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Letters In Response To Bob Evans

Here are letters Bob Evans received in response to the original column in 2001.

Dear Readers: Here's a sampling of the letters we received three years ago from you after this column was first published ("The Need To Know Never Goes Away," July 23, 2001), and as I mentioned at the top of this week's column, the impact and insight within these letters dwarfs the column, so I hope you'll have a chance to read them all. While all of these letters below are wonderful, I have highlighted some passages to show the diversity of thought and expression you have shared. Thanks again.
--Bob Evans

*********************

Bob - Enjoyed the behind the technology this week. I'll probably end up quoting you for coining the phrase "where does the coal go?" As I've been working on multi-modal visibility (i.e. Air and ground parcel, freight, truckload, ocean going etc.) the question is very relevant. If I could just hire spotters in planes to follow the ships!

Seriously, the world is changing to always know where the coal is. Black hole transportation will become a thing of the past. Sector by sector the industry is realizing that the information about the shipment is as valuable as the shipment itself. Allowing companies to plan their operations, commit to customers and not get caught with huge inventories is a big money proposition.

Glad your pop got to see where the coal goes.

*********************

This is just a short note to let you know how much I appreciated your recent column about your Dad and the mystery of where the coal went. It is truly rare in this industry to stumble across something as personal as your father's story. Thank you for sharing it. It reminded me that it's not always just the job that teaches us our place and our vision, but the time we spend with the people we love.

*********************

That is one great article you wrote about your Dad and the coal ... and what a story it tells! Thanks for taking us up into the clouds, to better see what's below on the ground.

*********************

Great article! You have a great ability to paint pictures with words. You obviously have a great respect for your Dad and that means more than all of the vision of all the CIO's of all the world.

*********************

Bob,

Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed your coal story. The tone of the story indicates you had a very special relationship between your father and yourself - you are a very lucky man.

You're very right about getting the birds eye view of business. By using this personal story to describe your point you also hit on another most important element as well "the human element". Had your article been only about "how important it is to have an end-to-end vision", the impact would not have been the same. By using this personal illustration - the point has been driven with impact (at least for me it has).

Thanks for sharing your moment with us.

*********************

Mr. Evans: I read your column about your dad (and supply-demand chain transparency) last night on my train commute home. I have been in journalism/communications for almost 20 years, and it was the best written piece I can remember in a technology trade publication. Not only was it metaphorically instructive to your audience, but it was touching as well. I have sent a copy to my entire staff as an example of great writing.

Congratulations and thank you for having the courage to share such a personal story. I am sure your dad was very proud of you for helping to close the loop on his vision.

*********************

Bob: You touched me, and probably many others, with your personalized business tale... So many of our dads (mine would have been 88 this past March) had such instinctive feelings about and insights into the very things that make up the basic building blocks of our hi-tech world today...and their lessons in our lives can still hold value for us as we navigate in our crazy, complex technological culture...ah, it was all much simpler then...but it could be simpler today, too, if we only stop to remember our dads and what they tried to teach us about people and business...

Thanks again...

*********************

Bob,

I never thought I'd be moved to tears reading Information Week. Thanks for writing a great story. It made me stop to think about my dad for a second. I need to do it more often.

I am sorry for your loss.

*********************

Mr. Evans,

I very much enjoyed your column this week as it combines my job (IT) and my hobby (boatwatching). I do tend to think of Conneaut as a coal-loading rather than coal-delivery port, but that is probably just my distorted view of the supply chain. Your father's interest in Great Lakes shipping and your gift to him of a view from a different perspective made a great story. Thanks.

Look at www.boatnerd.com if you have the time.

*********************

The excellent story below brings back many memories for me, having sailed on the Great Lakes for ten years. We sailed into Buffalo, Conneaut, Ashtabula, Grand River, Cleveland, Lorain, Sandusky and Toledo may times to unload or load. Boy the kid memories you must have as I do of NE Ohio. Little does a child realize that a parent is giving so much as we grow up. It is only later in life that we realize by reliving the memories. You must have summered at Geneva-on-the-Lake as a kid. Next time you are in NYC let me know, My office is decorated with Great Lakes pictures, ship blueprints, and the stories I have. I am a plank owner of one of those 1,000 footers you talked about. They are so big at the dock but so small in the open waters.

*********************

Thanks for the story about your Dad and coal .... would that everyone would be able to comprehend.

*********************

Mr. Evans - Your story about your dad's quest to find the answers and understand the impact of the great ships and their cargo was a history lesson we can use every day. Many would have us discard history - but the old saying that we learn from history continues to help us with the future and hopefully make this a better world and place for our children and grandchildren and their children. Understanding history and learning from it is what makes America the best place on earth to be.

*********************

Mr. Evans:

I love stories like your 'But where does the coal go?'

Thank you for the inspirational true to life story. It seems that I also am constantly searching for the same 2,000 foot overview. I tell my fairly naive 12 year old to always search for the truth. She looks at me curiously and asks me what I mean. I am going to use your story to help her develop the concept of 'truth' further.

Thanks again,

*********************

Dear Mr. Evans,

Good story. Thanks.

*********************

Mr. Evans, Great story entitled "The Need to Know Never Goes Away"! Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed this article.

It demonstrates a valuable lesson: that companies may need to take a different approach in order to know more about their businesses. There is a tendency in tight economies to pull-in and take the approach of "status quo". And it also demonstrated the characteristic of perseverance, which seems to be a requirement in my line of work: data warehousing. You had tried several times to find roads so you could "see" the missing link, but to no avail. You were persistent and then found another way, actually a better way. And analogous to the business world, I would imagine the plane trip wasn't free. But according to your testimony....worth every single penny. :-)

*********************

I always enjoy reading your articles but I especially enjoyed reading the referenced article since I am a life-long resident of Erie, PA. I certainly can relate to your personal experiences. Living on Lake Erie can be hell in the winter but the rest of the year more than makes up for this. I hope you take the opportunity to revisit the area often.

*********************

Dear Bob -

I find that this article, which one can tell was actually both insightful as well as a labor of love (your Dad), was a joy to read.

Well done! Uncomplicated and yet not simplistic by any means. We all really need to have "end-to--end" vision in business...and in life as well.

I guess I also liked it because you use a "family trait" - the Lutzak ability to tell a story and (eventually) get to the point. (But you do it much faster....)

Keep up the great writing!

*********************

Mr. Evans,

Reading your story about the boats on Lake Erie brings back fond memories of my father and I watching the boats come in to Ashtabula Harbor and dump off their loads... I often wondered where the coal goes...after it was loaded into the coal cars...Pittsburgh or Youngstown...dad said. My father has also passed away; but I make it back to that same lookout point with my children whenever we go visit mom/grandma in Geneva, Ohio, where I was born and raised.

Too bad I cannot charter a plane to get a birds-eye view of our end-to-end supply chain, for I would like to see where my transactions go...some on the floor I presume.

Enjoy reading your column...knowing we are from the southeastern shores of Lake Erie, will make them even more enjoyable.

*********************

Mr. Evans-

Just wanted to say that was a great story you wrote about your dad. I could just picture you guys scrambling through the forest only to reach yet another fence! Glad he got to see the view from above....

Keep up the good work!

*********************

That was a WONDERFUL personal tale that you shared with your readers - the one about your father's insatiable hunger to know where the coal went. I am so glad he finally found out. He sounds like the kind of guy my dad was, always pondering the wonders of life, etc. Kudos to you for renting that plane and giving him his answer. He died a happy man.

*********************

Thanks so much for your article. It brought back many memories, as my grandparents lived in Ashtabula, OH and we spent quite a few summers in the early fifties watching the ships enter into the harbor.

*********************

My dad is 86 and he and I have wondered together on such topics as why race horses that pee before they get to the starting gate don't run as fast as those that don't. Someday, we'll get the answer. It was nice of you to get the answer to your dad's question on the logistics of coal. The world would be a better place if more sons did that. And business would be better if CEO's did as well.

*********************

Dear Mr. Evans: Thanks for sharing the coal story, which I found both poignant and informative. I teach a course in supply chain management here at the University of Virginia, and will use your example about supply chain visibility with my MBA students.

*********************

My father and I use to do some of those kinds of things. Some of our vacations were spent just travelling through places like mining towns in Minnesota taking plant tours. Though I think what we were supposed to learn from all of it was how exhaustible our resources were, the real moral of the lesson was not as much about energy conservation as it was about saving him a buck by remembering to turn out the lights. Anyway, he was a pilot and sometimes we use to rent a plane and fly to Middle Bass or Kelly's Island for an afternoon picnic, but I remember flying over places like Conneaut, Ashtabula or Lorain to look at those things, and yes, he buzzed a few freighters. Once we followed a set of tracks all the way from Ashtabula to Youngstown. We knew where the coal went. Combining those experiences with seeing Minnesota miners at shift change did the trick. I started turning off the lights when I left a room.

*********************

Bob,

I enjoyed your column about the "end to end" view. My condolences on the passing of your dad. Kind of makes us think about pulling back and "seeing where the coal went" in respect to our own lives, doesn't it?

I'm glad you got to spend that time with him. Your story is one of those that I'll remember for a very long time.

*********************

That was a great story Bob! Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

I think you did a great thing for your Dad in hiring that plane and I'm sure he appreciated the effort you went through.

Maybe the bigger lesson is for people to make greater efforts in tuning in to what matters most to others.

*********************

Love your stories and perspective, Bob. This was my favorite because like most, I love a good story. It's great you got to do that for your Dad. Thanks.

*********************

Great column! I grew up not far from the Welland canal and saw many of the same ships you spoke of. I enjoyed the column very much.

*********************

Bob,

Every once in a while the CEO of any business needs to ask; what business are we in and how are we doing? Then the CEO needs to report the answer to those questions to the managers below him/her to keep the business on track. The early railroad industry (no pun intended) leaders always identified themselves a being "the railroad" and failed to notice that they were in the transportation business and indeed had competition. The next logical set of questions relates to where our products or services go and how they are being used by whom?

Yes, the need to know never goes away. It sometimes gets obscured by the complexities of toady's organizational culture, technology, and the plain old human need to justify our existence while we overlook the obvious.

Thanks for reminding us to look to the obvious.

*********************

Mr. Evans,

I can tell your father passed along his curiosity and the ability to put together a puzzle to you. He was a good dad. I am sorry he is no longer with you.

*********************

Thank you for the story...

From a business perspective, you are absolutely correct. We must look beyond the parameter of our existence, all aspects included, to truly know and understand what effects us and what we can effect. It is imperative that we strategically correlate the interactions of our business functions and stakeholders throughout the life cycle of our products or services...all the while...keeping an innovative eye on whatever else we can offer our customers.

From the family perspective, that was a BEAUTIFUL gift you gave to your father!!! As a proud parent of an eight year old son, that simply warmed my heart to read of the heartfelt relationship you shared with your father. WELL DONE!

Thanks!

*********************

Bob:

Just wanted to thank you for the great story about your Dad. My Dad unexpectedly passed away about 5 weeks ago and your story just shot out at me and I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you!

*********************

Bob --

I enjoyed your article in the recent e-mail about you and your father looking for the coal. Thank you for sharing such a personal and heart-warming story with us, your readers.

I will never forget the story...and it's application to business. However, it also reminded me that there is more to life than business...I'm going to call my dad today.

*********************

Hello Bob,

I rarely if ever do this but I felt compelled to write a short note to you about your story of where the coal ends up in the grand scheme of things and your father's need to know.

Through many twists of fate I have ended up in a position at my company where understanding the "whole" picture is crucial to recovering that business in the event of a disaster. It is a hard thing to do because I don't believe any one person truly understands the complexity. Oh sure, there are area experts who can tell you what takes place in their own area of responsibility but knowing the complete picture is an elusive spectre.

I believe with my whole heart that many of the reasons why our economy and businesses suffer such incredible swings of success and failure is for lack of understanding a vision of what that company does and how it relates to the whole. I am not an economist or a Harvard educated MBA business type but I think you hit the nail on the head by telling your story. Supply and demand are crucial aspects of business but just as important to a business is understanding how it can best respond to the market forces and lead versus being pulled along.

Thanks again. I was deeply touched by your article in its simplicity and yet its profound implications. Keep up the great work....

*********************

Bob,

As each of us nears the time which will bring to a close the opportunities we now have to share with our parents, your story was wonderful- and brought me up short.

My folks are about your dad's age - not quite, but in the range. They too live in Ohio and while they have email and we talk on the phone regularly (those 7 cents-a-minute plans changed my mother's life - the depression mentality and all).

Nevertheless we have precious few opportunities to share experiences with them in person.

They are coming to visit us in NYC in September and I will charter a helicopter for an aerial visit to Ft. Hamilton (Brooklyn) where my mom and I were housed while we waited to board a ship, leaving from a port on Staten Island to join my dad to West Germany in 1954.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is where we took the car for shipment back to Germany in 1961 and we will see that too.

This will be a moment, like you must have felt with your dad, that we will treasure forever. And to think, just the other day I was wondering what we could do to entertain them for a week.

Thanks for your piece of yourself.

*********************

Thanks, Bob, for sharing an intimate and very meaningful story.

You write very inspiring stories and messages but this is your best and most inspirational by far. Your dad must have been a great guy.

Great message! Thank you!!!

*********************

I'm glad and sad about your Dad.

You loved him very much.

*********************

O.K. I'm not supposed to cry at work. I'm a woman! We love that kind of stuff! It's a beautiful story, I'm very sorry for you that your father died, but I'm glad he had a wonderful life and a son who loved him so much.

*********************

Bob,

Your message hit me on a personal level, and I thank you for favoring us with this parable. I'm preparing to visit my 86-yr-old father next week - he lives 1200 miles away, and I need to take whatever opportunity I can to see him and my mother. We talk about the art of the long view, and our elders have such a wealth of vision - if we can make a firm connection between the future and that historical vision.

My role as a technology architect requires an end-to-end view of the business. This is not a technical skill per se, it's really a visioning process - seeing the whole picture, understanding the dynamics, communicating a shared vision, and then working through the technology implications of the vision. The idea of flying above the organization to see how it really works is an excellent metaphor for the technology architect's need to find a new vantage point which puts the business in a new perspective.

*********************

Great story. Enjoyed it very much.

I have the same questions regarding the data going over the under sea cables, especially the pacific and atlantic crossings. From a PC, somewhere in the US to a PC somewhere in Europe, for example. What's in between (modems, cables, signal amplifiers, data storage, routers, etc.), and who are the players? A neat block diagram of the entire system and a brief layman's description of each component would be great.

*********************

Mr. Evans:

If there is one thing that I look forward to it is your column in the email Between the Lines. Then when I receive the Information Week magazines I always reread your column. Your columns are always fascinating, funny, informative, irreverent; as well as well written. This week's column I found very poignant. It also made its point from a business point of view. Keep up the great work!

Thanks for making my day!

*********************

Bob,

Thanks for the story about your dad. It was unexpected to find such a moving story in Between The Lines. By the end, I could care less what the point was; I was getting a little teary thinking about my dad and wanting to do something like you did.

*********************

Bob, Enjoy your columns. I'm sorry you lost your Dad. Lost mine suddenly 24 years ago. Still miss him. Only people who've lost their parents can understand that piece that's missing... Thanks,

*********************

I appreciated your touching memoir about your late father and his need to know where the coal went. I suspect that this plodding, step-by-step verification (what surveyors call "ground truthing") is the secret process that will over time transform "The New Economy" into "The Economy."

Thank you for an inspiring article.

*********************

Hi Bob.

I usually have a tough time finding a moment to reply to articles that I enjoy, but I had to break free today. I really enjoyed your tribute to your dad today. Having grown up in a manufacturing family, I was well versed in plant floor activities and always enjoyed walking plants with my dad and my grandfather. It was always intriguing to see raw materials and the processes that had to happen to come up with a finished product.

Later, I enjoyed (to a lesser extent) my college summers spent on the production lines. The lesson I learned there has stayed with me throughout my life - the satisfaction of a good day's labor is an outstanding feeling, but it starts to catch up with you much faster than the labor behind a desk or computer screen. Hence, I studied pretty hard in school.

*********************

Dear Bob,

I just wanted to say that your story about you and your father's quest was really touching. I grew up in that area (Youngstown, Ohio) and I am probably one of the few people that finds the industrial landscape of steel mills and railroad yards strangely beautiful. Anyway, it was a great story and a memory that I'm sure brings you much pleasure. Thanks for sharing it with us.

*********************

Thank You for writing that story about you and your dad. It was great to read such a warm and personal article. I have wonderful memories of my dad and Lake Erie also.

*********************

I can identify with you and your father's curiosity quite literally, having lived three of my formative years of youth just a short distance away from you in Ashtabula, Ohio ('short distance' being a relative term that grows with age and technological advances). During that time, my family would have outings on the nearby beaches on Lake Erie and I would see those ships passing by on the water. As you stated, they were heavily laden going East, but riding higher in the water heading West and I also wondered about what they were loaded with and what would happen to their cargo when they reached their appointed destination. I hadn't thought about that period of time for years and yet it all came back to me 'like the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist' when I was reading your article. Thanks for sharing your memories.

*********************

Great Story about your Dad and the Coal. Very apt metaphor for Visibility with Customers and the Supply Chain. Nortel, Cisco, Sun and other companies were blindsided by the sudden infusion of capital into Telecom and lame Internet Commerce Business Models. To some extent many more lame B2B businesses still are burning venture monies or monies raised in the public market.

The Supply Chain is till solid except these companies mistook a Mirage for their actual customers. Telecommunication, Bandwidth, Internet, Routers, Switches are all needed more and not less in the world. The sudden loss of so much wealth HAS to have a large effect on the World Economy at least for a year. This is borne very clearly by the larger tumble the NASDAQ took from the 5000's to the 2000's and the comparative strength of the broader economy as shown by the Dow Jones Average (11,000's to 10,000's). The Coal will continue shipping in a couple of years but you may not see a sudden influx of a thousand barges with coal. Maybe a hundred or two hundred to begin with but eventually reaching thousands in a decade or so. Just my 2 cents.

*********************

I enjoyed the tale about your father's desire to know. I know it was immensely gratifying to him...and you...to be able to answer a long standing question

Sorry to hear about his passing. May you and your family members be encouraged and strengthened, during those times of grief..

*********************

Mr. Evans:

I grew up in Lorain, Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie - our house was half a block from the lake. In the 50s Lorain's ship yards were still building ore boats. As a boy my grandfather took me to see the launching of one. It slipped sideways into the water and created a huge wave! Before World War II my dad sailed on the boats and after the war helped build some. When I was in high school he took me down to tour one first hand.

My folks used to take us down to the docks to watch fully loaded coal cars being picked up whole then tipped over so the contents would dump into the cargo holds. The empty cars would then be sent down hill to a "ski jump" where just before the top gravity would take over then they would automatically switch to a second set of tracks to slide down to the rail yard to be taken back south for a refill. The sounds easily come to mind.

When we were in about 7th or 8th grade the boys in shop class got a field trip to the working dock facility. I still remember that experience more than forty years later!

Your article brought back many fond memories. Thank you.

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