01 March 2021

The Last Mile Strategy

"All endeavour calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil."

--Henry David Thoreau

The term "last mile" or "kilometer," metaphorically speaking, is a familiar one for those in the cable television industry or supply chain management. For cable, it's all about getting service to the end-user.    

Supply chains are set up to move goods from transportation hubs to final destinations (e.g., UPS, FedEx, Amazon).

The big jab

More recently the last mile concept is being applied to getting Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and now Johnson & Johnson manufacturing plants into arms. AstraZeneca is approved in the European Union, UK, and other countries but not the U.S.

Moderna vaccine. (C) ABC News

As of this posting, more than 245 million doses have been administered across 107 countries.  The latest rate is 6.79 million doses per day. In the U.S. more Americans have now received at least one dose than having tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.  According to the Bloomberg Tracking site, 76.9 million doses have been given.  In the last week, an average of 1.82 million doses per day were administered.  

In terms of government agencies, the four stages of the vaccine process are authorization; prioritization; allocation; and distribution. After much trial and error, the last mile of the vaccine strategy, vaccination, is catching up with the first mile. 

"Complexity is the enemy of speed," someone said. However, obstacles such as accessibility to the shots, are being unraveled with real-time experience. 

Why?

Because the learning is in the doing, even tackling variants to the original coronavirus.    

Every day health care officials, along with private enterprises and volunteers, are figuring out how to turn this unparalleled collaborative venture into a workable solution.  There's a long way to go but progress, not success, is the better measuring stick. 

The last part of the last mile, jabs in arms, is up to the individual who has the final say in this emergency supply chain.  Keep that in mind the next time your organization launches anything.

Landing on Mars

NASA successfully landed its fifth robotic rover on Mars, Thursday, 18 February 2021.  Perseverance touched down at 3:55 p.m. ET.  

Launched 30 July 2020 on an Atlas V-541 rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Perseverance traveled 293 million miles to reach the red planet surface of Mars.  The ability to explore other planets is made possible by the Ingenuity helicopter (drone) which is part of the mission.

Getting to Mars with help from a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and interplanetary cruise stage was one thing, but slowing down from 12,100 miles per hour to a soft 1.7 mph at landing is another.

What about the last mile?

Perseverance landing on Mars. (C) NASA

The rover’s landing featured the typical “seven minutes of terror” that NASA engineers describe in any spacecraft attempt to land on Mars. That’s the time it takes to enter the Martian atmosphere and descend to the surface, and it’s named as such because it takes 11 minutes for any communication to travel from the rover back to Earth--meaning the time delay requires that the spacecraft and rover perform the landing autonomously.

Row, row, row your boat

News reports confirm that Jasmine Harrison from the UK is now the youngest woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

It took 70 days, three hours, and 48 minutes to row across the Atlantic Ocean--a 3,000-mile journey from the Canary Islands of the northwest coast of Africa to the Caribbean Island of Antigua.  

At 21, Ms. Harrison is the youngest woman ever to row solo across an ocean. Her boat is 23 feet long, weighs about a ton, and includes a small cabin and a bunker that she slept in.

Navigating on her iPad or phone, which broke during the trip, was easy because she was heading straight west, she says.

Jasmine Harrison crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
(C) The Times

It wasn’t all smooth sailing: Harrison capsized twice. The first time, a rough wave hit the side of the boat, sending her overboard until another wave flung her back on deck. She says this experience didn’t shake her.

And the last mile?

Two days before she completed the journey, a bigger wave sent her flying into the cabin seat. Harrison hurt her head, lower back, and her elbow--which made it difficult to bend her arm to row.

"At that point, I was kind of glad about the capsize because it made me want to actually then finish," she says. "I was ready to finish and ready to say goodbye to the ocean." 

The end game

 When it comes to a last-mile strategy for businesses or nonprofits--

  • Avoid false starts.  They ripple through a system all the way to the end.
  • Don't celebrate too soon.  Outcomes become clearer only as we get near that last mile.
  • Identify a point person to be responsible for last-mile execution. To paraphrase, a successful launch has many sponsors but poor results are an orphan. 
  • Build flexibility into the organizational culture since it's better to bend than break.  
  • Use positive and negative feedback from frontline workers and consumers to make adjustments in the strategy. 
  • What emerges is often better than what's planned. A healthy ego can live with that idea.


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