Wasted Toilet Paper - Don't Panic

Problem solving, emotional intelligence and critical thinking hit the panic fan

Throughout my experience, solving a problem and overcoming a challenge has needed multiple aspects of my skill and attributes to be able to come up with a long term, scalable solution that has considered multitude of scenarios and how to adapt to them. It is important to understand why and how the problem got to where it is in the first place, before jumping to the first, easiest and most cost-effective solution. We need to consider every aspect and event that triggered the problem and every aspect and scenario path forward, not to mention the ramifications of each path. To do as such, we need to be calm and grounded, think clearly without bias and undue influence. To have such balance, we need to leverage our emotional intelligence as well as critical thinking to sift through the chaos and outline various options and path forward.

In these strange and difficult times of crisis, we need emotional intelligence, balance and critical thinking, even more than before, to be able deal with issues and solve problems. Let’s consider the illusive toilet paper supplies people have been encountering for the past few weeks. Toilet paper is the first items that people panicked at the thought of running out of and started acquiring as much as they could find. It was purely based on emotional fear reaction and decision. In turn, this caused issues and impacted everyone else. Even though it would not have been an issue for any given period of time if the demand were not overwhelming the supply.

Before we look at the supply chain, let’s look at why the immediate panic ensued. In the recent decade or so, we have been outsourcing much of our decision making. Why? Because we are being bombarded with data and have been offloading things to our devices and others, like virtual assistants, to alleviate some of it and enable us to focus on items we need and like. This new outsourcing of our decision-making has led us to where we no longer fully rely on ourselves — to know what’s best or sift through the noise to have a clearer view of what we are facing. The reliance we have on technology for every part of our daily lives has primed the optimal environment for any deviation or ripple to trigger perceived major upheaval and companies to take advantage off. By not being able to process sudden changes with a clear perspective or to review things without any emotional reaction, we’re unable to make the correct decisions. This leads to propagating the challenges into other aspects of our environment. 

Let’s look at the supply chain and see why and how it was not able to sustain or adapt as quickly. When you review the normal demand prior to January 2020, the retail stores and manufacturers were looking at their supply chain reports and big data analytics to predict purchasing patterns and orders. Their goal was to produce just enough to satisfy the demand but also keep inventory low, keeping cost down to a minimum without having any insights or patterns in the case of a major shift in this flow. So the retail owner or manager did not have any recovery plan for such a deviation, nor did the manufacturer, nor did the transportation or delivery company. So combined with the fear and panic that triggered the unnecessary spike in demand, the systems failed to adapt and recover fast due to lack of insight, proper planning, adaptably or agility. Not to mention the retail store owners and managers, the manufacturers and transportation teams — all panicked, rendering them unable to quickly adapt to the situation.

It is imperative to be able to stay calm and grounded so we can think through the challenges that come up and assess what the immediate impact is and what the impact will be down the line. Try to figure out how we can adapt and adjust in the short term and plan for the long term.