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Learning Supply chain management

Should we have known, What would we have done – The utility of Pre-Mortem Evaluations in the COVID-19 era

2 min read

Hindsight is 20/20 – The proverb tells us that it is easier to understand something after it has happened rather than before.  As we move past the initial shock, we are starting to see businesses reflecting and thinking about lessons learnt from this pandemic.  We can all benefit from sharing ideas and experiences that show us different ways to deal with this situation – if it or something like it, repeats itself.

The truth is adversity prepares you for trouble. Adversity is unique; hence, all these hard learnings need to be captured and ultimately lessons learned, and actions are taken so that we and our Supply Chains come out stronger.

How we prepare and what we prepare for will give us some comfort in knowing that we have made the most accurate diagnoses and applied the best possible strategies.

Lewin’s Maxim prevailed during my MBA studies.  “There is nothing as practical as a good theory”.  At the end of my Strategic Year, I received a Business Toolbox Collection, with 80 one-page templates for various Strategies.

One of the most useful was a Pre-Mortem Evaluation.

I had seen a Post-Mortem in practice when I found myself in the middle of a failed WMS implementation. That tool had great value, but it was a rear-view mirror of the past. On the other hand, a Pre-Mortem Evaluation has been one of the most simple and practical tools I’ve come across.

Pre-Mortems are particularly useful in Supply Chain Management, Logistic implementations, Procurement negotiations and most importantly in developing Business Continuity Plans.

Here is what my Pre-Mortem Evaluation toolkit looks like:

  • Go into the Future (~3 to 5 years) –Thinking in the Future is key
  • Imagine your business, project or process has failed – Identify possible causes

Pre-Mortems work because our brains are hardwired for negativity, so when you get a few subject matter experts into a room, you will have loads of volunteered pessimism to get started.  You tend to capture a lot of scenarios of what can go wrong and alongside, strategies to prevent or mitigate the situation.

Developing Pre-mortems with your suppliers or with cross-functional stakeholders within your business will amplify your view of end-to-end processes and increase engagement with business partners.

Collaborative Pre-Mortems strengthen outcomes.

A Pre-Mortem starts as an aerial view, like seeing a maze from above, which is far better than trying to navigate the maze while you are in it.  Its content can flow into ownership and actions.

Responding to unplanned disruptions sometimes goes like this: Something goes wrong. We rush to fix it. It’s a heroic effort, and we expend a lot of energy in the process.

Sometimes we get it the right first time, other times not.

Unless you are in the Health Sector, where risk mitigation is at the heart of all processes, little time is devoted to considering what could go wrong. The rush to get results reverts to focusing on speed and not on proper old risk management. We play Checkers, planning just one move rather than Chess, the long game, which is performed many steps ahead.

What if instead, we devote some thinking time to – Something could go wrong. How can we be prepared to prevent it, minimise the interruption, and or fix it?




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