Perspective: Systems Thinking in Supply Chain Management [PODCAST]

Written by Expeditors
27 minute read

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Pat St. Laurent, Vice President of Strategy & Innovation, explains systems thinking and how effective it could be when applied to supply chain management.


A mostly accurate transcript of this podcast is provided to assist comprehension and promote understanding. The transcript almost inevitably contains errors, mistakes, and (as our favorite 5-year-old nephew Kai might say, if we had a 5-year-old nephew named Kai) other boo-boos resulting from, e.g., words or phrases that are inaudible; the use of non-English-words; misspellings; transcription/speech-to-text service limitations; and/or other sources or kinds of inaccuracy. Thus, the transcript is not to be considered or relied upon as, an official record. Indeed, provided “as is,” the transcript neither creates nor includes express, implied, and/or statutory warranties of any kind, and Expeditors International of Washington, Inc. and its subsidiaries (“Expeditors”) disclaim all warranties. Expeditors retains all rights to the transcript; your use is personal, ethical, compliant, and non-commercial in nature only. Expeditors shall have no (and does not accept any) liability for transcript error(s), mistakes, or Kai boo-boos; lost profits or losses; or direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, special, exemplary, or punitive damages in connection with or related to any use of the transcript. Any opinion directly or indirectly expressed in the transcript does not necessarily reflect the views or position of Expeditors.

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Chris Parker: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Expeditors Podcast, where we look at the logistics and freight forwarding industry through the lens of a global logistics provider. I'm your host, Chris Parker, and today we are talking about systems thinking and what taking a holistic view of your supply chain can bring. To ring in the new year and wax philosophical with me is our Vice President of Strategy & Innovation, Pat St. Laurent. Pat, welcome back.

Pat St. Laurent: Good morning, good afternoon. Thank you.

Chris Parker: It is a pleasure to have you back; it's a pleasure to see you again. What have you been up to this last year since we... I mean, it's been a while since we've had you on here. Within Strategy & Innovation, what has your team been up to?

Pat St. Laurent: Well, we're innovating. We've got a whole bunch of things going on, trying to move some balls forward. Killing off some things that aren't going to succeed and pushing things forward that are. This past year I spent a lot of time with customers, a lot of time with customers. It looks like '24 is shaping up to be a repeat of that. Which is my favorite place.

Chris Parker: With whatever you can share, what have you been working on with customers and what have resulted from these projects?

Pat St. Laurent: Well, I think a lot of customers are sort of visiting the massive question of post-pandemic, what does supply chains need to look like to thrive in the next period, whatever that may be? A lot of customers are asking themselves what they're going to do about AI and how the world of AI is going to sort of reshape the ecosystem in which they work. Really interesting stuff.

Chris Parker: That's got to be pretty cool just looking into that. I know within my world of media production, AI is in all the tools that are being out there. Lots of new tools, lots of new companies are using it in very interesting ways. Seeing it used and applied in supply chain sounds really interesting, really interesting.

Pat St. Laurent: We're still at the very beginning of it. The way I say it, they're in search of good use cases that give them the appropriate benefit while giving them a level of risk that they're willing to tolerate.

Chris Parker: Very cool, very cool. Nice, nice. All right. This topic, in particular, systems thinking... Before we dive further into it, I wanted to establish some baseline definitions here for the audience, and honestly for myself, because this is something that I'm still relatively new to. Even though you and I have talked about it before, but what is systems thinking and how does it apply to the discipline of supply chain management?

Pat St. Laurent: This is a lot easier to think about than to say, so I'm going to try to define it the best way I can without directly paraphrasing what I was told by many other people. System's thinking is that the performance of a system is not the sum of the performance of the parts of the system it's the product of the interactions between the parts. Does that make sense? So, the human body is a system.

Chris Parker: For sure.

Pat St. Laurent: An individual part of the body can't do what the human body is designed to do, but the human body as a whole can. Think about supply chain. Supply chain as a whole is a system with lots and lots and lots of moving parts. If you optimize each part individually, each part in itself will be amazing. That doesn't mean the supply chain will be amazing. The supply chain will be amazing if the way that the parts interact between each other is amazing. That's the essential. That's my version of describing systems thinking as it relates to supply chain.

Chris Parker: So even though you're optimizing each individual part, you're... If you're still operating in a very fragmented fashion, you're not really truly optimizing.

Pat St. Laurent: Exactly.

Chris Parker: Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. What got you interested in this topic anyways?

Pat St. Laurent: Wow. Let's see. The first thing I saw a video of a gentleman named Dr. Russell Ackoff who's... Who died, I think, in 2009.

Chris Parker: Okay.

Pat St. Laurent: But somewhere in the '70s, he did a presentation at a university that was filmed on systems thinking. And when I saw it, I knew, oh my goodness, this is like... I won't say life-changing stuff, but it radically changed my mentality on the topic of supply chain management, right, the first time I saw it, which was back probably in 2005 or '06. Then I read a book by a professor from MIT named Peter Senge, and the book is called The Fifth Discipline, the fifth discipline essentially being systems thinking. And that just solidified it. And since then, I've become a student of it. And I start to see supply chain behaviors and company behaviors that are directly, let's say, in violation of some of the good principles of system thinking, which is probably why you and I are sitting here today.

Chris Parker: And with systems thinking and the examples that you've seen in the past, where has it been... What industry has it had greatest impact on?

Pat St. Laurent: Oh, gosh.

Chris Parker: Or at least what tends to be the examples you use when trying to explain system thinking?

Pat St. Laurent: Holistic healthcare.

Chris Parker: Okay.

Pat St. Laurent: That's a really good example, a really good example, right?

Chris Parker: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Very cool. And then so, what were the realizations of that? Or, I guess, what has resulted in systems thinking applied to healthcare that you've seen?

Pat St. Laurent: I don't even know if I got a good answer to that.

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: I just know that the approach is logical. You're looking at the performance of your system as a human body versus looking at each individual part-

Chris Parker: Right.

Pat St. Laurent: Right, which is what a lot of specialists tend to do, and they maybe aren't as good at recognizing the interdependence between the parts. That to me anyways, that's exactly the reason why holistic healthcare makes sense.

Chris Parker: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Pat St. Laurent: Right?

Chris Parker: All right, well, let's get into the supply chain aspect of it. So we've already established what systems thinking is, but what challenges can companies expect when trying to adopt a systems thinking mindset? How expensive is it? What's the cost here to really, I guess, to assess, and then develop, and then apply some systems thinking?

Pat St. Laurent: Let's look at the things that make it difficult, right?

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: And I would say the first thing that makes it difficult is metrics that reward departmental or functional behaviors, right? So, optimizing for goals that are discreet goals for your function that may be goals that advance your function but may not be an advancement of the function of the whole company. Excuse me, the performance of the company.

Chris Parker: Give me a couple of examples here.

Pat St. Laurent: I'll give you an example of the classic conflict, right?

Chris Parker: Okay.

Pat St. Laurent: Function A is trying to lean out inventory levels while function B is simultaneously trying to grow revenue by improving service levels. Maybe the inventory leanness makes it difficult to increase fill rates, which are a key metric in service levels, and therefore, you've created a conflict by having two competing goals that aren't in harmony with each other. You should decide that you either want to increase service levels, which may imply a slight increase in inventory levels, or you decide that cash is more important, you're going to optimize inventory levels at possibly a small sacrifice in service levels. If the person who owns the inventory levels and the person who owns the customer service levels have metrics that motivate their team's behaviors towards their goal, then you may or may not get the result of the system that you want.

Chris Parker: And I see-

Pat St. Laurent: Because he company technically suffers because the metrics are creating conflict.

Chris Parker: Right. Okay, I get it now. Everyone wants to succeed, but they're doing so not by a single mission, by their own individual departmental missions.

Pat St. Laurent: Exactly. And I've seen many companies where you could look at every department gets a gold star but the supply chain gets a bronze star. How is this even possible, right, but it happens us all the time.

Chris Parker: All right, all right. So what other challenges do you see?

Pat St. Laurent: Compensation.

Chris Parker: Okay.

Pat St. Laurent: Rewarding people with bonuses, and raises, and promotions based on functional excellence.

Chris Parker: Right.

Pat St. Laurent: So, if you really want to make a system perform better, you've got to figure out metrics that are related to the system performance and subordinate the functional metrics to the system metrics. Then you would have everybody pushing in the direction of what's good for the enterprise and they wouldn't be subjected to not making bonus because their function didn't perform. Because their function would perform exactly how it's supposed to which is in support of enterprise goals, not in support of their own private goals.

Chris Parker: I think I'm catching on here.

Pat St. Laurent: It's not easy.

Chris Parker: No, no, no. It's complex stuff, but I think I understand. At least in my own simple words, it sounds like you want to try and define the motivations of all the independent parts, or all the parts that are working together, right? You want them to try and work with a single vision in mind, and that may come into conflict with what their own individual or departmental goals are. Correct?

Pat St. Laurent: Yep.

Chris Parker: Okay. So another challenge that I see then from these first two examples is advocacy in terms of trying to convince others that systems thinking is an approach to take. Whoever's choosing these metrics may not be taking the whole... The organizational goals in mind, they're still thinking within the confines of their own departments. How do you get people signed on to systems thinking when they already know what metrics that they feel are the most important to them? Now you're asking for different metrics because it takes something larger, it has a wider scope of impact.

Pat St. Laurent: Sure.

Chris Parker: Do you get my question?

Pat St. Laurent: Yeah, I'm getting you. I want to take a step back first, and then let's get to that one. The first thing is you said, "Well, how did we get here to begin with?" Because that in itself is a fabulous, interesting story.

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: I have a very simplistic sort of cartoon-grade way I explain this to people which is let's go back to when we were kids, and it was hot outside, and you decided to make a lemonade stand out in front of your house, right? So you and your friend would be like, "Let's make a lemonade stand and sell lemonade to people that are passing by." So you do that. There was two of you, you're standing there, you're both doing the job. And then it starts to get busy and your third friend sees you and says, "Can I help?" And you're like, "Yeah." "What do you want me to do?" "Okay, why don't you make, I serve, and you take cash." Right from that moment you've divided by function to support growth. Now, look at a giant company with 100,000 employees and take that to the extreme, where they've divided by function to scale for growth. They've put people at the top of these functional organizations that may not always have the company's interest at heart because they may be people who are narcissistic, or egotistical, or-

Chris Parker: I mean, they sound like fiefdoms!

Pat St. Laurent: For sure, right? And then you add to that the fact that the company's compensation and reward system is designed to make them even more focused on their own departmental goals, right?

Chris Parker: Right.

Pat St. Laurent: That's a very simplistic way of saying how we got here. So breaking free of that is no small task.

Chris Parker: Of course, yeah.

Pat St. Laurent: And I think if you asked the average person, they'd say, "Well, it's a failure of leadership that there's no systems thinking."

Chris Parker: Right.

Pat St. Laurent: I don't know if I agree with that. I don't know that a C-level executive needs to walk around and go, "You know what? We need to fix this whole company by turning it upside down and employing systems thinking." People in the bottom and the middle of the organization can do just as good of a job at socializing the idea of unifying projects like let's work together to make something happen. And let's tell our respective superiors why we are doing something together that advances the company's interest and ask for relief on the goals that you have had prior to that that may be at conflict with the company's interest. And at least test that. You may find out that there's more hospitality for this way of thinking than you maybe otherwise have thought. It can come from anywhere, really.

Chris Parker: And I think getting more people to adopt this mindset to, gives for greater concern for everyone's success. If everyone's looking at things holistically, there's a lot more, I guess, harmony within... Interpersonally with an organization, not just in the functions but just the culture itself, it sounds like.

Pat St. Laurent: Let's put it this way. The level of understanding you have about your company's daily operations are probably as wide in scope as you have access to data for, right? So, if I'm in procurement, do I know much about the sell-through data of my product in the retail channel or in the web channel? Probably not. I'm in procurement, so I have my procurement systems, and I know what I'm doing with my suppliers, and with my spend, and all of that good stuff, right? The access to enterprise-wide data makes it far more difficult for people in a function A to understand what's going on in function B.

Very commonly, people have a pretty good idea what happens in the departments to the left of them and to the right of them as their sort of overall company workflow, but beyond that, most of what they know is anecdotal. They hear things, they talk to people, very sort of serendipitous comments that you get. You might show up at a meeting where they'll learn some things. If you ask them, "Do you really understand how the sales organization is managing forecasts with demand planners, and how the output of that work comes to me as a supply planner, do I really understand it?" "Well, it depends; what are the reports they're giving me look like?" And that's my level of understanding. Fragmented, partial, latent data is a major reason why companies struggle to sort of adopt this more systems thinking approach.

Chris Parker: I want to challenge it with the question of... Okay, so then an individual has only so much bandwidth that they can understand how their organization works within the... Being able to be excellent at their own job. Does a systems thinking not strain an individual to... Or ask too much of them to try and be looking at their company in a much more holistic way?

Pat St. Laurent: Yes.

Chris Parker: So then, how do you approach that? Or what are your thoughts on that I guess?

Pat St. Laurent: Let's put it this way. I don't know a supply chain practitioner in any role that's not trying to solve the riddle of visibility to enterprise-wide data. Everybody is, that's a huge issue, right? Making more data-driven decisions versus tribal knowledge decisions or anecdote-based decisions when you have no time to go through the process of analyzing data. Even if you wanted to, you can't, so you've got to just rely on your gut and instinct, right? But yeah, it's frustrating. And I don't know anybody who doesn't want it to be much better it just isn't yet. And that's where you wonder if the extent to which AI is going to impact that.

Theoretically, if AI could go and just pull copious amounts of data from your internal systems and synthesize it into a cohesive story that you could consume through a natural language query. Dear system, tell me what the last three quarters of the sell-through data for this product look like, and then compare it to the supply plan and tell me what's going wrong. There's no reason why AI could not process such a query. The reason you can't do it is because you don't have the bandwidth nor the tools to process... To analyze that much data. But AI that's not one thing it suffers from, right? So that's an example of maybe sort of penetrating insights into the whole organization is something that will come very quickly with the advent of AI.

Chris Parker: Do you think that it's possible for a company to transform into a systems thinking or is that... I mean, it's obviously easier for a new company to take on that approach, but what about for the companies that have been around for a long time?

Pat St. Laurent: Well, nothing's easy.

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: But you know what? In supply chain, nothing is easy.

Chris Parker: Sure, sure.

Pat St. Laurent: Nothing is ever easy in the supply chain, right? Every single move you make has a dependency on another move somewhere else. Sometimes, you can see them clearly, like the example I mentioned before. If you reduce inventory, it's hard to increase service levels, okay? That's a real simple connection, right, and anybody can see that. But there are many, many other connections that are not nearly as obvious, and those are the ones that go sort of under the hood. I have a great example of a DC manager who gets a call one day from a customer to put goods on a truck for them that night, even though they only placed an order at 3:00, and that cut-off for orders is noon. So they're trying to pull a favor like "Hey, I just got this order, can you get it on a truck tonight so I can get it quickly?" And then you think about the phone calls that take place to make something happen, and who knows who, and next thing you know, the goods are on a truck.

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: The problem is they were not on the common carrier that you normally use. They were on FedEx. Why? Because the FedEx truck was on your dock latest.

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: Then you think, well, who got the bill for that? Well, the domestic transportation budget took the hit for it, but I promise you that person wasn't in the loop when they decided to do it, right? So this is a classic example of I'm going to work the company for my own good, which is the sales reps trying to get their customers that they order, the DC leader is trying to please the sales rep, so everybody manages to pull off this little quote-unquote miracle. The customer's thrilled. But the guy who gets the bill at the end of the month is like, "What?"

Chris Parker: So imagine a world where no one has to take the fall.

Pat St. Laurent: Right. Well, at least maybe that person should be consulted. Do you mind spending more money on this shipment to satisfy this customer because they may have said yes?

Chris Parker: Right, right, right.

Pat St. Laurent: If satisfying that customer was worth more than the difference between the standard truck bill and the FedEx bill, then it was a good decision. But the fact that they didn't consult him means maybe it wasn't a good decision because he might've said no, right? That's a really simplistic example, but that stuff happens every day-

Chris Parker: That's wild.

Pat St. Laurent: Every day.

Chris Parker: So then, what would a successful implementation look like, or what have you seen in the time that you've been looking at systems thinking? Have you seen anything out there within the supply chain that shows that it can be applied?

Pat St. Laurent: I think so. The examples that I am sort of close to, I would say, are all partial-

Chris Parker: Okay.

Pat St. Laurent: But I'll give full credit for partial. I mean, partial is good. It's like any good practice, once you see it in action and people come and they give you reports out about how things are going everybody wants to replicate it. And this is one of those things. There's no bad in systems thinking, it's all good. And if people that are practicing it communicate effectively, then anybody who listens them is going to want to replicate that and create their own success.

I definitely know some companies that I think are really good at it. And you can talk to somebody who's a logistics leader who's commonly somebody that we talk to in Expeditors, and you hear them talk about things like the sales performance, and customer service, and procurement, and demand planning, and they're like... They're rattling things off like they really know it. And I'm like, wow, that's impressive. There's a lot of logistics leaders who wouldn't have a half or less what you just explained as things that matter to your peers in different departments, right? And I think if you're going to be good at it as a logistics leader... Because logistics ties to so many things, right?

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: Your job is to service internal customers, I mean, that's what you do. Start by figuring out what matters to them and then think about what you and your team can do to enable their outcomes to be better because that's your job, right? And that in itself is a sort of really good grassroots way to start the process of adapting to systems thinking, right?

Chris Parker: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. I'm picking up that this is far more than changing the way your company functions but it also requires social change cultural change. Almost like that needs to be step one really. It was just getting people signed onto the idea of, "Hey, let's try to work this way for a little bit," and then create processes out of them afterward.

Pat St. Laurent: Right. Yes, 100%. Think about a lunch and learn where I'm a logistics analyst, I'm working in data, I'm doing reports, I'm doing my day job, and my boss is the director of logistics. The demand planning team is in the lunchroom eating lunch, and I barely know who any of those people are.

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: Why not go in there and park your butt next to them at lunch and say, "Hey guys, we are a service provider to your team. And I know that things that we do matter to you but I have no idea how, please share." And I think when you make yourself the student, whoever you're talking to will absolutely be delighted to be your teacher. You just have to be curious. And if you're sitting behind your desk all day and do your reports and go home every night and aren't curious, you lose at systems thinking.

Chris Parker: Absolutely.

Pat St. Laurent: Right?

Chris Parker: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Pat St. Laurent: Curiosity is your best friend. Because people will always talk if you are willing to be in their audience.

Chris Parker: No, I love that. And curiosity is... It's a very special resource. And just speaking for myself, I wonder if it gets used enough. And so, it sounds like it requires a lot of curiosity and a vested interest to see how can I do my job better, or how is whatever I'm doing impact others, and what can I do to ease the pain on them? All right. So what role can be played by trading partners, whether they're suppliers, customers, service providers, to the companies whose supply chains that we're talking about?

Pat St. Laurent: Yeah, that's a tough one. You like to think you have more influence than you do.

Chris Parker: Okay.

Pat St. Laurent: Let's start with that.

Chris Parker: Everyone thinks they're special.

Pat St. Laurent: I know I do. Sure. Everybody just step aside. I'm going to... No, it's true. I think if you exhibit the curiosity... And I'll just give you an example. So for people at Expeditors, right, we are a service provider.

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: We go into a customer and we might meet somebody who has a very siloed mentality, they only care about their logistics procurement, for example, right? And we're like "Well, we'd like to understand the people that your procurement exercise is intending to serve. They have certain expectations of what you're doing and we would love to understand what they are so that we can position a capability that satisfies your internal customers, not just the requirements that you've stated in an RFP." Now, if they tell you "No," you cannot talk to them, I guess you've met the inertia that makes systems thinking hard, okay?

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: That's where you can encourage them, "Listen, I'm just trying to help you service your internal customers better. I'm not trying to pull a fast one here, I just want to understand better how to position arguments in our bid response that will help make your procurement exercise more valuable to your internal customer." That's where I think maybe it's more aggressive curiosity. I don't just ask and then get told no and then go sit in the corner because no is not the answer I'm looking for, and I'm going to keep pushing because I want to understand. Even if I make you go and get the answers and tell me what they are, and even if you're not completely honest with me, I'm still going to push, right? So at least when somebody who is a consumer of the services we provide can look at what we wrote and say, "Yeah, that is what I'm looking for is that thinking," right, "Or that capability," whatever it may be.

Chris Parker: Yeah, because I was going to ask, who is best positioned then to display systems thinking? Is it the service provider, or is it the customer? Who do you think is, I guess, the best starting point to start systems thinking and then have it ripple out throughout the supply chain?

Pat St. Laurent: Oh, man. I guess in human nature if you model good behavior you're more likely to get it mimicked than if you don't.

Chris Parker: So it's anyone.

Pat St. Laurent: So I would just say, anyone. Yeah, that's a great answer. Star dot star, everybody. Truthfully, if you went to a supply chain and you looked at a chief supply chain officer, that's probably the best way to start for a top-down initiative because that person may have demand planning, supply planning, logistics, fulfillment, all those things underneath their organization so they have lieutenants who own all of those things. They can get in a room, and they can tear apart their whole metrics and compensation system and redesign what it should be. They can do that.

Chris Parker: Sure, sure, sure.

Pat St. Laurent: No doubt that whomever might be listening to this may go, "Hey, St. Laurent, come on, man, you're painting a dark picture." There's probably a lot more people doing it than I'm giving them credit for.

Chris Parker: Sure, sure.

Pat St. Laurent: When I look out the window, that's what I see, and I only report what I see here, not making stuff up.

Chris Parker: So top down is most likely the path of least resistance, it sounds like. Because a company could be working in such a siloed fashion, I'm assuming that the leaders in those different various departments or those various functions want to do right by whoever's above them, not so much by who's next to them. So if everyone's trying to please whoever's above them, then it has to start from the top.

Pat St. Laurent: Right. And if the people above them actually like each other, that would help. If they're like, "I don't care about John, we're working for this department." That's the exact opposite of what you need to embrace as a mentality for system thinking, right?

Chris Parker: Yeah, absolutely.

Pat St. Laurent: In supply chain management, there used to never be such a thing, right? It was like each department had their thing, and you had freight or traffic, in the old days, what it was called just delivery. Logistics was a term that was brought in to incorporate more than one discipline, so it wasn't just transportation, it was warehousing, transportation, and all the planning around that. And supply chain is still a relatively young discipline. Everything that you see going on in global companies today is moving in the direction of a more sort of harmonized approach to the discipline of supply chain. In a way, it's sort of solving itself, but over a long period of time. Maybe some of the people that I'm referring to, the stereotypes, maybe also guys that are my age and who spent 40 years in a certain way of doing things. It might be the younger crowd comes in, and they shake things up and change things around, and it just happens organically or very naturally. That's what I'm thinking might happen.

Chris Parker: All right, so last question here. If we're looking 30, 50 years, 100 years into the future and systems thinking has just taken the world by storm, and everything in supply chain is harmonized, what does that look like? What do you hope it looks like?

Pat St. Laurent: I hope you don't ask me for the people in it-

Chris Parker: No.

Pat St. Laurent: That would be... What does it look like? Well, let's put it this way. Some years back, and this isn't very many years, there was a document I read on 2028, believe it or not, four short years from now, on autonomous supply chains, and I'm like hmm. There's plenty of reasons to be skeptical about autonomous supply chains-

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: There's even more to be skeptical about anything happening by 2028. At some point, there's a lot of decisions made in supply chain management every single day that are extremely mathematical. There's a level of nuance, there's a level of need for tribal knowledge, and to... For rapid recall of anecdotes and sensitivities. There's going to be a lot of codified operations in supply chain. With AI, think about it... AI, the knowledge of the world theoretically, is accessible instantly, right? Anything where a decision is rooted in data, theoretically, there's no need for quote-unquote research it's all instant. The whole discipline, the whole ecosystem, 's going to be on its head in some number of years, I doubt four, but I doubt 50 either-

Chris Parker: Sure.

Pat St. Laurent: Somewhere, a little closer. I won't be working anymore, I don't think, but I'll probably still be alive.

Chris Parker: Getting to the point where you could still look back and be like you know what? This is pretty cool.

Pat St. Laurent: I remember when that was young when it was young. I remember the 2028 prediction that was made around 2020, 2021.

Chris Parker: Sure. And I know you mentioned the book at the beginning of this conversation, but if there's any other content out there that you feel that you would want to recommend to folks, what's out there, what's available? What's really made an impact on you?

Pat St. Laurent: Well, I think to me, the Russell Ackoff thing is... By now it's 50 years old so you can find that on YouTube, it'll be Russell Ackoff, A-C-K-O-F-F. Russell Ackoff on Systems Thinking, you'll find it on YouTube. Interestingly, these are timeless concepts. The fact that he did it, I think in the '70s, it is no less valid today, it's exactly the same.

Chris Parker: Right.

Pat St. Laurent: For me, the more defining moment for me was the book The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge. I can't say enough about it. Outstanding book. It's an easy read. It's not written like an academic textbook.

Chris Parker: Right, right, right.

Pat St. Laurent: Very easy to understand. If you take a yellow annotator out, you'll find yourself making annotations on every single page of that book.

Chris Parker: Cool, cool. Actually, that sounds interesting, I want to check that out myself actually. Okay. Well, Pat, thank you so much for talking with me about this. It's always fascinating to get into your head and to see how you look at the world and how you look at topics like this, so it was a lot of fun to chat about this with you.

Pat St. Laurent: Well, that's good. It's been fun, thank you. I'm not an academic; I'm an observer, a keen observer. And nobody wants to post comments correcting my recall. "Well, actually... Hold on a minute, the MIT guy said this, and you said that." "Well, that's fair; that's my view of what the MIT guy said, not what he said."

Chris Parker: Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you've got questions or want to learn more about today's topic, check out the show notes for more information. And before you go, make sure you're subscribed on whatever podcast app you're using so you won't miss the next episode. To learn more about Expeditors, you can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and X, or simply visit us at Take care, and I'll see you next time.

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Blog was originally posted on February 7, 2024 7 AM

Topics: Supply Chain, Logistics


Written by Expeditors

27 minute read