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Lessons Learned in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

By: Shelley Morton
Senior Market Director - Southwest Region

Mar 05, 2018

When Hurricane Harvey hit in August in Houston and its surrounding areas, it quickly engulfed the city with unprecedented flooding. For PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division, our first priority was to ensure our frontline associates were safe. We then needed to create a game plan that would solve complex issues we were facing. 

It’s hard to predict when a natural disaster will strike, but you can never be too prepared. 

Here are some of the lessons I learned as one of our sales operations team members directly involved in Frito-Lay’s response efforts. 

Collaborate and Know How to Add Value 
During Hurricane Harvey, we brought together many of our best and brightest across sales, supply chain, fleet, product supply and our headquarters associates. I served as a facilitator across these teams to help organize our action plan for before and after the hurricane.

Each person that supported the recovery efforts had their own distinctive skills that made them uniquely qualified to solve problems, and I had the privilege of working as the facilitator to pull them together.

The hardest part of organizing this collaboration was not physically being in the same location as many of my colleagues – but I found that in times like these it’s important to understand where you add value most. In my case, my impact was greater collaborating with the different functions to remove obstacles.

Have a Structure 
Building a consistent mode of communication – from emails to check-in calls – was important to our success as an organization during Harvey. To our senior leadership, we needed to ensure they stayed up-to-date, and were provided the right amount of details at the right time. For the various departments involved, we had numerous check-in calls so that everyone was on the same page. We found in our experience that this constant communication helped us be more efficient, and offered a high-level of predictability so our associates involved knew what to expect.

Build on Past Experiences
I have had the opportunity to work across many teams at Frito-Lay, including traffic and sales operations, as well as lead our Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) employee resource group. 

Through these experiences, I’ve met many leaders across a variety of functions and learned from them along the way. 

When I joined WIN, I had an agenda to build a strong connection from women in our headquarters building to those in the field. I learned so much about the ins and outs of our field employees during this time. In fact, the time I spent supporting WIN networked me with so many people that ended up being part of the team that helped with the hurricane response.

With the various departments and experts working together to solve problems, it also reinforced how important it is to get critical experiences that help you understand the business and each department’s function. It’s just evidence of how important it is take on a variety of experiences, even if you don’t see the application now, you will be better for it in the long run.

Take Care of your People 
Frito-Lay division truly did all that it could to ensure our impacted associates were taken care of. We work for an amazing company. With our nearby facilities, distribution centers and field offices, Frito-Lay made sure all those who were impacted had the disaster recovery support they needed.  

Eliminate Barriers 
In times of crisis, it’s imperative for everyone to be efficient and work smarter together. As situations like these evolve, being flexible and available is key. During Hurricane Harvey, if our team needed something, we got it right when we asked for it. We did our best to streamline efforts to be as responsive as possible and care for our people to ensure the continuity of our business. 

While we have come across natural disasters in the past, each one is unique. I’ve found that leading teams through natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey really shows you the strength of our organization and its culture.


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