Cut Me Slack!

Practical Resilience: Cut Me Some Slack!

I ordered a gift for my wife from an online retailer yesterday and was thrilled to see it arrive this morning. Talk about a life saver! The speed with which goods and services move today is lightning fast compared to only a decade ago saving husbands everywhere in their last-minute gift purchasing.

The crazy thing is the speed of products to consumers seems to be on an exponential improvement curve constantly getting better and faster. In the not-too-distant future, I’ll hit submit and watch as my wife’s gift instantly materializes or better yet, receive it the day before I actually order it.

While I thoroughly enjoy this as a consumer, the inner resilience planner in me furls his eyebrow.

Creating A Business Resilience Plan in a Fast Paced Environment

Increased speed and efficiency in the business has often come at the price of expense reduction, simplification of steps in a process, smaller workforce, or all the above and even more in an effort to remain competitive. Unfortunately, the metaphorical ‘pulling the slack out of the chain’ has both created benefit and potential disaster. The bean counters are betting on the come that the longer-term benefits of efficiency will outweigh any temporary interruptions in delivery.

Interestingly, this type of thinking is often siloed in the range of factors it takes into consideration. For example, while consumers desire speed/efficiency, they also want perfection. They want it work right EVERY time, not just most of the times. Any negative experience tends to get you less stars on the review or a negative comment on the social media platform of your choice. Consumer expectations are on that same exponential curve mentioned earlier.  How do you balance that?

Separately, and probably more concerning, is what happens when goods and services are disrupted by a real disaster. Think hurricane, ice storm, or anything else mother nature or society wants to throw at us. These events create an imminent need, but the supply chain has slowed. This creates a real problem for consumers and providers alike.

I remember one customer review during Hurricane Maria where they absolutely torched a company publicly for not being able to provide lifesaving goods with two-day delivery to Puerto Rico when there was no access via air or sea, telecom was down, and the power was out. You’d think there would be a little understanding.

However, this is the world we live in.

Importance of Creating a Risk and Resilience Assessment and Emergency Response Plan

Resilience doesn’t sit still. Therefore, those of us entrusted with building it have to learn how to adapt to this new and accelerating normal. Where we once had more slack in the line, we no longer have luxury. Disruptions that used to be mere hiccups, may actually cause larger or more complex issues and larger-scale disasters may yield even greater catastrophic impacts. So, we must sharpen our pencils and figure out how to maintain organizational resilience in this tighter reality.

Here’s 3 Tips to Help Get You Started on Resilience Planning:

  • Anticipate the Upstream – Easier said than done, right? This is one of those areas that resilience planners really must dig in and constantly understand what’s feeding the organization (internally and externally) from a critical function/resourcing standpoint and not just understand dependencies and risks, but also where slack exists around you and how it can be leveraged. This becomes part of the story that should be used to paint a broader picture for leadership.
  • Master the Pivot – Your ability to transition quickly during a disruption from Plan A to B to C and so on will be critical to keep things moving and supplies, goods, and services flowing, which may create some much-needed slack in the chain (e.g., time). This is done by getting ahead of the situation through identifying and paying attention to lead indicators and using good sources of risk intelligence. Additionally, exercising your team and broader stakeholders and getting them comfortable and on the same page with pivoting will prove crucial when the disruption comes
  • Advocate the Critical Pain Points – Perhaps one of the most difficult things to do in an organization is ask for more money or resources (e.g., headcount, time, inventory, etc.) when it’s scarce and there are competing priorities. However, it’s not impossible. While it may take you a few attempts or even experiencing a disruption to make improvement, be steadfast and stick with it. A few simple thoughts include –
    • Identify the most critical areas where you need to create some slack in the chain or at least ability to better weather a disruption and mitigate impacts and present just the very top (1-3, not all) for consideration.
    • Learn the company language on how to showcase value.
    • Find advocates in other areas of the business that are willing to champion and align with your priorities.
    • Dovetail into other business unit projects where you can create exponential value.

Like I said, resilience doesn’t sit still.  Neither should we.  How do you create slack in your organization?

More About The Author:

Jason Jackson is a highly respected executive and thought leader in security, safety and crisis management and is appreciated for his ability to bring people together when developing innovative, forward-thinking strategies. Jason’s experience includes leading Walmart’s global emergency management and business continuity teams, where he developed a vision for and launched forward leaning technology and operating platforms to improve the company’s ability to mitigate and manage crises. He most recently served as the Chief Security Officer for Bass Pro Shops family of companies with responsibility for security, safety and regulatory compliance to include cybersecurity, business continuity, and crisis management.  

In his role as the Vice President of Customer Experience at Infinite Blue, Jason develops customer experience excellence by driving holistic thinking and making continual progress with customer alignment throughout Infinite Blue. Working closely with Product Management, Customer Success, and Account Management, he is the consistent voice of the customer throughout Infinite Blue.