Six pieces of out-of-this world supply chain advice from astronaut Chris Hadfield

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Mesmerizing. Motivating. Magical. That’s how best to describe the experience of hearing famed Canadian astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station (ISS) Chris Hadfield address the crowd at Kinexions, our annual user and training conference.

Hadfield’s inspiring presentation focused on preparedness, failure and what it takes to blast into the future. While not speaking directly on the topic, his presentation was full of revelations and pearls of wisdom you can apply directly to your supply chain.

  1. “When you do it the first time, you’re going to get it wrong.”

No one gets it perfect on the very first test flight. NASA didn’t. Just look at the Vanguard TV3, the space agency’s first attempt at launching a satellite into orbit. Two seconds after leaving the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, the rocket came crashing back down and exploded. It had only reached a height of about four feet.

If NASA can’t blast it out of the atmosphere on its first attempt, what makes you think your supply chain can? The expectation of immediate perfection is particularly relevant when implementing process or technological changes. These things take time, effort and persistence, but you can’t give up. Trying something new within your supply chain may seem like an exercise in futility, but it you stick with it, you’ll soon find yourself soaring above the stars – and your competition.

  1. “Almost everything in history probably wouldn’t work.”

Light bulbs, cars, computers – and yes, even spacecraft, were all impossible dreams at one point in time. Yet here we are, more reliant on these “impossible” inventions than ever before. Don’t let naysayers convince you innovation and change within your supply chain isn’t realistic.

The impossible is possible, even within your supply chain. As Hadfield says, you just need to stay focused on your vision and work every day to move that needle toward reality.

  1. “Things will never be this slow again.”

We’re at a turning point in history. New inventions and innovations launch every day, affecting our lives in ways we never imagined. The speed at which technology evolves will only increase. As Hadfield notes, that rate of change is only going to get faster and faster.

For your supply chain, that means if you’re still using outdated, legacy planning solutions, you’re about to fall even further behind. Now is the time to take those next steps and not only get up-to-date with your capabilities, but push beyond and start looking at the technology capabilities of the future.

  1. “Launch is the toughest ride, but once it’s over you become weightless.”

Explaining what it’s like to be strapped to a rocket blasting off for outer space, you can easily apply this quote of Hadfield’s to supply chain technology implementation and deployment. The road to successful deployment is often more turbulent than expected, but don’t let that initial phase deter you. Once you’ve overcome that rocky stretch, the rewards will be well worth the effort as you start to see efficiency, profitability and collaboration across your supply chain.

  1. If you don’t have self-doubt, you’re about to blow your rocket up

Even astronauts have self-doubt, and according to Hadfield, that’s okay. Self-doubt is what helps you be prepared for the unexpected. If you experience self-doubt when it comes to supply chain planning, use it as an opportunity to explore what’s causing that doubt, and figure out what you can do to reduce it. It could be altering processes, using new data inputs or even just communicating and collaborating with colleagues outside your planning function to ensure everyone’s on the same page.

  1. Don’t wait until you walk on the moon to celebrate

Success doesn’t happen overnight. It comes in stages, and Hadfield makes sure he celebrates every single one because it’s important to recognize the milestones your supply chain takes on its trajectory toward excellence. Otherwise you’ll get too caught up in only focusing on the end of the journey (if there even is such a thing) and not all the great achievements and improvements you made along the way.

What other great pieces of supply chain advice have you received? Let us know in the comments section.

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