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What do those three terms have to do with me?

Well, right now, I—like everyone else alive at this time—am living through a pandemic that affects almost all aspects of our collective experiences—and puts each of us in the position of having to decide to how to respond to the health threats brought about by COVID-19. Each day it becomes more apparent to me that how we “do COVID” is a personal decision.

Well, who am I? I am a person with a diagnosis of ADD who often has to struggle to manage matters that come more naturally for neurotypical people. Before I had a name for what was behind some of my difficulties, I was always looking for techniques to keep me on track. Consequently, in my MBA studies, I was drawn to what I learned in operations management courses.

Operations management is an area of business focused on how to get things done—in efficient and effective ways, with minimal loss of resources. Without systems, my brain leans toward chaotic approaches to everyday and long-term actions and decisions. What’s intuitive for many, needs a bit more structure for me to initiate and complete. As such, I am a big fan of having a plan—and that includes having a plan for some of the things that might go wrong.

How you “do” any aspect of life is pretty much an area for operations management. For example, my class project on changing diapers (for our twins) taught me this great insight—if you don’t have all the supplies ready before you start your task, you’re going to waste a lot of time. Well, duh—but my instinct first is to take action and second to think. I need systems for my actions to be effective. And when I find a system that works for me, I stick to it rigidly. Dishwasher loading, closet organization, calendar management, and medication/supplement organization are a few tasks where I’ve had some success.

Operations management is also part of the protections in place for a business to uphold employee safety, assure equipment integrity, and manage the money invested in a business. For a factory, that might involve employee training, scheduled maintenance, shutdown protocol, and upgrades. For humans, we invest in the health of our bodies. Without my systems, I might take my medications only when I remember, exercise when I feel like it, or forget to schedule appointments with my doctors. My mind is that chaotic—but I am not willing to live in chaos for the areas of my life where precision really matters.

And in this era, I also choose to believe what the majority of scientific and medical professionals are saying. I don’t leave my risks to my mind’s whims—which are many. My husband and I have created a mask station that makes it easy for us to find and take our masks when we leave. Our family takes seriously the recommendations on social distancing and wearing masks—and we don’t want to spend a lot of time around people who won’t follow those practices.

Can we protect ourselves from every droplet or aerosol? No, we cannot. But that doesn’t mean having a system is useless—it just means that having a system is one of the tools we have for reducing some of the risks in this season of unknowns.

I’m tired of many leaders and other adults abdicating responsibility for the health risks they present to others. Our country is in a bigger crisis than it needs to be at this moment in time. I want to get along with as many people as possible, but if getting along with you means that I have to agree to abandon what I consider to be necessary practices, then we’re going to have to agree to disagree. I may be naturally chaotic, but when it really matters, I set in place systems—and I adhere to them. I “do COVID” the way I do to protect myself and my loved ones—and to protect you.

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(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Once upon a time a decade or two ago, I believed the tales told to me in business school. Perhaps they weren’t tales before some of the financial ravages occurred that changed how we do business. But those were days before right-sizing and outsourcing and all those great buzz words that might help the bottom line—and I’m sticking with “might” because I believe in a bottom line that reflects more than the latest quarter, but one that also looks to future earnings and growing customer goodwill—were quite so prominent.

Basically, I fell for operations management, not because I am some mathematical wizard who can analytically detail the best way to manufacture a product or provide a service, but because I believe the human decisions about the whys behind a process make a difference in how well an entity serves various stakeholders.

And part of the whys should be having a plan for how that entity responds when the goods are not delivered as promised or when promised or whatever. The manner in which a website is designed or a phone tree is built indicates something of the sort of service that is most valued by the organization. Resources, especially when limited, tend to get allocated toward what matters most.

When I access a website or a phone tree and note that my particular concern isn’t prominent, then either my current difficulty is not common or it isn’t considered as important as other problems to the organization.

This is where I find myself this week. Does a company so famous for its delivery systems not often have a problem with delivering packages to the wrong homes or does it focus more on resolving problems for the businesses that procure its services? Even though I pay the shipping fee to the original business, it’s that business that chooses which shipping provider to use—for all its shipping needs. They are the bigger stakeholder.

Of all the FAQs listed on the website, there is not one that says: Tracking says a package was delivered but the package was not received. Not sure if the “How do I determine what address my package was delivered to?” instructions work since it is their records available to me that show it was delivered to my address.

After a couple days of calling back and forth to the local hub for our neighborhood’s deliveries while waiting for the driver to tell the office if she recognized my house, I have found out she did not. Then I was told to call the original shipper to have them file the claim.

In my perfect little fairy tale world, this isn’t my responsibility. The company, recognizing that it has likely made a delivery to the wrong address, then takes charge of the mistake and does the legwork for me. The company facilitates this because it wants the problem corrected for me, the individual stakeholder, as well as for the larger stakeholder that is the business that chooses to send its deliveries to me and all its other customers through this particular shipper.

Beyond that, the company also tries to understand if something in the process led to the mistake in the first place in order to make changes that will reduce future errors. Plus, perhaps said company realizes that making the initial contact more customer-friendly and efficient in the face of delivery difficulties will improve the experience for all stakeholders—including its own employees and the productive and cost-effective use of their time—which in the end improves that ever important bottom line.

And then we would all live happily ever after.

As it stands, I left a phone message with the original business that sent out my package in good faith last week through the shipper. Any sweet dreams I expected from using the ordered little pillow to better position my oh-so-sensitive “princess and the pea” back for restful sleep will have to wait. If I were really living in a fairy tale, then all these challenges would simply be part of my hero’s journey to reach the happy ending.

Since I no longer believe in such tales, I’ll just say that this whole saga is not an example of best practices—for any of the stakeholders.

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But there’s more after all! In between writing and editing this piece, the doorbell rang. A man I did not recognize was standing there with my package. When he told me it was mine, I had to ask where he lives—inquiring minds want to know how all this really happened. His house is on the 3500 block while ours is on the 3800 block—no wonder I didn’t know him by sight. (And, yes, the correct address was marked on the box twice.)

So while what I said about businesses still stands, it turns out that sometimes you can depend on the kindness of strangers. In a world of people busy not taking enough responsibility for their actions, there are always those who take on more responsibility than is their due. As so often happens, just when my experiences seem to indicate that believing in others belongs in a mythical tale, then something happens that reminds me that there are plenty of people (and entities) living out the hero’s journey every day—in both big and small ways.

Don’t know if my pillow will be the magical solution for which I sought, but I’ll rest easier having remembered that some tales are true—which makes for a much happier ending for this particular tale.

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