Understanding the evolution of supply chain risk management post-pandemic

Have you ever had an idea about your job or a work project that really gets you excited? Or have you figured out a better way to tackle a task that could improve efficiency and save money?

Have you ever shared that idea with a leader or manager and it’s gone nowhere? Or have you encountered just too many bureaucratic hoops to move your idea from concept to reality?


That type of response doesn’t just negatively affect individual employee morale, it can have cascading effects across teams and work groups. Unfortunately, in some organizations, this a common response to change or suggestions about altering processes related to business as usual.

As business continuity and operational resilience professionals, we know what it’s like to encounter these roadblocks, especially when we’re suggesting changes that could mature our programs and help keep up with new threats and changing work environments.

But what if it didn’t have to be so difficult?

In a recent episode of Castellan’s new podcast, Business, Interrupted, we discussed taking risks, influencing change, and the critical role of getting executive buy-in to facilitate the evolving role of business continuity in operational resilience, specifically as it relates to supply chains, with Gail Ciccione, Chief Operating Officer at a medical technology company.

The Evolving Role of Supply Chains for Resilience

As a COO, Ciccione knows firsthand what this evolution looks like, particularly as it relates to the critical role supply chains play in operational resilience. Today, supply chains aren’t just about raw materials and ensuring they’re on site when and where they’re needed. It expands into risks related to and associated with suppliers and what organizations should do to do understand and mitigate those risks.

As we’ve seen with supply chain issues related to the pandemic, an increasing number of organizations now feel the stress and impact of these risks, driving executives to pay more attention to—and get involved with—business continuity at multiple levels.

In short, it’s moving business continuity out of an annual checkbox exercise and into the core of what it takes to do business on the day-to-day. It’s not just about compliance anymore. It’s about the ability to predict, mitigate, respond to, and recover from disruptive events, from small to large scale.

And it’s no longer just about what happens within an organization. The resilience movement from an executive’s perspective should now expand to those suppliers, as well as relationships with other stakeholders and your customers.

Shifting Focus

Modern supply chains are no longer just about getting the parts you need to produce a product.

“It’s about the long-term sustainability of being able to deliver it,” Ciccione said.

And from the executive perspective, there are some incredibly valuable elements to this process, especially when it comes to risk identification and mitigation. But it’s also more than that. It’s about risk appetite, risk registers, and risk mitigation.

There are also the important components of testing and exercising your plans to ensure they work when you face a crisis. It’s not just about documenting what you would do when you have a disruption, it’s about proving to your executives and the rest of your organization that what you will do actually works as planned.

That’s the resiliency factor.

Practicing crisis scenarios, Ciccione said, helps give everyone insight into the scenarios and plans, as well as where you have gaps and need to make improvements or changes.

It’s also important to identify an individual or team responsible for managing these plans, processes, and testing/exercises instead of just relying on team members who do supply chain work daily, such as procurement. Those individual are often so deep into ensuring everything comes in as needed, they don’t have the extra bandwidth to give these exercises the evaluation and attention necessary to ensure resilience.

“But if they have a facilitator that can help guide them and challenge them, it’s going to be even more resilient as a result,” Ciccione said. “So that would be one of the key things that I’ve learned over the years…”

Balancing Efficiency and Resilience

At Castellan, we’ve had a number of conversations with executives about the struggle to balance efficiency and resilience. Many are working through how their organizations can streamline the supply chain and other critical processes while building in redundancy to ensure resilience in a variety of scenarios.

The focus, from Ciccione’s perspective, is not the dollar over continuity and resilience. Why? Because in the long run, you’ll end up paying for it tenfold in the future.

“If you do that, it is a balancing act and you’ve got to always stay engaged and there’s a good bit of push and pull in every organization.”

Part of that balancing act is building a culture of resilience within your organization—ensuring that when you talk about continuity and resilience your team members understand it and can directly relate it to their individual roles and responsibilities.

That includes getting and receiving feedback at all levels, and not just listening to that feedback, but putting it to work and optimizing it to ensure your organization is aligned on what you’re delivering and what’s most important to the organization based on its goals and objectives. What exactly those components are differ from one organization to the next based on a range of factors, each unique to the organization.

Balancing efficiency and resilience also expands into prioritizing products and critical services, into your customer base and understanding that when it comes to business continuity, not every aspect of your organization gets the same attention or focus.

“Everything can’t be given the same priority,” Ciccione explained. Especially, for example, during a disruption, as we’ve seen with pandemic response and recovery.

In short, it’s about anticipation, prevention, and response.

“I think you need all three,” Ciccione added.

Building Executive Engagement

When it comes to building executive engagement for continuity and resilience, there are a few important takeaways from our chat with Ciccione.

First, it’s about learning how to speak the language of business executives and aligning your continuity and resilience goals with your organization’s goals. How can you quantify the impact of your planning—or lack of planning—in a way that resonates with these key decision makers?

Consider severe—yet plausible—scenarios when thinking about how you will test your organization’s overall business continuity or resilience capabilities. Why? Because executives often think in terms of some of bad events, especially the ones making current news headlines.

And throughout your processes, don’t forget the importance of focus on your team members, especially in the areas of skill- and experience-building. This can help your team members be better prepared not just to respond to and recover from a disruption, but also anticipate disruptions and what that might mean for them and to the organization as a whole.

Finally, be a contributor. Look for ways to introduce more sustainable, efficient, resilient supply chain practices within your organization that contribute to continuity and the bigger resilience picture.

Need help building executive engagement for your business continuity program or building more supply chain resilience into your program? Check out our Executive Support Amplifier. It’s a great way to build executive engagement into your program and includes a five-step framework.

Also, check out our on-demand webinar, Building the Business Case for Business Continuity and Operational Resilience, which can help prepare you to build a business case for your business continuity program and needed resources.