Tag: Contingency

Don’t Panic – When Bad Things Happen

WordPress dashboard interface
WordPress dashboard interface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t Panic

Although the situation I am about to describe was successfully resolved, I felt compelled to share this event with you. Times like this expose our vulnerabilities and reinforce the adage to “expect the unexpected”.

The Situation

Imagine the shock and surprise followed by the deep, sinking feeling that set in when an unexpected notice suddenly appeared on my screen stating that our site was suspended effective immediately for failing to comply with WordPress.com’s terms and conditions. An attempt to visit our site from another computer confirmed it.

While you may not have noticed, I’m quite certain many others were wondering what was going on – especially first time visitors or recent subscribers. As our site often appears at the top of most Google searches – depending on the search term used – I can only imagine what was going through the minds of those who were attempting to visit.

After contacting WordPress, we learned that our site was subject to a spam detection error and suspended by the “system” in error. The fact that you’re reading this means the problem was successfully resolved by the great people at WordPress – apologies for the inconvenience included.

Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst

While I am more than happy to have our site restored to full service, we needed more than just a simple backup of our data to preserve our blogging ecosystem. Our contingency plan included setting up a self hosted site and this event served as the trigger to make it a reality.

1617 A. SWETNAM School of Defence 56 He is a fool which will adventure all his goods in one ship.

Fortunately, WordPress.com provides several means for transferring or downloading a copy of your pages and posts. The suspension notice advised that the data for “your site” will only be available for a limited period of time.  Eventually all data will be completely removed from the system.

In other words, act quickly and methodically because the clock is ticking. Unless you’ve done this for yourself, there are a few items worth noting.

  • Although it’s possible to export the  entire site in a single XML file, the size of the file may exceed the import capacity of the new host.  Free XML import tools seem to have a limit of 1MB.   Our file exceeded this limitation.
  • The XML file does not include current subscribers or any of the data in your media gallery.
  • The current theme may not be available at the new host site and some of the functionality you may have expected has been lost.
  • Conversely, some themes offer more and better features than you may have expected.
  • Six (6) years of blogging creates a relatively large digital ecosystem with roots deeper than we first thought possible.

Corrective Actions

Setting up a self-hosted site may seem like an over-reaction to this situation, however, this event was very disturbing and quite unsettling, especially when we consider the number of visitors we receive over the course of a given day. Fortunately, this event occurred on a weekend when traffic volume is typically lower.

Since we already own several top-level domains, finding a hosting service was our next challenge.  We purchased our top-level domains from NameCheap.com and decided to pursue our hosting services through them as well.

We found two (2) excellent services that offer a variety of WordPress themes, set up our domains, and began the process of transferring a copy of our blog over to the new sites.  It is possible to upload themes directly and there a numerous themes to choose from.

Although we found a site that offers the same “Inove” theme we are using here, we noted that this theme has not been updated for the past two (2) years. We selected the Responsive theme for our new site as it offers new functionality and features that includes mobile platforms.

Lessons Learned

WordPress.com supports millions of bloggers and losing one – for whatever reason – is not going to have a significant impact on their continued and ever-growing success. This experience helped us to realize just how vulnerable we are when we trust our property, intellectual or otherwise, to an independent entity.  To circumvent the possibility of yet another catastrophic blogging event:

Statues of Don Quixote (left) and Sancho Panza...
Statues of Don Quixote (left) and Sancho Panza (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It is the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow, and not venture all his eggs in one basket.”—Sancho Panza—Don Quixote (Part I, Book III, Chapter 9) by Miguel de Cervantes [1547-1616].

In simpler terms:  “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!”

  • Have a contingency plan that includes creating a second, self-hosted site.  Note that it is possible to transfer your blog to a number of venues.  We successfully uploaded our XML data to several different platforms.
  • Prepare and Execute your contingency plan to determine and mitigate any risks or other consequential losses.
  • If you are presently blogging on WordPress.com, be aware that a complete XML copy of your site data may exceed the import limits of the receiving host – at least for the tools that are offered free of charge.
  • To minimize the size of the XML file, Pages and Posts can be exported separately.  You can also specify a date based range of posts to export. As such, you can create several smaller files that will contain all of your posts for a given period of time.
  • Perform regular exports of recent posts for importing to your self-hosted site and to serve as a local back up.
  • Transferring your site is not that difficult, however, WordPress.com will transfer your site for you for a fee.
  • Don’t be too naive. You are the only one who really cares about YOUR property – intellectual or otherwise. Although your subscribers and followers will be devastated, chances are you won’t be missed by the WordPress.com team unless you’re as big as the Huffington Post or some other notable blog venue.
  • When forced to look for options, there are better, feature filled alternative WordPress themes and options to be found. As we’ve said many times before, “There’s always a better way and more than one solution!”

Going Forward:

We recently celebrated six years of blogging on WordPress.com and plan to do so for many years to come.  While this experience has cast a shadow on our overall experience, we have learned yet again that we need to preserve and protect our own interests.

With over 218,000 page views from virtually every country around the world, we are doing something right. Our visitors and views continue to grow with each passing year. The top five countries that contributed to our Top Views this year are:

  1. United States
  2. India
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Canada
  5. Australia

On behalf of the Lean Execution Strategy Team, I appreciate and thank you for the privilege of serving you – our clients, subscribers, and visitors.  We wish each of you a happy holiday season and look forward to serving you in the new year with the best of successes in 2015.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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Contingency Plans – Crisis Management in Lean Organizations

Contingency Planning For Lean Organizations – Part IV – Crisis Management

In a previous post we eluded that lean organizations are likely to be more susceptible to disruptions or adverse conditions and may even have a greater impact on the business.  To some degree this may be true, however, in reality, Lean has positioned these organizations to be more agile and extremely responsive to crisis situations to mitigate losses.

True lean organizations have learned to manage change as normal course of operation.  A crisis only presents a disruption of larger scale.  Chapter 10 of Steven J. Spear’s book, “Chasing the Rabbit”, exemplifies how high velocity, or lean, organizations have managed to overcome significant crisis situations that would typically cripple most organizations.

Problem solving is intrinsic at all levels of a lean organization and, in the case of Toyota, problem solving skills extend beyond the walls of the organization itself.  It is clear that an infrastructure of people having well developed problem solving skills is a key component to managing the unexpected.    The events presented in this chapter demonstrate the agility that is present in a lean organization, namely Toyota in this case and it’s supplier base.

Training is a Contingency

Toyota has clearly been the leader in Lean manufacturing and even more so in developing problem solving skills at all levels of the organization company-wide.  The primary reason for this is the investment that Toyota puts into the development of people and their problem solving skills at the onset of their employment with the company.  The ability to see problems, correct them in real time, and share the results (company-wide) is a testament to the system and it’s effectiveness has been proven on many occassions.

Prevention, preparation, and training (which is also a form of prevention) are as much an integral part of  contingency planning as are the actual steps that must be executed when a crisis situation occurs.  Toyota has developed a rapid response reflex that is inherent in the organization’s infrastructure to rapidly regain it’s capabilities when a crisis strikes.

Crisis Culture

We highly recommend reading Steven J. Spear’s “Chasing the Rabbit” to learn and appreciate the four capabilities that distinguish “High Velocity” organizations.  The key to lean is creating a cultural climate that is driven by the relentless pursuit of improvement and elimination of waste.  Learning to recognize waste and correcting the condition as it occurs requires keen observation and sharp problem solving skills.

Creating a culture of this nature is an evolutionary process – not revolutionary.  In many ways the simplicity of the four capabilities is it’s greatest ally.  Instilling these principles and capabilities into the organization demands time and effort, but the results are well worth it.  Lean was not intended to be complex and the principles demonstrated and exemplified in Chasing the Rabbit confirm this to be true.  This is not to be construed as saying that the challenges are easy … but with the right team they are certainly easier.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

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Contingency Planning For Lean Operations – Part I

Contingency Planning For Lean Operations – Part I

Lean operations are driven by effective planning and efficient execution of core activities to ensure optimal performance is achieved and sustained.  The very nature of lean requires extreme attention to detail through all phases of planning and execution.  Upstream operations simply cannot tolerate any disruptions in product supply or process flow without the risk of incurring significant downtime costs or other related losses.

Effective risk management methods, contingency plans, and loss prevention strategy are critical components of successful operations management in a lean operation.  Risk management and preventing disruptions is the subject of contingency planning and requires the participation of all team members.

Successful contingency planning assures the establishment of an effective communication strategy and identification of core activities and actions required.  Contingency plans may require alternative methods, processes, systems, sources, or services and must be verified, validated, and tested prior to implementation.

Understanding and assessing the potential risks to your operation is the basis for contingency planning with the objective to minimize or eliminate potential losses.

Inventory represents the most basic form of contingency planning.  Safety stock or buffer inventories are typically used to minimize the effects of equipment downtime or disruptions in the supply chain. 

The levels of inventory to maintain are dependent on a number factors including Lead Time, Value, Carrying Cost, Transit Time (Distance), Shelf Life, Minimum Order Quantities, Payment Terms, and Obsolescence.

Why is this relevant?

Material and Labour represent two key resources that may be influenced by external factors that are beyond the control of any company policy or practice.  Internally controlled or managed resources such facilities, equipment, and tooling are less susceptible to unknown elements.  For the purposes of this discussion, we will examine Labour in a little more detail.

The H1N1 virus, originally known as the Swine Flu, is the latest potential health pandemic since the outbreak of SARS only a few years ago.  The government has been struggling to organize mass immunization clinics and to engage the media to aid in the cause.  In the meantime, the potential impact of the H1N1 virus on your operation remains to be an unknown. 

Experts have commented to the media that the lessons from the SARS outbreak have still not been learned.  One would expect that past practices would have already been adopted into new best practices from our experiences with other similar events in our history.

Government agencies at all levels (Federal, Provincial, and local) have mismanaged the activities required to procure and distribute the vaccine, and failed to provide an effective communication and immunization strategy to ensure the risk to public health was minimized and the at the very least understood.

The lack of coordination and accountability for the success or failure of the communication strategy, procurement and distribution of the vaccine, and other related activities are strong indicators that the planning process did not consider the infrastructure requirements and relationships needed between levels of government.

The lack of an effective communication strategy introduced confusion and speculation in the media and the general public.  Mass education only seemed to become more aggressive as incidents of severe H1N1 complications and related deaths were reported in the media.

If this really was a pandemic event, many operations today would (and may still) be adversely affected due to direct or indirect (supply chain) labour shortages.  Do you have contingency plans in place to address this concern?

It could be argued that “if we are affected to this extent, then our customers will be as well.”  This is not necessarily true unless your customers and / or suppliers are located in the same immediate area or region of your business.

People travel all the time, whether they are commuting to work from out-of-town or traveling to or arriving from a foreign country on business.  The source of exposure is beyond your immediate control. 

What other elements can directly impact labour?  We will explore some of these in our next post.  In the meantime, keep your hands washed and remember to cough into your sleeve.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

Unexpected and Appreciated – Uncommon Courtesy:  This morning, a person cut into the drive through lane ahead of us – not realizing the gap in the line was there for thru traffic.  Recognizing the error in drive through etiquette and to make amends, we were pleasantly surprised by the “free” coffee at the pick up window.  Thank you ladies!