Category Management in a COVID World – It’s Baaaaaack!!

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Or sadly, it never went away.  The headlines everywhere are ominous (and that might be an understatement).  Cases are up almost everywhere in the US and the world.  Restrictions are most assuredly headed back – and in many cases are here already.  Indoor masks are mandatory again – regardless of vaccination status.  Children are being advised to wear masks in schools.  Many parts of Europe are putting in severe restrictions again.  Reports are that the death toll in India is times X the official count (you can debate the X).  More and more kids are being admitted to ICUs.  Headline on the screen as I type this: “COVID cases triple in the U.S. in the last two weeks.”  Unfortunately, we must acknowledge some sad truths – we didn’t have to be here.

The first point to be made is that this is Predictable and Inevitable.  Viruses behave in fairly predictable and orderly ways such that experts can mostly model what will happen and be fairly accurate within ranges.  And the experts have been warning us that unless we were able to get the vaccination rates to a certain level by a certain time, the virus would continue to mutate into more aggressive forms.  Not to toot the horn, here is a slide from a year ago from a PERT workshop on COVID:

Amongst others, one point we tried to make was that New Zealand was doing a better job a year ago in responding much earlier than the U.S. and would therefore be suffering a lesser impact comparatively.  If you were to look at the same leading indicators that the experts are looking at, you would not be surprised when you heard this from them ”we have yet to see the worse of COVID”.  The 4th wave we are suffering sadly may not be the last.

While Operation Warp Speed was a phenomenal success is delivering the vaccine (the innovation), the value of the innovation lies in the Adoption (I know – you’ve heard that ad nauseum from us).  In this case, that’s the vaccination rate.  And here we continue to fall woefully short.  For whatever reason, it is still sad to watch vaccination centers shutting down in this country for lack of customers while the rest of the world is literally dying from lack of vaccines.  As a reminder for the alumni, here is a slide you may remember(graph):

We should have invested far more in the adoption of the vaccinations than we did.  And that includes physical infrastructure to distribute it and the political will and effort to get people to get vaccinated.  Sadly, we were woefully under invested in both.  This is no different than most projects or initiatives in most of our client organization – perhaps not yours?

The last point I would offer up is that because this is no where close to being over, your organizations ability to deal with disruptions in the Supply Chain need to be maturing and maturing fast.  And if you have not made progress over the last year in building that competency as a permanent organizational competency, you may want to accelerate your efforts – significantly.  A simple example – the days of securing PPE supplies are not behind us if the mask mandates are back?  While some thought that they would be forcing people to come back to work physically, we may have to start thinking about a permanent hybrid working model and learning how to optimize that?  Here is another slide from a year ago to remind us of some of the key components:

This notion of Response Lead Time (RLT) allows us to communicate the concept of how much better you are at managing disruptions as an organization.  It is in fact a concept that some of our clients are using to communicate it as a competitive advantage to their customers.

As a recent headline not so delicately put it – you may be Fu%^$* tired of hearing about COVID but COVID is not Fu%^$* tired of you.

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Dalip Raheja is President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG). Dalip has over 30 years of experience managing large organizations and change initiatives. He has worked across the spectrums of supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and management consulting.
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