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Process vs. Results: Finding the Compromise

Posted on November 18, 2009 by Jeff

With an understanding of Gordian Project’s required results, as a manager, I’ve spent countless hours process mapping the “buckets” of responsibilities related to supply chain. Buckets such as new business, fulfillment, and returns. These buckets can then be further broken down;

  •  New Business into new suppliers, new brands, and new products
  •  Fulfillment into supplier performance and carriers
  •  Returns into RMA Team and Warehouse Team

Follow this to its natural conclusion and you’ve created not only job descriptions but detailed processes in which to successfully fulfill those descriptions.  But it’s not full proof, at least not when it comes to the results.

We recently received a past due notice from UPS Supply Chain Solutions as a result of A Series of Unfortunate Events (I love this movie). The details of which are not important for our purposes here, what is important is where this series of unfortunate events began. and both ship internationally via UPS Supply Chain Solutions which performs the export, export in this case being shipments from the United States to Canada. A process was “perfected” for creating shipments using and was followed successfully for more than a year.  My first response was then to immediately assume UPS had made an obvious clerical error and by clerical error I mean point the finger. With a bit of digging it became clear that an update to resulted in our “perfected” process inadvertently charging import fees to ourselves as the shipper rather than to the receiver.

All eyes turned to the warehouse team. Given that the process was followed to the tee, and had clearly been updated I still had to ask, “why hadn’t the error been caught?” To the warehouse team’s credit, and you know who you are, I didn’t get the expected, “That's not my job.” A spirit of complete responsibility was evident, but was it solely their responsibility?

In answering this question a statement in Rick Darci’s article, When 'It's not my job' isn't the answer, hit me square between the eyes; “Descriptions (Read processes) are task-focused. They do not describe how the role fits into or contributes to the success of the entire organization. The incumbent can operate in a vacuum without concern for what is happening around him - how she affects customers, co-workers or the organization.” The results originally desired of profitably and successfully shipping internationally aren’t accurately communicated, nor can they be insured, in processes. Let’s just say I’ll be communicating with a new sense of fervor the importance of big picture results, balanced with providing processes; sorry warehouse team.

Do your employees know what they’re ultimately trying to accomplish?


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