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Another major set of Information System linkages is becoming more common between Trading Partners, particularly between major retailers and the consumer goods manufacturers that supply them: Vendor Managed Inven-

tory (VMI). The VMI procedures that are typically arranged between the parties give the manufacturer/supplier control over the timing and quantity of shipments to the retailer (subject to meeting pre-agreed levels of inventory turn-over, in-stock percentages, and delivery constraints). VMI depends heavily upon EDI communications (as well as electronic mail) to support the process. Several EDI transactions are exchanged to carry out VMI effectively.

To initiate the process, the customer usually furnishes several years of detailed data about sales of the supplier's products, then regularly (daily/weekly) transmits detailed point-of-sale data and inventory status. The supplier develops and maintains a computerized inventory projection of its items in the customer's locations, and determines when to send replenishments. Typically the supplier will then send an EDI "Order Acknowledgment" to the customer as notification that an order is coming. Then, after arranging the delivery appointment, the supplier ships and transmits an advanced ship notice (which may also serve as the invoice). The customer may transmit a receiving notice, and then the remittance.

Whether the interaction is between/among members of the same company or between companies, there are several barriers to effective interpersonal communication. Psychotherapist Carl Rogers [34] offers his hypothesis that the major barrier is our natural tendency to judge/evaluate a statement from another. A person's primary reaction is to evaluate each statement from his or her own point of view, and then to agree or disagree (mentally if not verbally) or make some judgement about the speaker and/or the statement (e.g., "He must be conservative", or "That doesn't make any sense"). If feelings and emotions are involved in the situation, the tendency to make evaluations is greatly heightened, and there is likely to be no mutual communication in the exchange. Two ideas, two feelings, and two judgements will miss each other, passing in psychological space.

There is, according to Rogers, a way of overcoming this barrier. Real communication occurs, and the evaluative tendency is avoided, when we listen with understanding. This means that, if we see the spoken idea and attitude from the other person's point of view (sense how it feels to him, acquire his frame of reference), we will achieve real communication. This kind of fruitful interaction should be our goal.

Reinforcement for Rogers' proposition comes from another source. After describing the excellent results of job rotation and skills development, Kiyoshi Suzaki [6] points out that job rotation facilitates the sharingof skills, and encourages teamwork. Machine operators begin helping each other by information-sharing, problem solving, and improvement ideas as they gain awareness of the overall production process and each begins to view the overall group's operation as his/her own area of interest. As communication improves, traditional forms of craftsmanship fade away, and procedural improvements are frequently developed by the workers.

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In contrast, workers who are kept specialized do not develop this kind of "ownership" of the total process. They are concerned about their own area rather than cooperating with others to achieve the best results for all. This narrow focus, or "local optimization" results in poor communication, lack of shared goals and lack of cooperation.

Interaction is all about working together cooperatively, including inter-functional and inter-organizational cooperation. Effective interaction can be developed and enhanced in many ways that cause people to be more aware of, and empathetic to, each other's viewpoints and needs. The key is to break-down organizational and attitudinal barriers to good communication, and to thus integrate the disparate elements of the organization(s) into new stronger, mutually supportive relationships.

To be Continued


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