Chain of Walls

When I started out in the business world we typed our memos and letters on a typewriter, used whiteout to correct errors and either hand carried or used the United States Postal Service to have our letters delivered.

Then faxes came onto the scene and we would go down to the local print shop and for a small fee fax any urgent documents.  At least that’s what a small business did that couldn’t afford to own their own fax machine.

As I watched email evolve I remember thinking what a great communication tool this is.

Being a manager I was excited about being able to instantly send memos and information to employees, suppliers and customers around the world.

I thought how efficient this tool is and how much more efficient it will make this company and the communications within this company.

Now it’s some 20 years later.

Today I received an email from a warehouse employee.  They were asking that someone please contact the supplier about an issue they were having with a skid of material not being loaded in what they thought was an efficient manner.

Actually the email that came to me was from the purchasing manager.   He was asking me to look into this matter.

Now the receiving person had all the details of the issue spelled out in their original email better than I could have said it so why should I take the time to redo the whole email.  All I did was forward the email thread to my contact at the supplier and instructed them to read the email trail below and advise me what they can do to correct the problem.

This process got me to thinking, how many walls will the original email have to be thrown over to address this simple packaging issue.

Here is this great communication tool that could have instantly connected our receiver to the supplier’s shipper.

The messages travel at almost the speed of light and yet we place these walls to grind it to a halt before it moves on.

Let’s look at how many walls this one message hit going from the receiver to the shipper.

  1. Our receiver to our warehouse manager
  2. Our warehouse manager to our purchasing manager
  3. Our purchasing manager to our buyer (me)
  4. Our buyer to supplier’s customer service rep
  5. Supplier’s customer service rep to supplier’s customer service manager
  6. Supplier’s customer service manager to supplier’s warehouse manager
  7. Supplier’s warehouse manager to supplier’s shipper

That’s seven walls going and probably seven walls returning.

Here is this great efficiency tool for communication where within seconds our receiver could have worked out the problem with the supplier’s shipper.

But nooooooo, we have to follow this chain of walls.

And why do we have to follow this chain of walls?

So everyone can cover their ass.

What could have been resolved in seconds or minutes will now take 3 to 5 days if you’re lucky, as the emails sit at each wall waiting to be thrown over to the next guy.

In the mean time how many more shipments went out with the same issues?

What a waste of time and money.

No matter how much we advance the technology we can’t get out of our own way.

Managements asks what road blocks do you encounter in your job as they throw up another wall.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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