Accidents Happen: Troubles with Distribution and the Rethink Ethos

No matter how much planning goes into something beforehand, it’s impossible to foresee — let alone prevent — every possible scenario that could go wrong. This concept holds especially true when operating a business. The best a company’s decision-makers can do in the aftermath of such an unanticipated dilemma is remain flexible, communicate effectively with all involved parties, and take action in a timely manner. Once the immediate fire has been extinguished, a more thorough investigation can be launched to help answer some of the bigger picture questions: 1. What kind of structural failings allowed such an occurrence to happen in the first place? 2. What procedural changes need to be put into place to prevent repeat occurrences?

The more prep-work that goes into setting guidelines with partner organizations early on, the easier tackling these types of questions will be down the line. For example, the two-page Distribution Partner On-Boarding document we currently share with new clients is a vastly improved version of the bare bones document we used at the onset of operations, back when we were a less knowledgeable organization with fewer resources. Today’s on-boarding document is comprehensive yet to-the-point, guided by our team’s collective experience and expertise. It clearly and concisely outlines the five key steps required for a successful Rethink food drop-off: 1. The Intro Conversation 2. The Food Safety Certification 3. Cooling & Storage 4. The Walk-Through and 5. The Signed Liability Agreement. Each completed drop-off up to this point has provided valuable feedback, and whether negative or positive, such insights have enabled us to create and fine tune the on-boarding procedure we use today. But despite having this highly effective tool for the on-boarding process, mistakes still happen and new improvements can and should always be made.

Just last weekend, the Rethink team had an issue getting the right food to the right place on time. As you may or may not know, every meal created at Rethink is nutritionally complete, featuring a range of veggies, starches, proteins, etc.. Due to extenuating circumstances, the culinary team did not have a protein source available to them that particular Saturday and ended up creating a batch of incomplete meals, which were subsequently dropped off to one of our distribution partners. The partner in question does amazing work overseeing multiple soup kitchens, nonprofits, and community service organizations and doesn't have time to spare for such silly snafus. They teamed up with us because we guaranteed to make their lives easier, just like we do with all of our clients. Unfortunately, due to an oversight on our part, a mistake was made and the very people we intended to help ended up being inconvenienced.

In order to prevent situations like this from happening again, the Rethink team devised a series of simple yet effective solutions. For instance, we implemented a policy requiring an extra managerial staff member to be on-site during weekends. Additionally, the Rethink leadership team scheduled an in-person meeting with the partner distribution team to express gratitude for all their hard work, and to make a commitment to do better going forward. Moreover, we hope that keeping an open dialogue ultimately leads us to a more in-depth conversation on best practices between our two organizations. This is of vital importance because when our team is disorganized or miscommunicates directions, we are going against Rethink's entire Simplify the Process ethos. And when the end game is serving food to communities in need, there is simply no room for such errors. Every mistake made must be treated as a lesson; every step backwards as a chance to leap forward the next time around.

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Why we're writing a blog

Whether it’s a five-minute intro call with a prospective volunteer or a formal business lunch with a corporate sponsor, every conversation at Rethink begins with the simple prompt: “the purpose of this meeting is to...” Only by outlining expectations clearly and concisely can we expect to reach our desired outcomes. The more we grow, the more complicated the challenges we face become. But as long as we are able to break down a given project or problem into something simple and actionable, no task is too big; no dilemma too daunting. Boil it down and you’ll find that virtually every email, event, and phone call taking place at Rethink is intended to help achieve one of two goals: creating meals and raising money to make meals. Take for example our Instagram page. We use this platform to provide updates about the latest happenings at Rethink so that we can raise awareness in a cost-effective manner and keep our existing donor base engaged.

Recently though, we’ve realized that something is missing. As an organization that prides itself on transparency, we feel the time has come to step up our progress sharing game. So, we’ve decided to launch this blog. Like any other topic of conversation at Rethink, we took a clear and simple approach to transform an idea from concept to reality. Just last week, the team hopped on a conference call that began with the words: “The purpose of this meeting is to hammer out the expectations and responsibilities of the Rethink blog.” Essentially, this blog will serve as a model for other organizations who want to do what we’re doing. We want to develop a toolkit full of free, open-source information on the lessons we’ve learned.

Having developed a streamlined technique for picking up excess food and processing it into ready-to-eat meals, Rethink has tapped into something that has the ability to change the world. But widespread change will only ensue once we begin sharing our ever growing artillery of knowledge with outsiders. By detailing our ups and downs in a blog format, we believe that we will be able to increase our reach and, ultimately, empower others to start enacting change within their own communities. Knowledge is power and in this case, the information we plan to share through this blog will give readers the power to reduce excess and create meals for those in need. So be sure to stay tuned for our bi-monthly posts so that you can to get the inside scoop on everything from food safety to fundraising. And remember, not all superheroes wear capes. Some of them read blogs and take action accordingly.