Gaining a Supply Chain Edge

The Economy and the New Norms of Business Today: How Are You Addressing the Challenge

I've been saying for a while now, with a little trepidation mixed with excitement, that "the new norm is that there is no new norm."

What does that really mean? I want to look closer at this phrase. And please bear with me here as I get a bit philosophical.

Working under the intense economic pressures we're all experiencing now, "the new norm is that there is no new norm" means there's no reliable understanding of what the future has in store.

It means forecasts aren't really all that useful anymore, which brings to mind the mildly sarcastic headline from an August edition of The Wall Street Journal: "Forecast: Next Year Will Arrive in 2010-ish." Not even the unbreakable march of time seems certain when so much is up the air.

If there are no norms, then that's your new norm: Drop everything, forget what's right in the past, and assess today's new set of limitless possibilities.

If the new norm is that there is no new norm, then what is possible? The impossible is now possible. The ancient Greeks said that there was poetry in talking about the impossible while never saying anything except the truth. Are you doing today what you thought was impossible yesterday, all the while realistically understanding and assessing the changes in your industry? If so, I'm sure the work you're doing now doesn't feel like poetry. I'm guessing that, without any norms to guide us, it feels pretty messy and out of control.

Yet there is a certain level of excitement to it: Once this recession ends, there will be more amazing things being developed than we can even imagine right now. That messy work now will look like poetry later, when it pays off!

With all of this in mind, I think we can also look at the word 'impossible' and redefine it. It's a word we use often to describe something we don't believe can happen, but the impossible is happening now. Businesses are finding new ways to reinvent themselves and considering different strategies (including a renewed focus on supply chain strategy), products and ways of operating that would never have occurred to them before.

Are my impressions accurate? What are you doing today in your job and in leading your company that you thought was impossible in the past? What should you be doing now? How are you going to grow your company through opportunities presented in this recession? How are you providing leadership with scenario planning instead of single dimensional budget planning?

Tompkins Associates

TAGS: Supply Chain
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