My, how you've grown

August 19th, 2007

Progess is always much slower than desired. I don’t feel I have much to report on when I say that we have used the new process for checking claims this week. None of the pickers liked it at all. Some were obviously rebellious. Technically, they have every right to be; I am not anyone’s supervisor. P.B. is their manager.

However, I had talked about this process with P.B. and with his deputies, and sketched the outlines in a departmental meeting. I was dismayed by the frank resistance from the pickers and the initial lack of support from P.B., who, based on the complaints of the workers, wanted to review what it was I proposed to do. He had never gone over it in detail, although I sent him the plan, invited him to discussions, and generally gave him every opportunity to ask for further details or outright veto.

However, when P.B. did review the plan he agreed it met our needs and gave it an official sign-off. For this first week, we replied to claims in a 24-hr period by following a process, rather than a streak of free time to freestyle through them. This is more significant than it feels to me.

In the same vein, my former boss came through the department and remarked that every time he stops by things look better. Credit that to P.B. It is like when long-lost relatives come visiting, and tell all the children they’ve grown tremendously. It doesn’t look like much progress from the front lines, but it adds up over time.

Although I have been pushing this forward an inch at a time while managing to juggle all the other things that come up so far, a new priority has been assigned to me that may be the one more thing that topples this effort from its place in my schedule. Before leaving on a week and a half of vacation, my boss tasked me to investigate and reduce a backlog of items that I already have reason to suspect has built up due to systematic reasons, choices in the way those items are handled through our system that causes our system to think we do not have enough when in fact we do. This is cause by letting our projected demand run ahead of our projected supply, so the system thinks it has to reserve our current supply and won’t dole it out to sales orders.

In other words, if I am right, it is a problem I am already aware of and can’t fix because I don’t have the stature to contramand the decisions that caused the problem; nevertheless, I am tasked with the “solution.” That could effectively divert me from fixing what I can fix to running circles around what I can’t budge.

Speaking of which, our office had the privilige to particpate in a conference call in which we were told that we would be required to implement a new process for orders going across a particular border. We will need to ship these packages as if they are leaving with our small-box carrier, then put them in a big box and ship them with a large-freight carrier, who will take them across the border where the small-box carrier will break open the box and finish the delivery.

This will require special software and quite possibly its own computer, scale, and label printer; no effort or real interest was shown in whether this could be made compatible with our existing softwared. It will occur in spite of the fact that we are already struggling in our site to meet all the different special requirements of various high-profile customers; it will occur in spite of the fact that we have a dubious relationship with the large-freight carrier specified, in spite of the fact that it severely complicates shipment tracking for the small packages that are being big-boxed. It will happen without any consultation with the IT department beyond “make this work.”

It will be done because some bean-counter figured it will save money.

And if there weren’t such things as friction, gravity, and human error, it would work out great.