In Part 1 of this series, we began looking at the five basic CHAAF components required for supply chain resilience success, and defined Celerity. Here we will examine Hardiness and Adaptability.

When you are faced with tough supply chain situations, do you stress out and falter? Why do some people step up when the same situation is presented to them? Researchers pin the difference between defeat and perseverance to what they call hardiness. As a case in point, look at the effects of the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the resulting nuclear crisis in Japan: Automotive News reported that supply chain management at Honda was being stress tested, given that at least 113 of its suppliers were located in the affected areas. 

Hardiness is the key to resiliency; and not only surviving but thriving under pressure. Hardiness enhances performance, leadership, conduct, mood, and both physical and mental health, according to the American Psychological Association. It turns a negative event into an advantage. Paul Brown, former coach of the Cleveland Browns and owner of the Cincinnati Bengals said “The key to winning is poise under stress.”

The common characteristics for being hardy and staying positive are dubbed the commitment, control, and challenge attitudes. Commitment allows a person under duress to strive to keep involved as opposed to isolating himself/herself. Control leads someone to try and influence outcomes rather than fall into passivity and powerlessness. Challenge influences a person to grab stress as an opportunity to overcome it.

A great example of hardiness in the supply chain is the “Center of Excellence” concept - organizational hubs for focusing skills and resources. Gathering experts in one location provides a way for staff members in a specific logistics function to hone their skills and knowledge through the collegial exchange of ideas; thereby seeing problems or stressors as challenges and opportunities. It involves having a sense of purpose and meaning in a volatile and uncertain supply chain world.

Establishing a supply chain “Center of Excellence” also means that an organization will have all of its experts in one location, ready to work together to fashion a response when a crisis occurs and to try and influence outcomes. That's a genuine advantage in a world where supply chains are constantly at risk of unexpected disruptions. Usually, organizations with this hardiness trait do not just survive, they thrive!

The success of supply chain oriented organizations, in part, hinges on having an adaptable logistics operating structure that makes it possible to capitalize on opportunities as they arise and respond to supply chain risks without disruption. Resilience, at its most basic level, refers to an ability to adapt quickly to, or recover from, challenges and changes. By way of examples, the European debt crisis, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the Arab Spring uprisings all had ripple effects in 2011 throughout the global supply chain.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” according to Charles Darwin. For clarification, he didn’t define the fittest as those that survive. His “fittest” were those endowed with the best equipment to survive, and that makes all the difference.

Those organizations that take a longer-term view in making their supply chains more efficient should be agile enough to adapt to fluctuating demand in this uneven upturn. The “New Supply Chain Advantage - Factory Mutual Global” report says “supply chains have been stretched farther than they have ever been stretched in the past.” While some of the best supply chain strategies can help minimize costs and free you to focus on core competencies, these same strategies also may stretch your supply chain to the breaking point and leave your organization vulnerable.

As Darwin observed (and he himself was at pains to point out), natural selection is all about differential survival within species, not between them - just like different supply chain streams. He said, “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”

Supply chain integration is still important but its limitations are evident in the era of the New Normal. The principal limitation is adaptability: During periods of rampant change (like now), organizations with rigid supply chains cannot change gears fast enough. A similar problem is that, in a tightly integrated system, the slowest partner always defines an organization’s ability to respond to changes - just as the strength of a supply chain is limited by its weakest link.

In Part 3 of this series next month, we’ll look at the final components of CHAAF - Agility and Flexibility.

This article is part of the monthly series authored by the Institute for Supply Management’s Logistics & Transportation Group Board Members, who are current practitioners, consultants, trainers, and educators. In future columns, they will continue sharing their views on a number of Supply Chain and Professional Development topics.

Thomas L. Tanel, CTL, C.P.M., CISCM, is the President and CEO of CATTAN Services Group, Inc., specializing in Logistics and Supply Chain issues. He is also the Chair of ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group and can be reached at or (979) 212-8200. Membership in the Group is open to all ISM members who are responsible for or have an interest in the Logistics & Transportation fields.