personal supply chain

Chipotle’s Conundrum

It’s been a rough year for Chipotle.

Last November, the restaurant chain closed all 43 of its locations in Oregon and Washington to address an E. coli outbreak which sickened over 50 people. A norovirus outbreak affected 234 people in California in August, along with a separate outbreak near Boston College. Salmonella-tainted tomatoes sickened 64 people in August and September. According to her in-depth article, “Inside Chipotle’s Contamination Crisis,” Susan Berfield reports almost 500 people in the U.S. have become sick from Chipotle food since July.

Now, I’m no food safety expert, and I admittedly have a limited understanding on the particulars of the E. coli outbreak and food preparation issues Chipotle has run into recently. Also, full disclosure: I love eating at Chipotle. Their barbacoa burritos got me through graduate school.

One of the reasons I love Chipotle is their commitment to fresh, sustainable, cost-efficient, and delicious food. They have wonderful values. But, these ideals mean nothing if they can’t be produced in specific locations. This is where the supply chain comes into play.

The Importance of the Supply Chain

Chipotle deals with a massively complex and changing supply chain in order to get the freshest ingredients to their over 1,900 stores. As Berfield reported, “The source, or sources [of contamination] were somewhere in that supply chain. Because restaurants from Oregon to New York served contaminated food, the problem most likely originated in one of Chipotle’s big suppliers.”

It’s great to have big values, like fresh ingredients. But those values quickly fall apart if the supply chain is inadequate – or worse yet, contaminated.

The same is true for us as leaders. Whether you realize it or not, you have your own personal supply chain. There are processes, people, disciplines, or habits you’ve incorporated into your life that either help or hinder the implementation of your big values, goals, and resources into the day-to-day and moment-by-moment.

And, like Chipotle, if our supply chain is broken, there can be disastrous consequences: depletion and feeling over-stretched, loss of integrity, lessening of our values and standards, or even sickness and shutdown.

Here’s how our personal supply chains can be broken:

1 – Something’s Missing from the Supply Chain.

Chipotle expanded quickly. As Berfield referenced in her article, “Chipotle opened 192 restaurants in 2014 and expected to open 215 to 225 in 2015. The company held it’s first National Career Day on September 9. The goal was to hire 4,000 employees, increasing its staff by 7 percent.” And, as a result of their busy expansion, it seems important standards and critical checkpoints got pushed to the side.

Busyness has a way of doing this to our supply chains too. We neglect those things most important to our health in order to accomplish more and more. And, we see from Chipotle’s example the dangerous side to missing pieces in supply lines. When I’m most busy, I’ve found I’m neglecting an important habit, activity, discipline, or relationships. Someone or something I depend upon for rejuvenation and replenishment is missing from my supply chain.

2 – Something’s Toxic in the Supply Chain

It’s terrible when something is missing from a supply chain; it’s even worse when there’s something deadly within it.

The outbreaks of E. coli and other contamination issues proved toxic exposure somewhere within Chipotle’s supply chain. The effect is incredibly obvious – sick customers. The cause, on the other hand, can be incredibly difficult to find.

The same is true for us. If we are in a toxic place, it’s obvious to most everyone in our lives. But, finding the cause takes a good amount of introspection and requires a careful clean up process. A toxin in our supply chains needs to be contained so that it can’t spread and can be addressed.

What does that look like in our own personal supply chains? Sometimes, the people or practices most ingrained in our lives can actually be harming us, without us even knowing it. We could be involved in a toxic relationship, whether it’s abusive or shame-inducing. Or, we could have a habit in our life that is hurting us deeply, like drinking too much, obsessively eating, being a workaholic, or any number of other things.

Discovering these things in our supply chain can be painful at times and requires careful help in addressing them. But it’s also really important. Good desires, hopes, and dreams can be derailed by destructive elements if they’ve made it into our supply chains. We might need to limit the influence of a toxic person in our lives, or talk to a counselor to address a habit or relationship that is keeping us from living into the values we have for ourselves.

Mind Your Supply Chain

The Chipotle conundrum is one we all face. How healthy are our supply chains? Have we been mindful of adding regular components into our lives that rejuvenate, replenish, and recalibrate us to our best selves? Are we on the look out for potential toxins?

So, take a moment to ask a few questions:

  • What does my current supply chain look like? What are the main relationships and activities I depend upon for replenishment, rejuvenation, and recalibration?
  • What is missing from my supply chain? Do I need to add time and focus on any rejuvenating, replenishing, or recalibrating people and activities?
  • Are there any toxic sources in my supply chain? How can I limit, contain, or remove their influence?