Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Standards and hard resilience

 Vinay Gupta has made the distinction between hard resilience (e.g. food, water, power, communications) and social resilience e.g. here.
The emphasis in writing about resilience is on flexibility and adaptability, whether it is about communities or resilience engineering, and standardisation does not seem to have much prominence.  Standardisation has always supported flexibility. Jim Ware has identified the importance of standardised touchdown zones for nomadic workers within an enterprise as an element in corporate agility. This type of work standardisation goes back to medieval monasteries, as documented by Jean Gimpel.

However, resilience goes beyond agility/flexibility. Having the right connectors for portable diesel generators may be a requirement that goes beyond day to day flexibility but which proves invaluable in an emergency.  Dealing with insurance claims after a fire on a big container ship might benefit from standards aimed at resilience. An inspiring story on these lines comes from post-earthquake Japan, entitled 'Beat the bureaucracy and overcome the disaster'. A large pdf on their experience can be downloaded from the site  (or here)

The company went to great lengths over four years to understand their real business, simplify processes, and remove silos. The benefits following the Great East Japan Earthquake included the ability to send 1,600 employees to Tohoku area as temporary staff, to deploy 800 new terminals in a week, and finally 1,800 terminals by May 13. They completed 87% of 160,000 claims by the end of May and completed 97.3% of 173,000 claims by the middle of September. They had an earthquake damage contact centre with 110 terminals set up by the day after the quake. These accomplishments could not have been made without a standard plug and play virtual desktop, no paperwork and cashless payment systems.

The contrast between resilience and control is made in one of their moonshots: Create a democracy of information
People at the front lines should be at least as well informed as those in the executive suite.”

"Most organizations control information in order to control people. Yet, increasingly, value is created where first-level employees meet customers — and the most value is created when those people have the information and the permission to do the right thing for customers at the right moment. Information transparency doesn’t just produce happy employees and happy customers, it’s a key ingredient in building resilience. Adaptability suffers when employees lack the freedom to act quickly and the data to act intelligently. The costs of information hoarding are quickly becoming untenable. Companies must build holographic information systems that give every employee a 3-D view of critical performance metrics and key priorities."

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