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Shark Week Meets Business Process Management


The venerable “week of the shark” got me thinking.  It’s been a year that many of the greatest shark-related clichés, metaphors and analogies have come in incredibly handy.  Case in point, “just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water,” comes to mind as businesses and now schools make valiant attempts to reopen.  Just like the viewer in the movie theater watches in disbelief as the unknowing or disbelieving water skier straps on a lifejacket (for safety) and jumps into the water for some fun.

The biggest enterprises in the world should have known that something like this could happen.  In 2016, Michele Wucker wrote a book called “The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore,” which explained that “a gray Rhino is a highly probable, high impact yet neglected threat: kin to both the elephant in the room and the improbably and unforeseeable black swan.”  In other words, businesses and schools should’ve been ready (or at least more ready) for our current pandemic than they are.  It’s not like there weren’t legitimate warnings from many people, including Bill Gates who did a TED Talk in 2015 titled “The Next Outbreak? We’re Not Ready,” hot on the heels of what *almost* became a global Ebola outbreak.  I know hindsight is 20/20, but seriously…?

Then I can’t help thinking about the shark infested waters that every business is intent on jumping into in order to recover from this current state of disruption – and frankly from the last decade of disruption where digital natives took a huge bite out of the incumbent solutions.  Think about the usual suspects: Uber/Lyft vs. Yellow Cab.  Airbnb vs. Marriott/Hilton/et al, Amazon vs. brick & mortar, Netflix vs. Blockbuster.  I could go on, but the common denominator is businesses willingly jumping into the same shark infested, red ocean that so many of their competitors are already swimming around in.  There is blood in the water and enterprises are panicking.  They don’t want to be disrupted.  They NEED to react to Covid-19.  So they often grasp for the same solutions as all of their competitors without understanding exactly why.  Or how to prioritize.  Or how to ensure end-to-end improvements in customer experience.  It’s about more than technology and what the IT department can deliver.  Or at least, it’s about applying the right technology in the right place at the right time while ensuring compliance and ongoing governance and risk mitigation.

On Shark Tank, so I hear, the most often-used cliché thrown out by “the sharks” is “is the business scalable?”  And what they mean is, does the entrepreneur have the systems and processes in place for predictable, consistent growth.  Most often the sharks are skeptical.  For the most part, they’ve all run large, successful enterprises, and they know that you have to be MORE than just disruptive for ongoing success.  You must realize that your company’s business processes are some of its most valuable resources.  Those business processes encapsulate exactly what you do and precisely how you do it.  And if the business is effectively modeled, foundational things like operational excellence and quality management can be realized, and what the company does can be done better/cheaper/faster – all with risks identified and mitigating controls in place, along with ongoing measurement of KPIs.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, all of the elements of “digital transformation” will be covered (i.e. leveraging technology like automation, block chain, AI, etc.,) to maximize the customer’s experience.

With all that said, I’ll avoid delving into the obvious parallels between 2020 and a giant Sharknado.  I could, but we’d need a bigger blog.  (see what I did there?).

Ok, I’ve officially jumped the shark.  Let me know if you have some other apropos topics to discuss.

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