Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
My affections for the Equus africanus asinus has never been a secret. I use the scientific name just here to make this blogpost intelligent enough to survive the ‘first 10 seconds’-threshold within which one decides whether or not to read the rest of the text.
Out of my love for donkeys, the Equus something I just mentioned, I am subscribed to The Donkey Sanctuary’s blog. The Donkey Sancturay is a UK based charity that works to improve conditions for working donkeys and mules. Today’s blogpost was by Ben Hart, the Sanctuary’s expert animal behaviourist. In the blogpost, Ben details his interaction with a difficult donkey ‘Dante.’ What makes Dante difficult is unknown, perhaps it is confusion or pain or maybe he is scared – this makes him unpredictable, aggressive and dangerous.
Reading through Ben’s observations, plans and decisions working with a difficult donkey, I noticed how there could be an S&OP connection to the story. I believe that nearly all things that involve preparedness and planning for uncertainties, have a lesson or a valuable observation that can aide the S&OP thought.
Ben here is faced with a challenge, to get into a paddock with an animal that can attack him. We have all faced such a situation before – often there comes a time when we are required to trust our planning enough to face an uncertainty.
Likening Dante’s aggressive behavior with the uncertainty of economic volatility or natural disasters helps understand what Ben says about unpredictability – “Safety is really important, and risk assessment is a very important part of working with behaviour problems but to me avoiding risk is really difficult when working with animals such as Dante, so the way to stay safe is to ask the donkey questions by taking really, really small steps in training and listening very carefully to what they say. Accidents happen when people rush training, pushing the animal too fast and don’t listen to the animal closely enough.” Doesn’t that sound like a little bit like our own planning process? Where safety is primary but the element of risk is never eliminated but rather planned for by taking into account every detail to prepare for the worst case scenario, much akin to a donkey’s bite.
Ben continues his blogpost saying he’s confused. “There is a conflict in my mind between taking small safe steps, known as shaping behaviour, and my lack of time!” Shaping behavior that requires time and the lack of time – that’s a complicated conflict. This makes me ponder on agility. Could it be possible that in our desire to be agile, we run the risk of leaving gaps in our planning process? As Ben runs the risk of ‘not doing it right’ in the time that he has.
Here’s where I am impressed with Ben and will take a point home. He emphasizes on the importance of many small steps – well calculated, well researched and based on your trusted observations – forecast based on historical data in our language. “Now the process of shaping, or successive approximation as it is scientifically known, is about breaking down large behaviours in to very, very small steps. So that the animal can easily understand them and we can rebuild the whole behaviour easily for the animal.” Applying the same to a planning process for ‘successive approximation’ seems like it makes it easy to understand the forecast better and ‘we can rebuild the whole behavior easily.’
During his time in the paddock, Ben describes a ‘love bite’ that Dante gives him – a painful donkey bite indeed but not a disastrous one. And when this happens, Ben says he is not frustrated with or mad at Dante because it is his responsibility to keep his fingers out of Dante’s mouth, therefore – no punishment for Dante. I believe this is a healthy perspective, one that translates to ‘I can’t entirely blame a calamity or uncertainty for any gaps in my planning, given the certainty of uncertainty – it is my responsibility to have a plan in place (or maybe several plans). “
Ben says he had a great session with Dante and still has all his fingers. He hopes Dante is left enriched with the interaction. I have sent my love to Dante and hope he is soon rid of all things that make him difficult – there’re few things more wonderful than a gentle donkey. Besides enjoying the encouraging blogpost, I will make a note of this “You see when you are communicating with another species without the use of words, the timing of what you do is our only communication.”