Volume 19 Number 2 - February 2, 2021

Simplifying the Complex

Business is not easy, especially when rogue waves hit us hard. It doesn’t need to be as difficult as we allow it to be.

Cargo ships are now built to carry more and more containers, and with extensive global trade are being expected to do just that. But more and more containers are falling off of ships into the ocean, largely because of failed thinking by those shipping companies.

Driving down the highway it is easy to spot vehicles with high centers of gravity, which we all know will be impacted by high winds more than the rest of us. The higher cargo companies load containers, the more that same predictable challenge arises. I’d like to think they’ve thought through avoiding the entire ship tipping over in a big wave, but clearly, they haven’t thought through how to better secure the load. A ridiculous oversight.

It’s easy for those companies to claim that they have no control over the long shoremen who load the ship. But that is the victim view. “It’s not our fault” is a poor message to send customers whose product is now in the water and furthermore indicates no intention to prevent future episodes.

It is the captain’s responsibility to ensure that everything is loaded correctly and safely. It is the captain’s responsibility to ensure that the ship maneuvers through waves with minimal impact.

Does that mean this is the captain’s fault?

No, it definitely does not. What processes are in place to provide the best means for verifying load, for tracking wave action beyond view, for ensuring safety for people and product and the environment? There are a limited number of variables that are most critical in accomplishing the basic business function of the ship – safe transport. Becoming overwhelmed by an “it’s hard” mentality makes what is really pretty simple unnecessarily complex.

I use that example because none of you own over-the-ocean container shipping companies. It is much easier to see needless error in an environment in which we do not live. Now look to your own organization.

Do your markets exhibit cyclicality? If so, it’s obvious you must master managing through that. Again, there are a limited number of variables that distinguish those who succeed profitably and those who slide to the edge of bankruptcy every time.

Auto factories worldwide have shut down because of a chip shortage. It was predictable and preventable, had effective risk management been in place. Automakers cut back significantly on chip orders when the pandemic hit; personal devices increased demand because work-from-home impacted them the other direction. Chips have become ubiquitous in cars and thousands of other products. Overall demand has been rising significantly, as has the importance of chips to production in many industries. All of that is widely known.

The current misalignment of supply and demand was predictable; therefore, it could have been protected against, preventing the complexity of shutting down production and related suppliers only to resume them in a few weeks. Recognition of chips as an at-risk component could have led to different decisions than the on/off button pushed by too many. Lack of that recognition turbocharged today’s complexity.

One of the best means of limiting needless complexity is to recognize commonalities. Leverage commonalities and make distinctions value laden.

I encourage each of you to name the top sources of complexity in your business. Then ask what you, your team, and your supply chain can do to reduce or better manage those complexities. Often much of that is within your own control, and certainly within your influence.

Refusing to be the victim is the first step in simplifying complexity.

February 10, 2021   12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EST

USI Insurance Services Presents: A Virtual Engagement with Manufacturing Business Expert Rebecca Morgan entitled: “Manufacturing in Northeast Ohio - Starting Smart in 2021.” This interactive conversation, led by me, will take place via Webex and focus on strategies to ensure a trajectory toward sustainable, long-term success in 2021 and beyond. The work starts now.

To RSVP, please email David Anthony at [email protected]

The Book I’ve Written for You

I am excited to share that I have submitted my manuscript and all additional required materials to Taylor & Francis two weeks ahead of schedule. A June 2021 release is anticipated, dependent upon Covid’s continuing impact on publishing production and distribution challenges. I’ll keep you posted! Manufacturing Mastery: The Path to Building Successful and Enduring Manufacturing Businesses will be worth the wait.

The Starting Pistol

Abigail Adams:
"The habits of a vigorous mind are born in contending with difficulties."

The Tape

Rebecca Morgan:
"The difference between ten years of experience and one year ten times is learning."

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