Opinion: What World Series chaos can teach food processors
When the unexpected happens, having a plan doesn't always help.
If you've been following the World Series, then you know that Game 2 started out as a tense, well-pitched game, then devolved into complete and utter insanity by the time it was all said and done.
As a spectator, it was beautiful to watch. As a player or a manager, I can only imagine how much heartburn it caused. The funny thing about it is that you can make a strong argument that it was caused by a manager adhering to the organization's overall strategy.
All year long the Los Angeles Dodgers have relied heavily on their bullpen, and it's obviously worked. They won 104 games, won their division by 11 games, and are still in a good position to win the World Series. They accomplished all that by sticking to their plan: Get through the opposing lineup a couple times with their starting pitcher, then turn it over to the bullpen.
There's a ton of data showing that when a pitcher has to face hitters for the third time in a game, their effectiveness drops off sharply. The Dodgers' starting pitcher in Game 2 was pulled after four innings and 60 pitches because he was about to be facing Astros hitters for the third time, so the Dodgers stuck to the plan and put the game in the hands of their bullpen.
Most of the time, it has worked. In fact, it's worked almost every time. The Dodgers were 98-0 this year when leading after eight innings. But now they're 98-1, and instead of a 2-0 lead, they're tied 1-1 going into the games in Houston.
What does all of this have to do with food processing? More than you might think. We talk about the importance of having a plan to deal with every contingency possible, and the plan almost always — almost always — works.
But sometimes it doesn't, and when it doesn't, you have to be able to think on your feet. Detailed, tested plans and procedures are key to a successful operation, but what do you do when you follow the plan and something still goes wrong? How do you adapt on the fly to make sure that a deviation from the plan doesn't turn into a disaster?
The short answer is that you have to be flexible and open to improvising as necessary. But that's a lot easier said than done, especially when you're facing down something that can lead to a loss of millions of dollars. Even when you're willing to improvise, there will be situations where it ends up not really mattering what you do because a situation is simply unmanageable.
One thing you can do is to introduce situations in training where sticking to the plan fails. Throw in an unexpected power outage or someone accidentally throwing the wrong switch when bringing systems online. Pretend that a fire breaks out when you're in the middle of training on a new production line. Be creative and see how the staff reacts, because the people who handle it well in training will most likely handle it well in real life.
But overall, understand that sometimes you can do everything right and still have something go wrong. The Dodgers aren't going to throw their plans out the window, and neither should you.