Entries tagged with “Business Risk”.


It is confirmed that Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland has erupted sending a plume of smoke and ash several thousand feet into the air.

In the past, this has not been a major issue, and air traffic was routed around a 120 nautical mile no fly zone. However, you may recall the challenges that many fliers to and from Europe encountered last year when another Icelandic volcano belched smoke and ash that was pushed to many of the major air hubs in Europe, slowing or stopping many flights and disrupting the flow of goods through the supply chain.

Hopefully the last time served as a wake up call to develop contingency plans to assure the smooth operation of your business.

One of the benefits of hind site in unexpected natural disasters is the opportunity to create a “lessons learned” document. By looking at the “pain points” that your organization encountered during the incident, you have the ability to develop contingency plans. 

What are some  common pain points?

  • Key personnel out of position due to transit delays
  • Inventory shortage levels due to interruption of supply chain
  • Increased costs due to spike in demand
  • Delayed deliveries
  • Decreased cash flow
  • Cancelled orders

I take a rather different approach to developing contingency plans by working backwards from the pain point (impact on the company) to the triggering effect.  So rather than looking at “Volcanic Activity in Iceland” as the starting point, I look at “delayed deliveries”. 

Why are there delays?  when brainstorming the reasons, think globally before locally.  

  • Limited shipping lanes
  • Lack of containers
  • Insufficient inventory
  • Lack of key components

Then ask Why?

Lack of containers -

  • Increase in demand
  • Not located where shipments are happening
  • Not being unloaded

Why?

Not being unloaded -

  • Customer using as free “warehousing space”
  • Dock strike at key receiving port
  • Unexpected inflow at key receiving point
  • Shipments aren’t moving  out of a shipping point

The why question asked 4 - 6 times will typically  drill down to a root cause, and root causes can be addressed by either establishing an alternative, or correcting the challenge to remove the obstacle.  They key is to not drill so deep that a plan must be generated for each possible reason, after all doesn’t a solution for delayed deliveries because of a volcano in Iceland require the same process steps as a dock worker’s strike in Los Angeles?  In both instances you would look at alternative transportation routes (perhaps moving the product from Frankfort to Madrid, depending on how the wind blows, or re-directing the container to Seattle from LA to get product into the country and stores quicker), or services (moving by ocean from Europe vs. air freight, or air freight from China to LA) and measure the cost and service impact against the cost and service impact for waiting out the obstacle.

The important idea here is to have a contingency plan for those items that may have a serious impact to your business, otherwise you may just erupt like Grimsvotn.

In the United States we take water for granted.    We turn the tap, open the valve, punch the button and water flows out to meet whatever the demand is.  Not only do we expect the water to come on demand, but we have high expectations for the quality of the water.   When the water doesn’t meet the stringent requirements demanded by government for public safety, the supplier is faced with a potential mountain of cost that runs the gambit of medical coverage for people getting sick, to clean up and production losses, litigation expense and damage to both the providers brand and the customers it provides.  If the provider is smart, they have build back up systems for the back up systems, developed contingency plans for natural and man made disasters and tested both the systems and plans to make sure that everything works according to plan.  Additionally these plans are periodically reviewed to make sure that there are no new systems, technology and/or threats that should be addressed.

Water providers will also look to see how the risks they face can be minimized or transferred as well.  The newest transfer method is through Water Resiliance Insurance offered by AON.   The program is geared to water utility companies and provides not only traditional contaminants insurance, but also forensic analyses, cleaning and flushing of the water system, transportation costs, employee overtime and for third party financial losses.  The first policy was written in for Anglian Water recently.

It’s good to remember that our usable water was not so protected.  In the 1800′s the  water used for the city was usually drawn from a source up river from the sewage treatment area, or the town itself to provide protection from the sewage that entered the water down river.  Unfortunately down river was another town that practiced the same process.    Unsafe and contaminated water was the norm, not the exception. 

In many areas, clean and safe drinking water is the exception.  Managing Business Risk is joining with other bloggers today through blogactionday.change.org  to promote the United Nations efforts to bring clean, safe water to millions of individuals where it is not currently available.  Please join me in supporting this worthwhile cause and sign the petition.

Change.org|Start Petition

I want to ask you one quick question. What business fears keep you up at night. What thought pops in your mind at 3:30 in the morning the turns a night of peaceful slumber into an hour of tossing and turning, puts your mind to racing at light speed and leaves you bleary eyed when the alarm goes off?

Today, October 13th, is National Face Your Fears Day, and it a perfect time to look at your fears and concerns about what can go wrong with your company.  I advocate taking 15 minutes to brainstorm your fears for the business.  Let your mind go, look at all the areas:   financial, competition, systems, supply chain, legislation, regulation, leadership, market saturation, productivity, economy,  quality, bad publicity, the list can go on and on. 

Follow the rules for brainstorming, don’t self edit, don’t justify putting it onto the list, don’t over-think it, don’t think the idea is just to crazy, or wouldn’t happen, JUST WRITE IT DOWN! 

Once the list is completed take a few minutes and look the list over, flesh out the thoughts that may be one or two words and describe the situation or a scenario or give an example that puts the fear into a context that is understandable.

In naming the fear and providing that concrete example you can begin addressing it.   People love to solve problems and by defining your fear you are defining a problem, something that can be addressed.

Turn this into a team exercise.  Gather your department, friends, peers, and others and host a “brainstorming break” to gather the business or company fears of others.  You will be surprised at the information that comes out, and you might be able to help someone in another department remove a fear because of information you know.

Remember the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address  “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” 

So, take the first step, write down your fears, define them, it is the first steps into identifying risks within your organization.

I would love to hear what fears you have come up with.  Please leave a comment, or send an e-mail to me sharing your thoughts and fears.

Incidentally, tomorrow is Blog Action Day, a day where the blogging community comes together to speak on a specific topic and raises awareness of the issue.  Managing Business Risk is very proud to be part of this community.  Check back tomorrow for our posting and if you are interested in participating in the group of more than 3600 bloggers from 125 countries around the world, click here.