Downton Abbey took its final bow earlier this year after six seasons transporting audiences to early 20th Century England. Every Sunday at 9:00PM, millions of Americans became ardent Anglophiles – a feat usually reserved for royal weddings and babies. As entertaining as the show was, it has many lessons for the supply chain professional, too. Grab a cup of tea, summon your inner Grantham, and consider a few tips:
Create a succession plan
Downton Abbey, while not quite as ruthless as, say, Game of Thrones, has seen its characters endure much change over six seasons, and a fair dose of tragedy, too (see also: season three). Your organization is no more immune to change than post-war England was, and you need to be ready when that day comes. When a key employee finds that perfect job opportunity like Mr. Molesley, who goes from footman to schoolteacher, you’ll want a strong bench to backfill that position. Encourage them to seek out new skills and education like Daisy, who rises from kitchen maid to assistant cook. Your team will thank you for keeping their development in mind.
Put your “estate” to use
When WWI breaks out, the Grantham family, used to managing their palatial mansion and its supporting farms, struggle to find a role in the new crisis. With much of their household staff fighting in France, what good did the estate serve? Thinking on their feet, the Granthams put their house to use as a makeshift hospital for British soldiers wounded on the front. By putting vacant square footage to new use, the family adapts Downton to the new environment. Similarly, if you have vacant facilities or offices, think about how you can put them to use in new and innovative ways.
Maintain reasonable inventory levels
Under-butler Thomas’ black market venture is a cautionary tale. Having spent all of his savings on a cache of allegedly high-end food being sold in the village for a steal, he was left with nothing after he discovered the food subpar or even rotten. Sometimes a deal that’s too good to be true is too good to be true. Don’t tie up your capital into too much material – your needs might change, and you could literally be stuck with a bill of goods.
The Dowager knows best
At first glance, Violet Crawley, Maggie Smith’s delightfully witty Dowager Countess, might strike you as a curmudgeon stuck in the past, unable to adapt to a new and changing world. Yet over the course of the show, the Dowager demonstrates her remarkable resilience, putting her many years of experience to use as she guides her family from crisis to crisis and celebration to celebration. Her wit makes the Dowager the beating heart of the show. Similarly, seek out the wizened experts in your organization, and seek their counsel. You might be surprised at the wealth of knowledge your workers have become privy to.