Recently, I had an opportunity to visit a former colleague that I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years. This individual works for a company that happens to be one of the top 5 hospitality organizations in the US. I can remember, like it was yesterday, having just graduated from school and being granted the opportunity to work as an operations analyst for this company. At this capacity, I was responsible for reviewing a multitude of business units, tasked with seeking areas for operational efficiencies and cost containment (an assignment that is not too different from my role today). Recalling how convoluted some of their paper processes had been at the time of my employment is what prompted the recent consultation with my friend. Today, I work as a sales consultant for ImageSource (www.imagesourceinc.com), a major ECM solution integrator and software manufacturer. I felt that, with my current knowledge, I might be of use to them. After all, I have helped numerous organizations with similar problems.
I could not believe my eyes. I walked into the Shipping & Receiving Department to meet my friend, the Director of Procurement. To my surprise, they are still manually receiving goods from paper content, and then walking down the hall, down the stairs, and submitting this paper to the Finance Department. Upon receipt, the Finance Department manually enters the invoice data and cross references the content with the paper sent to them by Receiving. In darn near every major business unit I walked through, there were paper and files overflowing off of desks. I couldn’t stand it anymore and felt compelled to ask my old friend a question… ”Why are you doing it this way? With all of the technical innovations within the enterprise content management space available to you today, why not leverage one to streamline the processes here?” My buddy replied… ”I’ve been here for 30 years and that’s how we’ve always done it.” Sadly, my dear friend was layed off just a few weeks ago.
This reminded me of an interesting story:
A very old traditional brewery decided to install a new canning line, so as to enable its beer products to be marketed through the supermarket sector. This represented a major change for the little company, and local dignitaries and past employees were invited to witness the first running of the new canning line, which was followed by a dinner banquet at the plant.
After the new line had been switched on successfully, and the formalities completed, the guests relaxed in small groups to chat and enjoy their dinner. In a quiet corner stood three men discussing trucks and transport and distribution, since one was the present distribution manager, and the other two were past holders of the post, having retired many years ago. The three men represented three generations of company distribution management, spanning over sixty years.
The present distribution manager confessed that his job was becoming more stressful because company policy required long deliveries to be made on Monday and Tuesday, short deliveries on Fridays, and all other deliveries mid-week.
“It’s so difficult to schedule things efficiently – heaven knows what we’ll do with these new cans and the tight demands of the supermarkets…”
The other two men nodded in agreement.
“It was the same in my day,” sympathized the present manager’s predecessor. “It always seemed strange to me that trucks returning early on Mondays and Tuesdays couldn’t be used for little local runs because the local deliveries had to be left until Friday…”
The third man nodded, and was thinking hard, struggling to recall the policy’s roots many years ago when he’d have been a junior in the dispatch department. After a pause, the third man smiled and then ventured a suggestion.
“I think I remember now,” he said. “It was the horses… During the Second World War fuel rationing was introduced. So, we mothballed the trucks and went back to using the horses. On Mondays, the horses were well-rested after the weekend – hence the long deliveries. By Friday, the horses were so tired that they could only handle the short local drops…”
Soon after the opening of the new canning line, the company changed its delivery policy.
There is a valuable lesson in this story for all of us.
I believe that it’s easy to fall into routine. Let’s challenge ourselves to question what we might do as individuals to better our companies. How can we invoke necessary change? Perhaps your company is trapped in a state of inefficiency (like many others), utilizing an archaic process. Given present economic conditions, it’s imperative that we remain competitive and relevant, or it could cost us our own jobs.
The method that we may have used 30 years ago may not be the best one today. When was the last time you checked for movie times in the newspaper? Today, I use my IPhone. When was the last time you called your travel agent to book a flight? I just booked mine online this morning. Do you still keep Thomas Guide in your car? I use Google Maps.
Invoke change. Change keeps us relevant.
Sr. ILINX Account Manager