Kelvinne Mocke says winning the Dissertation Award at last year’s Supply Chain Research Summit was a nice morale booster in his long journey toward a PhD. Read about his study on resource orchestration and how the chicken joke fits in.
The winner of the 2022 PhD Dissertation Award competition, Kelvinne Mocke, has a lot in common with the 2021 winner, Assilah Agigi. Both study supply chain management at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. They are friends. And they also share the same dissertation supervisor, Arizona State University Professor Adegoke Oke.
A senior technical advisor for CARISCA, Oke was once a “best PhD” award winner himself. He earned the accolade at Cranfield University in the U.K., where he studied operations management.
Mocke says Oke introduced him to CARISCA and the PhD Dissertation Award competition, which is part of the annual Supply Chain Research Summit. As a student of Oke’s, Mocke says entering the competition “was basically non-negotiable.”
“He really pushes us hard,” says Mocke. “He’s constantly putting us on the spot, asking us to explain and be better and do a little bit more. And even though it’s tough, it’s definitely something that I personally needed. At the end of the day, we just want to make him proud.”
Oke confirms that he was “very proud” when Mocke won the competition last year. His goal in working with PhD students, whether at ASU or in Africa, is to help them become good researchers and experts in their chosen field.
“I challenge them to be able to think creatively and analytically,” says Oke. “Kelvinne is becoming an expert in logistics capability development and knows the literature now more than myself.
“But this is the intention. You have to be able to mentor PhD students so that they become better than you in their focused areas.”
Why didn’t the chicken cross the road?
Mocke’s winning dissertation proposal is on “Investigating the Development of Logistics Capabilities From a Resource Orchestration Perspective.” Although it’s a serious topic, he opens his proposal with an age-old joke: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
Instead of following with the usual punch line, he references a new variation of the joke that was popular in the U.K. in 2018. “Why didn’t the chicken cross the road? Because DHL was unable to deliver it!”
A logistics debacle between KFC and its new distributor DHL that year forced the temporary closure of over 600 KFC’s, “leaving most of the UK market without their fried chicken fix,” wrote Mocke in his proposal.
He uses that example of a logistics failure to demonstrate the importance of resource orchestration, which focuses on the role managers play in effectively leveraging a firm’s resources. He hopes one outcome of his study will be a “recipe” for logistics capabilities.
“Mix in two of this and then you put together a few of these things, and don’t overcook it, otherwise this is going to happen,” says Mocke about how his recipe might work.
“For a long time, we assumed that ownership of resources means you would be competitive in the market,” he explains. “So if you have all the trucks, you have all the warehouses, you have all those things in place, that means you would be competitive.
“But now it’s kind of changing, especially with all the volatility that we’re experiencing. It’s more about what we do with those resources, how we put those things together.”
Can you publish from it?
Mocke says he initially wanted to focus his research more specifically on logistics in Africa and how to better reach the people at the bottom of the pyramid—“the poorest of the poor.”
“When I started this process, I was reading a lot of reports on how Africa is going to be the next big market and how there’s a lot to capitalize on here but logistics being quite a big problem,” Mocke says.
After presenting his topic at a PhD workshop and receiving disappointing feedback, he opted to broaden his study. His supervisor, Oke, also influenced his decision.
“Professor Oke is always looking at, ‘Can you publish from it?’ This is kind of his main concern,” says Mocke.
After he completes his dissertation later this year, Mocke’s goal is to co-author a publication with Oke. In the meantime, winning the PhD Dissertation Award competition last summer was a welcome incentive to keep him going.
“The PhD journey can get quite long and tedious,” says Mocke, who began his doctoral program in 2017. “To have a little bit of acknowledgement is a nice morale booster, just to have someone say, ‘okay, what you’re doing is not completely wrong.’ Because I think you second-guess yourself often.”
Another of Mocke’s goals after completing his PhD is to become more involved with CARISCA. He already regularly attends the faculty workshops, trainings and lectures.
“I like those sessions because it’s really top, top scholars in our field, and it’s extremely valuable information,” says Mocke. “My colleagues who do not attend always come and ask, ‘How do you use this theory?’ or ‘How do you use this methodology?’ And I often have the answer. So I will keep on attending them as long as they’re there.”
If you don’t shoot, you can’t score
Mocke also plans to attend the third annual Supply Chain Research Summit this summer in Accra, Ghana. Last year he attended and presented his paper virtually, but he plans to use a research grant he recently received to attend in person this year.
Mocke hopes to take advantage of the pre-conference paper development workshop as well. That session will afford him the opportunity to discuss a work-in-progress paper on his dissertation one-on-one with a senior scholar.
“Figuring out how to condense the dissertation into an article that makes sense is difficult,” says Mocke. “Input from others always helps with that.”
While it may seem suspicious that both past winners of the PhD Dissertation Award competition are supervised by a CARISCA senior technical advisor, Oke insists he has no influence over the results. He is not on the review committee and doesn’t even work with his students on the proposals they submit.
“The only thing I do is encourage them to apply for it and make sure they follow the guidelines required for the competition,” says Oke. “As they say in soccer, if you don’t shoot, you can’t score.
“The feedback that students get is as valuable as winning. Also, winning is good for the CV.”