This year Raconteur has once again put together a very readable report entitled Supply Chain Resilience 2022. The authors ask, “As disruption continues to plague international supply chains, what can organisations do to build resilience and ensure efficiency?” And they provide answers: “From reducing waste and cutting costs to onshoring and upgrading systems, our Supply Chain Resilience report explores the strategies making the difference”. The report contains short articles on very interesting topics including Brexit, predictive analytics, striking staff, supply chain tech investments, just-in-time vs. just-in-case, chip crisis, robotics, food waste, air cargo, and sustainable commerce. I particularly enjoyed an article that shows how global supply chains have been rocked by climate change, geopolitical instability and more, and that provides examples of different industries adapting to these challenges. It is not the first time that I am writing about Raconteur’s reports here. I am always amazed at the high quality of their work.
Something that is long-established in other management disciplines but sadly almost completely neglected in the SCM discipline is research related to sensemaking. In short, sensemaking “involves turning circumstances into a situation that is comprehended explicitly in words and that serves as a springboard into action” (Weick et al., p. 409). Such research is concerned with subjective interpretations rather than objective truth and is therefore better suited to the study of social science phenomena than much of the positivist research we see in contemporary SCM research. Sensemaking is closely associated with the name of Karl E. Weick and his way of analyzing phenomena. Among Weick’s most famous studies is The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster (1993). It could serve as a blueprint for analyzing SCM phenomena. Anyone considering a sensemaking study should read the book Sensemaking in Organizations (Weick, 1995). The article Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking (Weick et al., 2005) gives a very good overview of sensemaking.
Weick, K.E. (1993). The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38(4), 628–652. https://doi.org/10.2307/2393339
Weick, K.E. (1995). Sensemaking in Organizations. SAGE. ISBN 080397177X
Weick, K.E., Sutcliffe, K.M., & Obstfeld, D. (2005). Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking. Organization Science, 16(4), 409–421. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1050.0133
As in previous years, the Journal of Supply Chain Management recently announced the winning paper of the 2021 Best Paper Awards at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management. And here it is: On Publicness Theory and Its Implications for Supply Chain Integration: The Case of Criminal Justice Supply Chains by Aline Pietrix Seepma, Dirk Pieter van Donk, and Carolien de Blok. Congratulations! Herein, the authors extend publicness theory to its application at the interorganizational level. JSCM also announced two runner-ups. The first one is Selecting Startups as Suppliers: A Typology of Supplier Selection Archetypes by Stefan Kurpjuweit, Stephan M. Wagner, and Thomas Y. Choi. The second one is my own paper, Dancing the Supply Chain: Toward Transformative Supply Chain Management (see my previous blog post). Just to make this very clear, the decisions for these awards were made by a committee before I applied for the role as JSCM Co-Editor-in-Chief.
The International Energy Agency has just released a new special report entitled Solar PV Global Supply Chains. It examines solar PV (= photovoltaic) supply chains “from raw materials all the way to the finished product, spanning the five main segments of the manufacturing process: polysilicon, ingots, wafers, cells and modules”. The authors argue that “[p]utting the world on a path to reaching net zero emissions requires solar PV to expand globally on an even greater scale, raising concerns about security of manufacturing supply for achieving such rapid growth rates – but also offering new opportunities for diversification”. It becomes clear from the report that China currently dominates such supply chains and that diversification can reduce supply chain vulnerabilities and offer economic and environmental opportunities. According to the authors, policy makers need to aim for (1) diversifying manufacturing and raw material supplies, (2) de-risking investment, (3) ensuring environmental and social sustainability, (4) continuing to foster innovation, and (5) developing and strengthening recycling capabilities.
Language in academic texts should not only be used to list arguments, to summarize methodical steps, or to report results. Too often, as a reviewer, I have read manuscripts that have not effectively used what I consider to be the most important function of language in academic texts: Above all, language should serve to communicate with the reader. In some cases, I could not believe how imprecise sentences were formulated, how unconvincing arguments were developed, and how the language simply lacked “beauty”. In fact, there is no contradiction between a neutrally worded text, if that is desired, and the pleasure that a reader feels while reading it. Unfortunately, authors often also lack vocabulary. I can only recommend every academic author to read an English novel at least once in a while and to pay attention to the language. Of course, the language in academic texts differs from that in novels. But there is still a lot to learn.
Should academic articles be interesting? At least that is the main message of the famous article That’s Interesting! Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology by Davis (1971). Generations of Ph.D. students have read it, and those who have not should definitely do so. However, there are also authors who have criticized Davis’s arguments. In an article entitled That’s Interesting! A Flawed Article Has Influenced Generations of Management Researchers, Tsang (2022) recently identified five detrimental outcomes that result from “obsession with interestingness”: (1) promoting an improper way of doing science, (2) encouraging post hoc hypothesis development, (3) discouraging replication studies, (4) ignoring the proper duties of a researcher, and (5) undermining doctoral education. Similarly, Academy of Management Journal’s editor Tihanyi (2020) titled his recently published editorial From “That’s Interesting” to “That’s Important”. As so often, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. In order to find it, it is definitely worth looking into these three articles during the summer holidays.
Davis, M.S. (1971). That’s Interesting! Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1(2), 309–344. https://doi.org/10.1177/004839317100100211
Experiments have exerted a growing methodological influence on the SCM discipline in recent years. In their recently published article on this subject, entitled Experiments in Strategy Research: A Critical Review and Future Research Opportunities, Bolinger et al. (2021) examine and categorize experiments by “[identifying] topic areas in which experiments have been effectively deployed as well as several literature streams that have a limited amount of prior experimental research.” The authors also discuss challenges in using experiments, thereby addressing the level of analysis. SCM researchers should pay particular attention to this aspect, as many of the phenomena they study are not located at the firm level, as in strategy research, but at the supply chain level. The authors argue that their work “documents experimental research and provides a methodological practicum, thereby offering a platform for future experiment-based research in strategic management”. Although the authors review extant experimental work in strategic management, their results are certainly also very useful for SCM researchers.
Bolinger, M. T., Josefy, M. A., Stevenson, R., & Hitt, M. A. (2022). Experiments in Strategy Research: A Critical Review and Future Research Opportunities. Journal of Management, 48(1), 77–113. https://doi.org/10.1177/01492063211044416
A few days ago, the G7 countries rejected Russian demands to pay for future gas supply in rubles. Robert Habeck, Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, therefore activated the early warning stage of the country’s gas emergency plan yesterday. Today, Russian President Putin signed a decree halting gas supplies unless paid for in rubles. It is not yet clear what the consequences of this decree will be, as it also contains loopholes. However, what would happen if Russia really stopped exporting energy to Europe? A study conducted by leading economists, entitled What If? The Economic Effects for Germany of a Stop of Energy Imports From Russia, examines the economic impact on Germany. The authors are cautiously optimistic, but the effect will certainly ripple through numerous industrial supply chains. One can hardly imagine the global supply chain consequences if, for example, the world’s largest chemical company BASF had to stop its processes due to a lack of gas. It is now becoming apparent how dependent Germany has become as a result of its focus on Russia as the single source of supply and how urgent it is to switch to renewable energies even faster in order to minimize this dependency.
The paragraph is probably the most important unit of a well-written academic text. It has a specific structure and standards that make it effective and enjoyable to read. This video demonstrates how to construct good paragraphs and improve writing with better clarity and flow.
The world is shocked by the Putin regime’s war of aggression against Ukraine – a war in the middle of Europe. It almost seems to me that our species has climbed back into the trees. This war already has many impacts on supply chains, and further implications will only become apparent with a time lag. Instead of taking the long necessary step to expand renewable energies, many EU countries have relied on cheap oil and gas supplies from Russia for too many years. This omission is now taking its revenge by restricting the scope for sanctioning the aggressor. High-tech products also depend on raw materials (e.g., palladium and neon) from Russia and Ukraine. This certainly adds to the current shortage of chips. The effects of this war on food supply chains could be particularly dramatic. Russia supplies important potash fertilizers and many countries around the world are urgently dependent on wheat harvests from Ukraine. But the fields will remain fallow this year.