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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Don't cut corners unless its safe to do so

On the road if you cut corners you might get away with it. Sooner or later, however, there will be another vehicle on the same part of the road as you. In other words an accident is assured at some point.

I'm not saying I don't cut corners. There's a lovely bit of road between Grantown on spay and Forres near Inverness in Scotland that twists and turns. It's a gorgeous piece of flat moorland and there's complete visibility of the road ahead. Which means I can cut corners to smooth my journey, maintain my speed whilst being safe, and yet know with confidence that I won't meet other vehicles. Yet when driving the same road at night the ability to do that disappears. 

When training or coaching on category management I can hear myself 15 years ago when delegates say "it's too much" "I don't need a process" "that doesn't apply to my category" "I know that already". They're sitting there, as I did then, believing that cutting corners is the way to go every time.

What I've learnt in the intervening 15 years is that when I rigorously apply best practice tools and techniques to a category, in other words when I've not cut corners, I've delivered the most innovative value unlocking category strategy. 

I'm a control freak and hate being told what to do. I want the flexibility to go with the flow, be spontaneous and be able to react to what's happening. In the past I'd assumed that rigorous application of best practice tools and techniques would mean I'd have to give all this up. I now realise I don't. I can have my cake and eat it. 

What I realise is that the process, those tools and templates are guides only. A checklist if you will of what I need to be thinking about. A checklist I need to apply intelligently to the category, organisation, country, supply market and suppliers in hand. 

Of course I won't spend months gathering the data if spend, market complexity and risk is low. Of course I won't do something because it's in the process if it doesn't apply. Of course I won't complete that template in PowerPoint if the information is already conveyed elsewhere in Excel. 

What I will do is rigorously consider each part of the process. If I choose to cut a corner I'll have decided, as I do on the road near Forres, that it's safe to do so. I'll have decided that at this time, with these road conditions, in this weather, today, in this vehicle, with me driving, with the other road users, it's ok to cut the corner. Its okay to miss something out. The decision, however, may change the next time I need to make it. 

For me having a checklist ensures I don't cut corners without knowing it. It also means I deliver more value to the organisation - which can only be good? Even if once in a while I can hear the old Alison muttering about it.

Before you next cut any corners please make sure it's safe to do so.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

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