Attention to detail - absolutely crucial when you are under pressure

Special Guest Blogger - Tony Allen

Thursday afternoon with the weekend in sight. The phone rings at about 3pm. It’s one of my best clients, the Purchasing Manager of a large multinational manufacturing organisation, due to run a large order over the weekend for immediate airfreight dispatch.

He needs a modest number of one of our bespoke components. I take a deep breath and realise that it’s time to make myself unpopular yet again with the operations team. On the factory floor I accost the production manager. He is in the middle of a run for another client. However, the product will go to stock and is not needed for immediate delivery. We can interrupt this run and produce the urgently required product during the night, inspect it on the early shift, and get it into a taxi by about 7.30am Friday morning. The impossible has just become feasible. It’s great when a plan comes together.

I call my client and quote him the cost and lead time. He is delighted. When I arrive at the office on Friday morning, the goods are already in a taxi winging their way on a 4 hour journey to my client’s destination. The heat is off. Here comes the weekend. And so at around 3pm, when I am closing down my computer and pondering on the beer in the fridge at home, I get a phone call from my client. His goods have not arrived.

I call the taxi company who tell me that the driver does not have a mobile phone in the cab. However, they assure me that if anything had gone wrong with the delivery, they would have heard. 

They tell me that they will speak to the driver as soon as he gets back from his 8 hour round trip. They actually did better than that. The driver comes to the office personally, devastated that I doubt his integrity. He explains that when he arrived at the plant, the main reception was closed for the weekend. I should have known this. The absence of this detail in the plan is its undoing.

However, with singular determination and a package to deliver, he drove round the back of the client’s plant only to find ‘Goods Inwards’ also closed for the weekend.

On the brink of leaving, he noticed a small door open at the back of the factory. Beside it was standing a guy wearing factory whites, enjoying a final pre-weekend cigarette.

“Hey mate,” our driver shouts, “I have an urgent delivery for you.”

“No problem,” says the factory operative, “Pass it here.”

And so our valuable package finally changes hands and I guess the story should end here.

But wait. The factory operative waves the driver off, closes the factory door, drops the package on a desk, and goes home for the weekend. Urgency is not like money. It does not retain its value when you pass it on to a third party.

So there we have it. So near and yet so far. Our package is but feet away from where it needs to be, but nobody knows it’s there. Least of all the Production Team, who cannot finish a job without it.

So I call my client’s Purchasing Manager. He has already given up the project as hopeless, and gone home. I have a miserable weekend.

Monday morning. The phone rings just after 8am. The package has not been traced. Can the taxi driver identify the person to whom he gave the parcel? No. What is this? Crimewatch? Can we run the job again today and send it down (again) in a taxi early Tuesday morning? Yes we can, and indeed we do.

This time, when the driver arrives, he asks at reception for the Purchasing Manager by name and refuses to put the package into the hands of anyone else. The receptionist thinks she has a kidnap on her hands. And all ends well. Our reputation is still intact. The goods have reached their destination, albeit late.

And the moral to this story?

Attention to detail is crucial in an emergency situation, because if things are likely to go wrong, they almost certainly WILL go wrong, when the pressure is on and an implausible deadline has been set.

Tony Allen

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