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Leadership and planning in an ambiguous world

If the world doesn’t follow a script in a post-COVID world, how can a business? Maybe it’s time for applied improvisation.

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This is an excerpt of the original article. It was written for the November 2022 edition of Supply Chain Management Review. The full article is available to current subscribers.

November 2022

Are you resilient? It’s not an idle question. If there’s one word that I’ve heard at every supply chain event I’ve attended this year, its resilience. It is, of course, in response to the last few years in supply chain management. I think its fair to say that supply chains have been knocked to the canvas more times than Rocky. What has become clear as we do our post-pandemic reviews is that the firms that demonstrated the ability to get up off the canvas and keep punching were those that invested in resiliency before the pandemic—even if they didn’t use that term.
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Imagine sailing when a significant storm starts to build on the horizon. Within minutes, your pleasant day on the water has turned into a nightmare, with 10-foot waves rendering your boat almost inoperable. The sails are flailing, the sound is deafening and attempting to navigate is entirely useless, especially considering your minimal experience steering through rough seas. What do you do?

After two chaotic years of COVID-related dilemmas, imagining such a “black swan” event now isn’t difficult. COVID has been a radical and profound altering of life and business as we know it, and though many were calling it a once-in-a century catastrophe, it’s widely accepted that it is likely the new normal. It has brought supply chain disruptions, remote work challenges, overhauled HR policies and the “Great Resignation,” to say nothing of an increasingly polarized political climate, worldwide migrant crises and global disagreement on a scale that is only beginning to emerge. In short, it’s an ambiguous world.

To complicate matters, our boards and senior executives now expect us to anticipate these new calamities so that we’re not caught off guard again. To do so requires novel and creative thinking drawn from a few unusual places. Classic contingency planning methods feel inapplicable, dated and out of touch—especially while on a burning platform.

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From the November 2022 edition of Supply Chain Management Review.

November 2022

Are you resilient? It’s not an idle question. If there’s one word that I’ve heard at every supply chain event I’ve attended this year, its resilience. It is, of course, in response to the last few years in…
Browse this issue archive.
Access your online digital edition.
Download a PDF file of the November 2022 issue.

Imagine sailing when a significant storm starts to build on the horizon. Within minutes, your pleasant day on the water has turned into a nightmare, with 10-foot waves rendering your boat almost inoperable. The sails are flailing, the sound is deafening and attempting to navigate is entirely useless, especially considering your minimal experience steering through rough seas. What do you do?

After two chaotic years of COVID-related dilemmas, imagining such a “black swan” event now isn’t difficult. COVID has been a radical and profound altering of life and business as we know it, and though many were calling it a once-in-a century catastrophe, it’s widely accepted that it is likely the new normal. It has brought supply chain disruptions, remote work challenges, overhauled HR policies and the “Great Resignation,” to say nothing of an increasingly polarized political climate, worldwide migrant crises and global disagreement on a scale that is only beginning to emerge. In short, it’s an ambiguous world.

To complicate matters, our boards and senior executives now expect us to anticipate these new calamities so that we’re not caught off guard again. To do so requires novel and creative thinking drawn from a few unusual places. Classic contingency planning methods feel inapplicable, dated and out of touch—especially while on a burning platform.

SC
MR

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