Daily Archives: October 14, 2015

Societal Damnation 46: Mass Hysteria

While mass hysteria is a term that typically refers to collective delusions of threats to society that spread rapidly through rumours and fears, it also means unmanageable emotional excesses on a large scale, and both can be damning to your supply chain. Each of the following situations can significantly impact your supply chain in a negative way.

Fear of Your Product

If a rumour gets out that your product is dangerous to use, it can lead to mass boycotts and an immediate drop in sales whether the rumour is true or not. For example, let’s say someone claims that your bottles are laced with BPA that leaches at room temperature, your cell phones are not properly shielded and increase a person’s risk of brain cancer by 20%, or your toddler toys regularly break into plastic pieces with sharp edges that can be swallowed and cut and choke the toddlers playing with them and the rumour spreads across the internet at today’s internet speed. True or not, that could be thousands of lost sales in minutes.

Fear of Your Processes

Just ask the oil industry how well their operations progress when they want to start drilling, or even worse, fracking. And while the former can be quite safe with today’s technology, and the latter reasonably safe with the right geological conditions (with no nearby ground water reservoirs for the chemicals used in fracking to leak into, no underground caves that can rupture and cause sinkholes, etc.), many people, understandably, don’t like these processes and many more are just outright fearful. And they don’t stop at boycotts of your product. They hold protests and do everything legally, and sometimes, illegally possible to stop your progress.

So, if they fear that you are using a process that creates an unsafe product, that puts people, or animals, at risk, or that is polluting any part of the environment (air, water, or ground), they will speak out. And they will verbally, and sometimes physically, attack your supply chain (and the people who run it).

Fear of Your Ethics

Sometimes people will think you’re just out to make a quick buck, no matter what the cost, and you don’t care who gets hurt, or, more precisely, used, abused, and financially bankrupted along the way. Now, this may be true of your psychopathic CEO (who is, statistically, the most likely person in your organization to be a psychopath, even more so than the corporate lawyer as per our post on societal damnation #48: worker’s rights), but this is likely not true of you.

This poses a real problem during a strike or walk-out, legal or not, when the instigators, who may be delusional (and see themselves as the re-incarnation of Cesar Chavez) or may not, believe that you are going to displace and dispel them at any cost, possibly with force, and believe that their only option is to counter with force. This, of course, not only puts your supply chain at risk but your workforce at risk as well.

Craze for Your New Product

Sometimes hysteria swings in the other direction and instead of fearing your ethics, processes, or products, for whatever reason, everyone has to have your product — now. And we get what is now typically known as Black Friday Madness where people literally trample each other to death trying to get one of your products before the local retail establishment sells out. Now, you’re probably saying, how does this affect Procurement? Isn’t it the job of the retail establishment or sales and marketing to properly forecast demand and make sure there is enough and the public relations personnel to insure the message gets out that there is enough units to satisfy demand and no on needs to panic? Well, yes, but if there are not enough units by the release date, that’s Procurement’s fault and Procurement should know that when it comes to demand planning, the models typically go over the heads of most people in the organization and only Procurement, with its advanced modelling skills (that it applies daily in its Sourcing projects), is fit to check the model and make sure everything is as accurate and reliable as it can be. Procurement’s fault or not, we have the ethical responsibility to do our best to make sure no one else screws up on behalf of the company in a manner that puts people’s lives at risk (or the company’s brand reputation at risk either — we depend on that too).

Hysteria is very real, and since people not only run our supply chains, but provide the reason(s) that they keep running, hysteria is a very real damnation that we have to be prepared for.