Where Should Supply Chain Time Be Spent After the Pandemic?

Supply Chain Time

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The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives and the global economy. From shortages of toilet paper to personal protective equipment (PPE) to lockdowns of businesses and channels of every form, Supply Chain has been at the epicentre of this disruption and it has consumed all Supply Chain time.

The pandemic has caused Supply Chain professionals to scramble to restore supply lines, respond to highly volatile demand patterns, find alternate logistics channels, and work under the restrictions of home quarantine.

But the time will come when day to day Supply Chain issue firefighting will ease. Then will come the time to translate these experiences into new strategies, improved processes and greater investments in technology and personnel development.

Where should Supply Chain professionals be spending their time when we get past the pandemic?

Firefighting Every Day

Anyone who has worked in Supply Chain for any length of time knows that there is an aspect to the job that involves dealing with issues. Quality issues, supply line disruptions, natural disasters, demand spikes or drops, and more all have Supply Chain professionals on their toes at all times. It has been said that just keeping your head above water is success in Supply Chain.

It is a testimony to the profession and its importance that Supply Chain is often called on to deal with these problems in real time. Those situations can be stressful with successful outcomes and company survival riding on the backs of the Supply Chain leaders charged with saving the day.

The Coronavirus pandemic has created a historic, global storm for Supply Chain the likes of which have never been seen before. Never before has every company, every industry, and every country in the world had its Supply Chain simultaneously disrupted in such an overwhelming fashion. And lockdowns and quarantines have made this even more challenging as Supply Chain teams have to respond while working from home only connected by online media.

But while it is necessary to jump in and deal with these hour to hour tactical issues that is not the best use of Supply Chain time in the future. The reality is that these types of daily problems will recur but with proper visioning, planning, investment, and improvements Supply Chains will be better positioned to respond in the future.

So where should Supply Chains be spending their time to make things better in the future?

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Time Invested Well is Time Well Spent

Supply Chain Time

Government leaders, CEOs, and citizens of the world all require Supply Chain professionals to create more robustness, resiliency, and responsiveness into all of our Supply Chains. The incredible importance of these objectives should not only inform but drive where Supply Chain leaders spend their time.

We can not afford to experience this level of disruption ever again. Supply Chain professionals must dedicate their time to this mandatory effort.

1. Post Mortem

As with many situations, projects, or initiatives the first sense that makes sense is to reflect on what happened. This reflection can take the form of a formal Post-Mortem. A Post-Mortem should require the participation of all stakeholders in an open forum.

This platform should involve uninhibited sharing of all experiences and problems and what went wrong. How did business processes hold up? How did people manage through the situation? How did every node of the Supply Chain fare? What was the experience in every channel? What did customers and suppliers go through?

This fact finding exercise should also include inputs from competitors, from other industries, and from all of your stakeholders.

A complete, unadulterated, honest and open Post-Mortem will raise and synchronize everyone’s awareness as to what happened. This will level set everyone and set the stage for making improvements in the future.

2. Visioning

With a basic understanding established as to what happened its time to create the plan to make the improvements needed in the future. Making improvements should not be done in an ad hoc fashion. The lack of an overarching plan will only lead to uncoordinated and ineffectual changes that may actually make things worse.

Start off by readdressing your overall objectives. Do you want to be able to respond 100% demand changes more quickly? Do you want to guarantee customer deliveries at any cost? Do you want to eliminate any possibility of supply disruption? Do you want to insource, outsource, or resource?

Whatever your experiences have been you should reset your overarching objectives. With these new objectives in place you should be able to articulate a new vision for your organization which will become the umbrella under which all future changes will be defined.

3. Define Your Game Plan

With your Vision in place it is necessary to translate this into an action plan. There should be a defined set of actionable initiatives that can be launched.

The list of initiatives should cover, at a minimum:

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4. Action Plan Deployment

Every initiative you define will require resources and leadership to get underway. As difficult as it can be to take people away from their day to day jobs it is absolutely imperative to make the time investment to staff these projects.

Additionally it is critical to establish a set of Ground Rules for Game Changing results. Unless you want things to be done the way they’ve always been done, with the same outcome, you must communicate a set of game changing paradigms to drive new thinking and make dramatic changes.

All of this requires a process of governance with Executive level oversight and leadership. Executives must challenge these teams at every step to get outside of their comfort zones and make massive changes. Unless you want any of these initiatives to become “just another program” you must invest time, resource and energy in pushing these projects forward even when they are tackling the sacred cows which have become part of your organizational psyche.


The Coronavirus pandemic has been a wake up call like no other. As the level of crisis subsides it will be very tempting for many people to go back to doing things the same way they have always been done. That would be a very bad mistake.

Intelligent leaders will remember the problems that surfaced as part of the pandemic. They will learn lessons from the pandemic and translate those lessons into actions to improve the robustness, reliability and responsiveness of their Supply Chains for the future.

Everyone lives and every economy has been disrupted by the global pandemic. It has put a spotlight on the importance of Supply Chain unlike anything that has ever occurred before.

For the sake of everyone everywhere it is incumbent upon Supply Chain leaders to step up, take the lead, and spend the time to make the changes necessary to prevent the level of Supply Chain disruption that we have all experienced with this pandemic.

Originally published on June 23, 2020.
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