Speaking of great memories, here’s one from the files that we share biennially….
Although it snowed a few inches on Monday in Boston, spring is officially upon us so, now is the time to move those sweaters to the bottom drawer, hose down the side porch, and bring the fireplace set to the basement. An annual ritual, spring cleaning is a time to organize, a time to refresh, a time to revisit and reflect upon the year-to-date, and a time to firm up those plans for the rest of the year. A time to literally “get your house in order.”
Is spring cleaning an annual ritual in your procurement department? It should be. What needs to be refreshed or reviewed and what needs to be packed or thrown away?
As Led Zeppelin not so subtly suggests, it’s better to begin your “spring clean” in early April rather than in May (“spring clean before the May Queen“) or just after the first quarter, if you operate on a fiscal calendar. Whenever you decide to do it, it should be at a point where there is a enough time to fairly evaluate year-to-date performance but also at a point where you can still course correct, when “there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”
Some things that may need to be refreshed, reviewed, or packed away during your department’s spring cleaning – a starter’s checklist:
Stalled projects: In the annual planning sessions, were the department’s eyes bigger than its stomach? Was the department sure that all that glitters is gold? Spring cleaning is the perfect time to load-balance the procurement department and rationalize its projects. Do some projects show greater promise and therefore warrant additional resources? Are some projects in need of a Chief Procurement Officer kick start? Do some need to be put out to pasture or postponed?
Strategic sourcing pipeline: Use the spring cleaning to refresh your sourcing pipeline. Build it to a level that is between 2 and 3 times what your staffing capacity can support and work aggressively to pull projects forward into Q2. If your department is a well-oiled machine, it has been running at or near full capacity against a plan that was set in place late last year and set in motion on January 1. As projects fell out or were postponed for any number of legitimate or illegitimate reasons, the team moved immediately to the plan B and plan C categories. If what I described sounds familiar, a hearty congratulations is due because your department is a rarity. Many sourcing and procurement teams fall behind early in the year only to face a back-loaded Q3 & Q4 where they must source furiously to try to close the savings goal gap. Remember, for personal savings and for sourcing savings, accruals are a powerful phenomenon. Like saving early and saving often, sourcing early and sourcing often can help “everything still turn to gold.”
Annual reviews: Use your spring cleaning to close out all annual reviews, even if HR is asking you to delay the reviews because it delays the compensation clamor for an annual raise discussions and related compensation discussions. Annual reviews delayed, are annual reviews denied. Annual reviews that occur more than three months after completion of the year, lose their meaning since many delayed reviews end up weighing what the person has done most recently (in the current year) over anything done in the actual period being reviewed. Also with staff turnover and advancements, the greater lag between close of period and period review, the greater likelihood that the most appropriate reviewer does not actually complete the review (Sidebar: True story – I was once given an annual review in October for the preceding year by a manager that was hired in September. I got a great review bt it was a pointless exercise. My head is still “humming and it won’t go: in case you don’t know“, I am getting annoyed just thinking about it). Staffers that are doing well should be praised in a timely fashion, staffers that are struggling need to coached/managed/addressed in a timely fashion. Be timely. Be fashionable.
Audits and compliance (“Does anyone remember
laughter audits?”): Are there areas/processes/etc. that your department said it would measure and track on some given timeline that it is not measuring and tracking on that announced timeline? Time to renew the focus on these areas. The threat of a comprehensive audit can often trump an actual audit. When you fail to follow through, people begin to take chances. Start measuring and tracking as you’d committed. If it is overkill, get the programs current, announce the very high compliance rates and announce that b/c of the program’s success, the scope/timing of the measuring and tracking will be reduced. Stick to the new commitment.
Win one back: Did you lose or disappoint an internal client or executive last year? Now is the time to make a pitch to win them back. Was your budget rejected? Now’s the time to revisit the discussion. It’s a new year and it’s time to heal all wounds. Also things may have changed, after a strong year end or Q1, there maybe tolerance or budget for the new headcount you so badly need. Now is the time to get back in the winning spirit.
And now, some final words from a spring cleaning guru (a lady we all know):
“There are few rites of spring more satisfying than the annual clean. For many people, however, the pleasure comes only after the work is finished. Your spring cleaning may never become effortless, but you can make the project more manageable — and even enjoyable.”- Martha Stewart.
To do this, Martha suggests that you (1) tailor the list [to your enterprise and department] (2) create a realistic schedule (3) focus on one task at a time and (4) be sure to enlist [the] help [of the staff].  remember that a good spring cleaning will buy you a stairway to heaven!
Thanks Martha and, of course, a big hat tip to Led Zeppelin.