Flattening vs Narrowing the Curve in Business

With the outbreak of COVID-19, we have started to hear a lot about ‘flattening the curve’, whereas in risk management, we typically talk about ‘narrowing the curve’. What is the difference, and when looking at business, when is each one appropriate? Benhamou Consulting is available to help in your decision-making process. Please get in touch at benhamou.consulting@gmail.com.

Flattening the curve refers to reducing the maximum potential impact of an event, generally to fit within constraints (for example the number of available ventilators). This is useful when your business is limited by a constraint which you need to operate around, whether it be demand for your product, or logistical or manufacturing limits. To avoid overproducing, resulting in stockpiling (which leads to additional costs), one option can be to ‘flatten the curve’. This can tie into Lean and Theory of Constraints implementations, which rely on minimising waste, stockpiling and managing bottlenecks.

‘Narrowing the curve’ on the other hand, refers to gaining certainty about an event (particularly in risk management), where rather than focusing on the maximum potential of an event, its probability (or duration of impact) is the more significant factor. This is particularly important when analysing, managing and mitigating your business risks, and ties in to Six Sigma management, one of the goals of which is to reduce the probability of risks being realised.

Both these approaches are important in business. The question remains, what is the best approach for you, and in which context?

Raphael Benhamou, Director

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