Distribution, Disruption, and Predictability

I spent my weekend working on the house, home-office, and some research on Circe for CirceFoundation.com.

The child’s desk is returned and money refunded. I am now searching for another desk unit. My remaining office furniture is still sitting in transit, with a different story from the vendor whenever we call. We are told it is on the truck, it is waiting for scheduling, and it is stuck in port waiting for to offload. It is possible each statement is simultaneously true and BS. This is a major brand company, not a no-name import company with two five-star reviews. My trust of suppliers is low.

Why so many problems? Various reasons are in the news. I first started reading warnings several months ago about supply-chain issues, and of predictions when the pandemic started. The pandemic, of course, is the initial cause, the driver of the major decisions which impact our lives.

Here is a partial list of causes I have seen of late:

  • A sudden shift in demand from commercial to retail left companies unable to pivot to different supply sources
  • Online orders increased; delivery systems taxed
  • Stay-home directives spurred home improvement projects, high demand on supplies and contractor labor
  • Quarantine, social distancing, and capacity rules created labor shortages
    • Imports delayed at ports waiting to unload or delivery
  • Unemployment benefits pay better than work
  • Labor shortages drive higher pay rates
    • People are changing jobs for better pay
    • Employers can’t afford to hire more staff
  • Vaccine mandates cause staff shortages

With one or two of these as short-term issues, the machine of commerce can adjust as needed. The continual change in rules, mandates, schedules, demands, and sources over the course of nearly two years is impossible for businesses to plan for and accommodate.

Business like and depend on stability. Changes in the rule-of-law, customer behavior, steady and reliable supply systems, or anything that upsets the predictability of business is an increase of risk and cost.

The likely solution for continual disruption is to stop making tweaks to the system. Especially ones that are difficult or impossible to measure. Human nature pushes us, and our leaders, to ‘do something’, event when not knowing what may work.

It helps to define a reasonable and clear objective. With Covid, define what is acceptable. Pandemics don’t end instantly. How do we measure when it has ended? Covid is likely endemic at this point, it will not vanish, and will become less threatening as time, vaccines, treatments, and awareness improve. If we assume it is endemic, what is an acceptable level of inconvenience to society. A drive to eradication at all costs is a loosing measure, particularly if we keep repeating the same actions hoping for a different outcome, or chaotically applying actions while unable to define success.

It seems to me attempting to change human behavior by edict or force is a no-win strategy. It makes people unhappy, uncooperative, and resistant. Work on a strategy of technology and options. Create opportunity and paths to success.