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The great business thought leader Margaret Heffernan commented that we are changing from just-in-time (JIT) to just-in-case (JIC). As we’ve worked our way through the issues of the past two years, the world is changing from a complicated to a complex system, and we must be prepared to face the challenges it brings.
During the past 10 to 20 years—and especially the past 20 months—we have learned how unpredictable and volatile the world has become. Not only the business world, but everywhere.
Who ever thought there would be a shortage of anything? Could we have imagined an epidemic that would literally bring us to our knees? Who thought that Russia would start another 1940s-style war? We thought we were done with that, didn’t we? Who could predict what would happen next? Think of owning a factory that produces plastic straws and bottles, one day your products are deemed a serious threat to the environment, and your company looked at as a pariah?
To survive today, we need the JIC mentality. We must be prepared for the unexpected. No longer can we rely on cycles and patterns to predict the future, or what we might be able to handle based on what that future brings. Now we must prepare for the unexpected. We must be flexible and able to adapt to whatever comes our way.
It means we must prepare ourselves for any change. Not only must you have more than one solution, supplier, or partner, you need many of each. For example, many of us depended on China for almost everything, and now we must diversify our supply chain for those same things.
We have certainly felt the bitter sting of dependency on a country that is now, at best, a frenemy. That may be as good as it gets, especially considering recent news headlines demonstrating that simply visiting an ally is looked upon as an act of aggression by our sworn frenemy and sorrowful supplier of everything.
But there is hope in embracing change and, for lack of a better expression, embracing one another.
The biggest single strategy for surviving this new world (dis)order is to work with each other. We need partnerships and trusted relationships with many more people at many more companies.
- Instead of having one single supplier we need to develop relationships with many suppliers—just in case.
- Instead of having only one strategic partnership, we need to develop many strategic partnerships—just in case.
- Instead of having only one friend in our local governments, we need to have many friendships—just in case.
Can we learn to trust one another? If not, we’re playing a dangerous game when we see ourselves on an island rather than part of a community. This is part of the just-in-case mentality.
Of course, our businesses must function, yet we must develop new and innovative ways to handle whatever comes our way, no matter how challenging that may be.
For example, we can be like two PCB shops that are eight miles apart and amicably share processes with one another in a “mi PCB casa es tu PCB casa” type of cooperative trusting partnership. Maybe we can emulate the quick-turn PCB shop that is sending orders and customers to their friends who have a production shop, which in turn does the same thing back to them. It works. They win and the customer wins.
I know of a laminate company that is encouraging the OEMs to allow their PCB suppliers to substitute similar laminates to handle shortage issues. I also know of design, fab, and assembly companies that are now working in harmonious, trusting partnerships to provide their customers with that critical, complete, synergistic solution they need today rather than tomorrow.
These trusted cooperative partnerships are happening right now. No longer can we afford to reside in competitive silos, playing a zero-sum game with winners and losers, because the result in a win-lose situation is we all lose.
The best way to handle the challenges we face today, the challenges of a changing and unpredictable world, is to have many good and trusted friends, people who will have each other’s backs.
I see this happening on our continent and in other regions around the globe, but it’s not enough. This spirit of trusting cooperation must be completely global. We must find good partnerships with people and companies around the world, just like the network of scientists did when rushing to develop the COVID vaccines. We need to behave like they did: working in an open and honest forum, sharing experiences, challenges, and discoveries to develop a vaccine that literally saved mankind.
Let’s take a page from their playbook. We can find ways to work with our corporate partners in cooperative and trusting ways to handle the unpredictability of our new world disorder.
This article originally appears in the September 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group, and an I-Connect007 columnist.