Today is the eighth anniversary of the tragic terrorist attack on the United States.  This morning, one of the news networks, in honor of the victims of this tragedy, replayed the actual live broadcast of the  events that seemed to have occurred so long ago, but, then again, so recent in our memory.  My wife and I were both once again glued to the screen watching the uncontrollable events of that morning, just as we did first time, but this time knowing of the consequent outcomes.

I again watched and listened to the live commentary of Tom Brokaw, Matt Lauer, Katie Couric and others as they reported what they were seeing, hearing and experiencing, as the overall scope and tragedy of the events became more apparent.  It was rather revealing to me, having now a context of history, and knowing all of the information that was not known at the time. For the first hour of reporting, news outlets could only officially confirm that one plane had been hijacked, even though events pointed to at least three or more.  No one dared to speculate on potential loss of life, but after the pictures of the twin towers collapsing was imprinted on all of us; the realities of tragedy and loss of life were imprinted in our memory.

I wanted to share some thoughts on how history does indeed provide us lessons, and how the September 11th tragedy once again provides us some reminders to the overall management of risk, specifically supply chain risk.

When the incident actually unfolded, most of us were trying to ascertain what was happening.  We were practicing in each of our own ways, risk response.   Emergency personnel on the ground in New York and Washington were in trained response mode. News outlets were attempting, in real time, to piece together cascading events, and provide all of us the best information as to what was really happening.  Each of us in our own ways checked on the safety and whereabouts of family, relatives and friends. As the morning and day went on, and all of the events unfolded, the world had a far keener sense of the overall scope of this tragedy.

Government and military officials were quickly transitioned into risk mitigation.  Where and how large was the threat? What other facilities needed to be protected?  What resources were needed for rescue and further protection?

Industry in turn also mobilized to the unfolding events.  Transportation was temporarily halted or severely altered.  Markets were closed down.  Back-up and contingency plans for services and running of the business were mobilized.  Everyone was practicing risk mitigation and tactical response.

Since that defining event, government and industry know a lot more about how the terrorists planned and pulled-off this attack.  This learning has hopefully led to improved means to better identify potential risk events before they actually occur as well as keep the country protected.   

The learning for all of us is that when risk or disruption occurs, it is already too late. Risk Management consists of three interrelated process capabilities:

Strategic– the identification of overall risk points, both those that may be controllable, as well as those that are non-controllable

Tactical- the mitigation of controllable risks, prior to and after the actual event.

Operational– the empowerment of the actual response teams on the ground, to have the means to gather information quickly and properly respond to the event.

Whether it’s national defense or industry-related, these three process competencies must be integrated and practiced.

Let us never forget the victims as well as the lessons of September 11th in all of our endeavors.

 Bob Ferrari