Anticipating the Unexpected 2

Sometimes change is thrust upon us by external factors, like extreme weather conditions. When this happens, it is best to apply the same criteria we use when preparing for a change: define success, identify your change agents, and call upon your community of practice to brainstorm and collaborate how your company will get through the unexpected situation.

This blog post from Backblaze is a fantastic example of how a startup company embraced the creativity of their internal talent, family and friends to weather the hard drive shortage caused by the flooding in Thailand in 2011.

The rain started in August and by mid-October 2011, violent floods in Thailand had crippled the factories that helped produce nearly half of the world’s hard drives. As an online backup company, Backblaze fills more than 50 TB of new drives every day. To survive this crisis without raising prices or compromising service, Backblaze deployed every last employee, as well as friends and family, to acquire drives in what became known internally as “drive farming”…

In a matter of days the cost of the hard drives that are core to our business had jumped over 200% meaning the cost of providing our customers unlimited storage was going to skyrocket as well. We needed a plan.

Among the creative techniques Backblaze deployed:

  1. Create a list of all Best Buy and Costco stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, and then send employees to buy all hard drives they could.
  2. When it was more cost-effective to buy external than internal drives, create a repeatable process to remove the internal drives from their cases, to be able to utilize the drives in Backblaze’s storage pods.
  3. When stores started limiting customers to only buying two (2) drives, create a map to hit as many stores as possible after work.
  4. Enlist family and friends to buy hard drives wherever they could and then ship the drives to Backblaze.
  5. During planned family holiday vacations, buy drives at stores along the route.

In addition to the fact that the employees were obviously able to maintain their senses of humor during this crisis (a crucial part of any change!), Backblaze’s leadership team was clear all along about where they would not compromise:

Backblaze is committed to providing unlimited data backup; and <while> others raised prices – we would not do that.

I hope this story inspires you the next time the unexpected happens: with ingenuity, a support network, and a positive attitude, you will be able to weather the change while continuing to serve your customers!

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.
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