I was reading through the Gartner Supply Chain Disruption Management and Impact Survey the other day. Although COVID has been extremely impactful for most companies (74%), you can’t overlook the other categories — such as technology, supply shifts, demand shifts, competitive dynamics — that accounted for the next four disruptions vying for respondents’ attention.
Unfortunately, we might be learning to live with COVID-19, but we still need to deal with the rest of the disruptions because they are not going to just go away. We’re living in an age of disruption. And maybe we haven’t been too keen to understand some of the leadership traits we’ll need to navigate this new, more volatile world.
Last weekend I was reflecting on how my daughters fight, then solve their issues five minutes later and go back to playing together. This is not just a trait in my kids; most kids move on quickly. I thought that maybe we, as adults, should be able to move on just as quickly.
Kids do seem to move on and adapt much faster than adults do. Just think about the pandemic. They were the last ones to complain about using facemasks, adapted in one day to virtual schooling and did so without having to discuss the “situation” with friends, ad nauseum.
When I consider all the disruptions and changes the supply chain has faced over the last two years, I wonder if we should take a closer look at children to learn how to be more agile and resilient. I can think of at least of four characteristics of kids that we would do well to emulate:
Stay Fearless: Kids have less baggage from past experiences. When they worry, it’s just a fraction of the amount that we adults worry. We think of the 10,001 things that can potentially go wrong and, yet, we’re not even close to all the implications. We could just keep on talking forever about everything that worries us. We don’t because there’s simply not enough time. How many of you have used the phrase “paralysis analysis?” Too much thought, too much talk and very little action — we just fear so many things.
Be Curious: Explore the world and ask “why” enough times to really get the answers you need. We sometimes forget to do good root cause analysis and that’s why we keep on dealing with the same issues repeatedly. It’s not necessary to tackle everything all at once. But at least take your top three issues and have a child’s type of “why session.”
Be Creative: I have seen Amazon.com boxes turned into washing machines, plain paper and magic tape converted into a reusable white board and straws with Froot Loops turned into nice edible necklaces. For kids, the sky is the limit.
We must take off our own self-set limits and think about different ways of doing things and of solving issues. The old playbook is no longer good enough because the world has changed — the solutions we need today have never been done before. Now, more than ever, the phrase “think out of the box” makes a lot of sense.
Have Fun and Celebrate: Kids live in the moment and enjoy even small things.
Sometimes as supply chain professionals we are so immersed in the execution of our plans that it becomes difficult to pause and celebrate the many things we are doing right. It could be zero accidents in the last few months, the on-time arrival of the cross-border shipment that was forecasted to be late or just knowing that even our small actions are making a difference for the business. Take the time to cherish small and big successes just as kids would do.
There are probably plenty of other things that we can learn from kids, yet I would start by working on these four characteristics. And you? Will you take your inner child out to play? You may be surprised by what you’ll learn.
Ingrid Gonzalez McCarthy
Senior Director Analyst
Gartner Supply Chain
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