Supply Chain Management and “The Wisdom of Bees”

Michael O’Malley’s intriguing analogy between business organizations and beehives provides delightful entertainment and clear instruction, which can be appreciated by business people and laymen alike. In twenty-five brief chapters, the reader will come to understand how and why an enterprise succeeds or fails using the immagination and science of bees at work for guidance.

On closer evaluation bees were working on the very same kinds of problems we are trying to solve. How can large diverse groups work together harmoniously and productively? It seems to me that we could take what the bees do so well and apply it to our enterprises.” When Michael O’Malley first took up beekeeping he thought it would be a nice hobby to share with his ten-year-old son. But as he started to observe these industrious insects he noticed that they do a lot more than just make honey. Bees not only work together to achieve a common goal but in the process create a highly coordinated efficient and remarkably productive organization. The hive behaved like a miniature but incredibly successful business. O’Malley also realized that bees can actually teach managers a lot about how to run their organizations. He identified twenty-five powerful insights such as: * Distribute authority : the queen bee delegates relentlessly and worker bees make daily decisions based on local cues and requirements. * Keep it simple : bees exchange only relevant information operate under clear standards and use straightforward measures and feedback to guide their actions. * Protect the future : when a lucrative vein of nectar is discovered the entire colony doesn’t rush off to mine it no matter how enriching the short- term benefits. Blending practical advice with interesting facts about the hive The Wisdom of Bees is a useful and entertaining guide for any manager looking to get the most out of his or her organization.

In subsequent posts I will try and give more examples of how this book, in it’s 25 chapters has had an influence on me in my work and in organisations that I have been associated with in the field of supply chain management. As I mentioned in the pervious post relating to keeping things simple, removing complexity in our business is one of my own key challenges.


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