Last night while I was at the joint APICS/IBF/CSCMP Holiday Networking Collaborative in Boston, MA these three words came to mind, “Strength in numbers.” But before I can explain these three simple words, I should first explain all the abbreviations, right? APICS is the Association for Operations Management, IBF is the Institute of Business Forecasting and CSCMP is the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. These groups came together last night for a holiday party which was a perfect mix of work and play.
The night started with simple networking and visiting with the six sponsors of the evening: Archon Interactive LLC, Boston Strategies International, Demand Planning LLC, Demand Solutions, Marino Associates LLC and McInturff Associates. Visiting sponsors was enhanced by the possibility of winning major prizes which attendees could be entered to win by getting stamped at the vendor’s booths (the banquet table was full of these prizes and they did the trick!). After some networking, we all enjoyed a lovely meal at the Montvale Plaza where we were broken into groups by tables of 8. Discussions of best practices began, aided by a complimentary bottle of red whine at each table. During dessert Clark Merrill, a dynamic speaker from Dale Carnegie, gave a talk on ‘Soft Skills in a Tough Economy.’ With this lively presentation in mind, two panels were put together where we discussed sales and operations planning and lean manufacturing. The highlights of these panel discussions can be found here on my twitter stream. Afterwords, the planned session wrapped with plenty of giveaways and door prizes.
The interesting thing was that after a full day at the office, fighting traffic and then attending this event which went until 930 PM, NO ONE rushed out the door. In fact, it was quite the opposite. People stuck around. Most in the crowd continued to talk about lessons learned and to make connections. The content was so good, the contacts so valuable that attendees lingered. This got me thinking about strength in numbers and a discussion I had with one of the sponsors. It began when I asked him how membership has been through the recession. Being an economist, my assumption would be that membership in associations with a focus on education, training and networking such as APICS, IBF and CSCMP would be high as workers would look to increase their skill set, network if they are unemployed, and work to raise the value of their careers to ensure future employment and growth. It turns out that I’m a pretty good economist. The sponsor I was speaking with confirmed my assumption and I learned that membership has done well through the recession. Groups like these are such a huge source of support, training and sanity through recessions for job seekers and the currently employed alike.
Think about how nice it is to have a chance to talk about your job with people who actually understand what you do all day? That is what happens when you attend an event like this if you are in demand planning or operations management. You get a room full of head nods and understanding when you ask questions like “What kind of advice can you give if you have a hostile management environment when it comes to forecasting?” and you get some solid advice on the simple yet daunting question that is on many people’s minds, “How to get started with lean manufacturing?”
And if you are currently looking for a job, or you are in transition, it’s nice to rub elbows with those that were your peers and who you would like to be working with. Miss talking about forecast error and six sigma? Sign on for an upcoming event, such as the next Boston APICS event to hear how Welch’s successfully implemented S&OP, or check out www.ibf.org to find out when their next chapter meeting will be and trust me, it will be like riding a bike. There is strength in numbers, but you have to go be a part of these numbers, or groups, to reap the benefits. Maybe this would be a good resolution for those who have not been feeling a sense of camaraderie recently. If that’s what you are looking for, events like this is where it’s at. My first time going, I already have a slew of new contacts that I know I can reach out to any time with questions, support or advice. That’s the true value of strength in numbers.