The One Thing (Times Three)

Many of you will remember the 1991 movie “City Slickers” starring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirbak and, in a memorable appearance, Jack Palance. For those of you who don’t, the movie was about three friends caught in the throes of their first midlife crisis (believe me, there’s more than one). They decide to sort things out by going to a dude ranch in Montana and driving a herd of cattle to new grazing fields hundreds of miles away. During the course of the adventure they encounter Curly (Palance), a grizzled old cowpoke who takes no gruff from anyone and seems to have everything figured out.

In a pivotal scene, Mitch (Crystal) is riding with Curly, discussing life. During the discussion, Curly becomes irritated with Mitch’s rambling on about the challenges of life and love and cuts him off:

Curly: You know what the secret of life is?
Mitch: No, what?
Curly: This (he holds up his index finger).
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing, just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean s**t.
Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?
Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

A couple of weeks ago, after once again watching “City Slickers,” and after reading Ed Hisscock’s article in last month’s newsletter concerning the “Endeavor to One” approach to simplification, I got a brainstorm: I would ask a “whole bunch of people” (a statistical term) to give me input as to what they considered to be the challenges facing the supply chain over the next five years. After I received their replies I would boil them down and report what the “One Thing” was for supply chain management for the next half-decade, and in ensuing months discuss strategies to attack it.

So I sent an e-mail to more than 50 people at all points in the supply chain and healthcare spectrum, and asked them to tell me their “three things.” As is often the case, my fingers raced ahead of my brain, so my e-mail title read: “I need your iput.” One of the respondents asked me if “iPut” was a new application from Apple, and then gave me some very insightful observations. To date the response has been heartening. More than 30 people have sent me their ideas. To them I say thank you.

My intent is to wait a little longer and then begin to compile the responses and follow up with the people who sent them and write a series of articles about them – for this newsletter and for other publications as well.

I would like your input (notice I spelled it correctly this time). If you would like to contribute your “Three Things,” send me an e-mail at and I will include your response in the findings.

These are exciting times. With so much going on, the tendency is to complicate – to add layers of detail to already confusing issues. “Intelligent” people often tend to demonstrate their knowledge by adding new levels of complexity until it is virtually impossible to understand anything.

A couple of years ago I was involved in a conversation is which someone said that it was necessary to “disambiguate” something. Why couldn’t that person have said that it was necessary to “clear things up”? I heard another person say that something needed to be “de-obfuscated”.

C’mon, man! Why can’t we just simplify things?

Ever read Hemingway or Mark Twain? Those guys got their points across with words everyone understood.

And that’s the real challenge – my one thing, if you will. We need to be able to state issues in simple terms. In the words of Leonardo daVinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Stay tuned.

This entry was posted in A "Crans-Eye" View of the Industry, As I See It, News and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.