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Many people equate Spend Management with the process of Strategic Sourcing! Personally, I have always viewed it in a much broader sense – the “total cost” of acquiring and managing raw materials, goods and services for use in manufacturing or service provision. By my way of thinking, price per unit is merely the tip of the iceberg and failure to look closely at other costs and processes can leave a lot of unclaimed savings on the table. Perhaps Supply Management provides a more accurate reflection of my holistic view.
The natural next question is so what is Supply Management? To me, it is the discipline that focuses on the people (internal and external) and processes involved in acquiring and managing the flow of inbound materials from suppliers to producers or providers, up to the point of the actual manufacturing or service provision. In essence, it ensures the right inputs are available at the right time, and the right total cost to profitably meet demand and customer expectations. It includes such things as:
- Collaborating with Suppliers to share demand and production forecasts;
- Eliminating cost inefficiencies between Supplier and Buyer;
- Better internal and external supply chain integration;
- Minimizing raw material inventory, obsolescence, and freight/handling while increasing inventory turns;
- Rethinking buying habits and patterns (frequency, quantity, etc.)
- Considering and managing all types of working capital;
- Improved product availability;
- Managing and improving Supplier performance;
- Selecting flexible suppliers that meet the company’s needs as well as cost constraints; and
- Optimizing Cash to Cash cycle time.
When working with clients, USC Consulting Group helps assess the performance of their Purchasing & Procurement function (perhaps better called Supply Management function) in comparison to those of best in class organizations across multiple scoring dimensions. We also look to identify and close the gaps and disconnects in their processes (Management Operating Systems) that foster waste and limit benefit realization. This might include redefining roles, responsibilities and processes, improving the use of technology or implementing analytical approaches as well as implementing metrics that assess the performance of internal operations and Suppliers with regard to achieving key business objectives and competitive strategy.
Implementing a robust Supply Management strategy supported by robust processes drives both financial and qualitative value, and while the sourcing component may be the most visible piece, capable of yielding strong results on its own, it is just one piece of the Supply Management puzzle.
If you give a mouse a cookie…
I‘m sure most of you are familiar with the phrase above, and some of you probably remember this book from grammar school. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, open a new tab, Google it, then come back.
Now that we are all on the same page, I can tell you why you should avoid the mouse (and friends) type of people in your workplace. There is nothing wrong with being a team player and helping out your co-workers when they ask. Personally, I enjoy the random requests from my co-workers and rise to the challenge when they ask for the impossible. Most often, they’ll show appreciation for my assistance and help me when I need a hand. Sometimes people are not as appreciative, and have come to expect assistance. I know these kinds of people are in every workplace, I’m sure a few of your own co-workers just came to mind. They take advantage of your generosity and habitually come to you when they need something. By being the kind person that you are, you usually surrender to their needs and then later realize you might have been tricked into doing their work for them. You’ve become the unsuspecting victim, who has not only given them a cookie, but given them the run of your home and your time.
This kind of working relationship is not helpful to either of you in the long run. You probably have your own tasks to complete and don’t want to fall behind. They clearly want to make their lives easier and can do so by delegating to you under the guise of “I just need a little help”. Once this cycle has begun, it’s hard to cut them off.
Who’s really hungry?
Before you start denying all requests for help, you should identify the repeat offenders versus the occasional askers. Knowing who is actually taking advantage and who just genuinely needs help is important, but you also need to consider the level/position of the individuals prior to locking up the pantry. Typically, requests from your superiors are not considered favors and are just tasks being delegated to you. Though when the tasks start looking more like favors, you should question why you are agreeing to take them on and if it is something you really need to be doing with your time. If you are trying to work your way up, saying no to someone above you isn’t advised, but that is another topic for another day. As far as other co-workers go, you should figure out what kind of person they are and when it’s time to start cutting them off.
The Mouse – Just wants a cookie
It all began with a small request, and over time they have increased the frequency of their needs. Fortunately, they’re consistent with the level of work required, but you’re constantly doing small projects for them. So you’re forced to divide your time over your work and theirs.
The Weasel – Has you making sandwiches
They started out like the mouse, but then they began shifting responsibility to you. Suddenly, you’re in charge of those tasks they just needed help with. Over time, they kept adding to your workload while lightening theirs. Everyone else has forgotten who those tasks originally belonged to because you’ve been doing them for so long.
The Fox – You’re cooking, serving the meal, and doing the dishes
This person started out with reasonable requests, and even convinced you that you were going to benefit from all your hard work. As the tasks have become more complex, you started to notice that you weren’t benefiting at all from the arrangement. But when you’ve tried to bring it up in conversation, they hand you another cup of their Kool-Aid and you agree to continue on with the unrewarding workload.
The Bear – You’re catering for a crowd (and footing the bill)
Their first request was a huge one, and for some reason, you obliged. You thought this was a chance to show how versatile you are or how committed you are to the team’s success. Now they come to you with short deadlines, outlandish requirements, and it’s not optional. They aren’t asking you anymore, they’re just telling you. You’ve proven yourself to be so dependable, that they don’t consider the fact that you may not be able to get done.
Closing the kitchen
So how do you start taking back your time without burning bridges? Carefully. You should approach each type of person differently. You don’t want to sever ties or sour relationships, but you should be prepared for some initial negative reactions.
Next time you’re approached by the mouse for another one of their minor requests, instead of just doing what you always do, confront them about their continuous need for assistance. Offer to show them how to take care of these things on their own. Explain that your time is valuable and they should respect your need to put your own work ahead of theirs.
The weasel will not be as easy to shake. Obviously, they’ve become accustomed to you doing their work for them, so giving it back will probably be a battle. They clearly passed these tasks off to you because they didn’t want to do them and chances are, they don’t want them back. You will need to stop taking on any new tasks and become the weasel yourself. Slowly pass the tasks back to them in the same fashion they were passed to you. By reversing the roles, you will eventually regain the balance that existed before the transfer of tasks. Don’t stay the weasel, or you will be stuck in a whole new cycle of trading tasks.
When it comes to the fox you need to stop walking into their traps, so it’s time for you to wake up and recognize when they are manipulating you. They don’t ask you directly, they just work it into conversation in a way that makes you feel like they are sharing something with you, but really they’re just setting you up to take on part (or all) of their project. When this this inevitable conversation begins, you should see it for what it is, cut it short, and tell them about how busy you are with something else. By denying them the opportunity to ask, you can avoid falling into your old habit of taking it on under false promises. Most of the time, you are not going to benefit from their offer, so don’t entertain it. For the tasks you have already undertaken and want to get rid of, refer to dealing with the weasel.
The bear is the swiftest to cut off, but could damage the reputation you were probably trying to achieve. Since their demands, I mean requests, are typically random and over the top, you never know when and what they will be asking for next. This can work in your favor because you can stop conceding when you finally have the guts to say no. The next time they approach you, take it as an opportunity to end the madness. Take back control over your schedule and explain that you are simply not going to be able to complete the task. By posing the denial of their request as an attempt to respect them by not over committing yourself (and ultimately failing), they will be forced to make other arrangements. Eventually they will stop asking because you are not their go to person anymore. Obviously, you started helping them for a reason, but continually stressing yourself out every time you’re up against a deadline for them, isn’t worth the potential bit praise they might throw your way.
The house is all yours again
Now that you’re no longer doing other people’s work for no real benefit, you can go back to focusing on your own tasks. This doesn’t mean you can’t lend a helping hand every once in a while, but set boundaries and stick to them. It’s too easy to fall back into your old habits, so keep your eyes open and pay attention to the signs.
And remember: Don’t feed the animals!
Metrics is your source for the latest trends in operations management and business and process improvement. Metrics is supported by a staff of select bloggers from USC Consulting Group, a global operations management consulting firm in Tampa, Florida.