how do you adapt to extreme situations

How do you adapt in extreme situations?

About a month ago, a big snow storm hit the area, leaving snow in many places for a week. And for a few days, the snow was so high, leaving the house was nearly impossible. And while only a few ventured out bundled up, the birds were out in force. They were flying around and chirping away. It was too cold for people to go outside, but tiny birds were quite happy out in the freezing temperatures. How did they not freeze? Apparently, they have several mechanisms to survive the cold.

There are extreme situations that can test businesses every year. Just like birds have built in capabilities to make it through, businesses can build in capabilities too. What are the extreme situations you experience in your business? How are you building in capabilities to make it through them?

Risk can be an advantage

What is your backup plan?

A few weeks ago, during the snow storm in the Pacific Northwest, I lost the internet connection for a few hours. Luckily, it was a short period of time and I still had power. I also had a radio, so I was able to listen to the radio to hear updates.

The situation was a good reminder of the power of backup plans. There are always a variety of issues that can crop up in business. And having backup plans that are not reliant on the same platforms are important to keep going. What are your backup plans?

Risk can be an advantage

What risks are you willing to take?

There is a steep hill by my house. Steep enough that cars can easily accelerate beyond 40 mph without pressing the gas peddle, causing homeowners to post signs along the road to slow down. Apparently the attraction of the hill was too great for a teenage boy to resist. He went flying down the hill, with cars behind him, without a helmet. Hitting a twig or rock, which are common along the road, could have resulted in serious injury or worse. But he was lucky and ended his ride safely.

Sometimes reckless risks payoff. But the payoff is a function of luck, not skill. Taking calculated risks, understanding what could go wrong and having a plan to address them, makes a lot of sense. But in taking the risk, you should be willing to lose whatever is being placed on the line if going big. What risks are you willing to take?

risk solution

How do you get around problems?

During the winter, an ice patch forms in the same location. Water flows from one side of the street to the other and freezes in a patch wide enough to make stepping across not an option. Some people see it and turn around. Others try to walk across it and fall. And others see the way around by stepping on the curb, holding onto the light pole and getting to the other side.

When you see a problem, how do you get around it?

are you stopping things that no longer make sense?

Do you know what to stay away from?

Walking around the area, the fall berries provide a nice pop of color and contrast to the bare limbs and bushes in the winter. They are everywhere in many colors and sizes. After the birds ate my strawberries and cherries through the summer, I got to wondering why the birds eat the summer berries, but not the fall and winter berries. The answer wasn’t simple and straightforward. But clearly there is something that causes the birds to stay away.

Your business should have things you instinctively know to stay away from too. Whether projects that don’t move the organization forward or risks that shouldn’t be taken, every person in the organization should know instinctively to stay away.

Risk can be an advantage

Risk can be an advantage


Most people’s toes curl when they hear the word “risk.” But risk can be a competitive advantage. In learning what can go wrong, you also need to understand what can go right. Once you know that, you can minimize the impact of the downside. If you can find a point of distinction in being able to manage risk better than your competitors, you have a decisive advantage.

sometimes automation gives you the wrong answer

Sometimes automation gives the wrong answer

The smoke has cleared and the sun is back! But for a while, everything went haywire. Including Amazon deliveries. My orders got to the area, but just sat there. I could see it through the tracking. The delivery dates were sliding out and finally were listed as potentially lost. There wasn’t any notice if the site was being impacted by smoke or fire and the people at the help desk didn’t know anything. After one order showed as being sent to Maryland from Portland a week later, I was finally able to reach a person live who told me everything was in Portland and would arrive that day!

When systems are completely automated and an unexpected event disrupts and intervenes, the system can give all sorts of bad information. How are you building checks into your systems to make sure you are getting the right information at the right time?

The 100 Year Event

The 100 Year Event

Heck. It is only September and we’ve already had at least three 100 year events in the Portland area: global pandemic, an extreme weather change that caused extreme wind gusts, and raging wild fires along the entire west coast of the United States. There might be more, and we aren’t even to the end of the year!

The thing is, conditions have changed and the 100 year events have been on the radar screens of many experts for a while. It was only a matter of time, a short time, before they happened. And they will probably occur more frequently than every 100 years going forward.

It’s the same thing about changing conditions in business. Looking to the past to guide the future makes sense under some circumstances, but not others. In evaluating risk, you need to assess the current environment, not the past environment to adequately mitigate and manage risk.

Are you paying attention to risks that are likely to occur today that were once considered unlikely?

we've always done it that way means it is time to change

What will you do when conditions change?

Before COVID, the grocery store encouraged customers to bring their reusable bags. With the current conditions, not wanting to spread germs, the store now prohibits reusable bags to protect everyone. They put all the items back in the cart after checkout and have a bagging station outside so people can use their reusable bags. Otherwise items are bagged in a paper bag. And that’s changed too….the paper bag is now plain and does not have its prior branded printing.

This move is temporary. And businesses of all types are making the same temporary changes. The trick is to make the shift to the most effective approach from a cost and availability perspective. How are you adjusting when conditions change?

don't panic

Don’t Panic!

My dog enjoys chasing critters that run. But when we are out on a walk, she can miss bunnies that are in yards if she is focused on something else. And when this happens, the bunny sees us and freezes while we walk by. The risk passes and then the bunny moves on to another area.

Sometimes what looks like a risk isn’t actually one. The best thing to do is keep an eye on it, not panic and let it pass by.