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ASCM Insights

Rapid Experimentation Drives Results


In recent years, most businesses have shifted from a focus on data collection to struggling with how to analyze and organize overwhelming amounts of information. Using data to draw helpful conclusions is of course a worthy pursuit. However, sometimes the greatest results come from simple experimentation.

This concept is being driven home by COVID-19’s physical distancing challenges in large cities. Specifically, as health care professionals, essential workers and many others keep things moving for the rest of us, limited transit service is a significant hurdle.

“Everything we’ve ever learned about efficiently moving more people in as little space as possible has now been turned on its head,” writes Tiffany Chu in Forbes. “We must find new ways to achieve the goals placed on transportation service delivery.”

Chu cites numerous examples of cities using rapid experimentation to evaluate existing infrastructure, identify new ways to get people to work and adapt transportation systems —often with few staff members and constrained budgets. For example, after car travel plummeted, nearly 200 cities around the world responded with solutions that normally would have taken months or even years to implement. Some repurposed streets to make room for pedestrians and cyclists. Others expanded sidewalks in front of essential businesses.

“These solutions can use simple tools and low-cost materials like cones, barricades, signs, and movable bollards — and allow for planning and execution in a matter of weeks,” Chu says. “The creativity, adaptation, and unprecedented speed behind this will keep us safe and lay the foundation for a more sustainable recovery.”

Of course, this concept has applications far beyond our cities. To use rapid experimentation to advance your supply chain organization, she cites three considerations:

1. Prioritize areas of greatest need. Just as cities are focusing on vulnerable populations, supply chain organizations must prioritize ethical and environmentally responsible practices as we work toward recovery.

2. Build a thoughtful network. Many city leaders recognized that shutting down a street can cause crowding and risk public health, while opening streets helps residents get to and from essential locations more safely. Similarly, keeping the lines of communication open offers the greatest potential for outcomes that benefit all stakeholders.

3. Embrace the “temporary.” Instead of expensive civil engineering projects requiring heavy construction, cities are identifying what’s possible today. Supply chains can use pilots to explore, test, study and learn. Also, just as many cities are collecting community opinions on what works and what doesn’t, always seek feedback from your customers and employees.

Go for it

On a personal level, staying in our homes keeps us safe during this uncertain time. However, as supply chain professionals, we must get outside our comfort zones, take risks and innovate. ASCM is here to support you with industry-leading education, research and content. Tap into these essential member benefits to reinforce your bold steps to a better future.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted through

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