in this session was that marketing is evolving. We are now in a market driven era as opposed to the previous product and sales eras. This means that the sales process today is dependent on a deep understanding of the customer rather than a focus on products (product era) and handling objections and closing (sales era). Something I think seed companies are already taking to heart – today’s marketing strategies should not start with your products, but rather with knowing your customer.
Tomorrow will focus on supply chain management, financial management and the start of a discussion on business strategies. In the meantime, my list of story ideas just keeps getting longer…
Tuesday, March 6, 2012, 10:04PM
Wow!! What a day! The first full day of the Academy taught me so much, and left me really excited for the rest of the week. We started the day with a session·by Larry DeBoer on the current·economic environment in the United States. The insights this man has are incredible. Some of·his most insightful quotes? "We are still six million jobs short then we were at the beginning of the recession - nine million jobs disappeared during the recession" and "The biggest threat to our recovery is the rising price of gas, which is referred to as a tax on consumer wallets because they have less to spend on everything else." DeBoer summed up the future economic forecast as "moderate growth, marginal gains." One of the most interesting issues that came up during his discussion was the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year. DeBoer says if the current adminstration fails to settle or renew these cuts, which were made at the start of the Bush adminstration, it will be one of the biggest tax·increases in United States history. Definitely food for thought and something to follow.
Next up we moved into one of the topics I have been most excited about – discussing drivers of change in agriculture and how seed companies can anticipate and capitalize on these drivers. We broke into small groups to discuss the·drivers·in-depth, with each group given one aspect to dive into. My group was assigned industry structure and we discussed consolidation, collaboration, increased farm size, increased importance of contracts with farmers and·retail concentration. The drivers that the other·groups worked on were demand, supply and·risk management. These are all drivers that a seed company needs to consider and familarize themselves with today, while also concentrating on suppliers, customers and competitors. Everyone has heard repeatedly about global demand for food, population growth, shortage of water, consolidation and so on, but these discussions·really looked into·what a·seed company, specifically, should be doing in reaction·to these drivers. This session gave me a HUGE list of cutting edge story ideas that I can't wait to get into the magazine for you all!
Listening to seed company employees, who are in the field every day, in this open setting is really allowing me firsthand knowledge into the industry. I look forward to tomorrow’s discussions on sales and marketing and organizational leadership. Now I'm off to do some prep before another full day tomorrow. Cheers!
Monday, March 5, 2012, 11:36PM
In what ways is agriculture evolving? How is that changing agribusiness environment impacting seed companies? What are the fundamental marketing strategies today? How does a company leverage its competitive advantage? As the editor of Seed World magazine, these are all questions I ask myself on a daily basis in order to keep giving my readers the information they need.
All these questions and more will be answered this week at the ASTA Management Academy being held at Purdue University. The week long seminar focuses on the practical application of general management concepts that are critical to the long-term success of seed firms. The week kicked off yesterday evening with a discussion on thinking strategically to get attendees thinking about how their companies operate. Tomorrow focuses on an overview of the current economic environment and the drivers of change in agriculture. I’m looking forward to hearing the expert contributions of faculty members and recognized industry authorities, as well as working with attendees on case studies in small group sessions.
Follow this blog all week for a firsthand look at how the Academy is not only helping the seed company attendees hone their management skills, but is also allowing media such as myself to gain a better understanding on what is important to the industry today. Also, follow Seed World on Twitter (@SeedWorldMag) for live updates from the event. Let’s get thinking strategically so we can all become the best managers we can be!
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