A Working Model

1. When experienced people can be strategically placed in “controller” positions, it is critical to allow success or failure with little or no penalty. Successes so outweigh the failures that the margin of error is minimal.

These controllers know which people are critical to success because they’ve listened to line staff and actual production problems for a long time. They know where and how to effect a problem. Put experienced staff to full use. Request, value and channel their opinion wherever possible.

2. Where a system has been bogged down, trim back on the heavy “form work”. Look at the bureaucracy involved in a simple procedure and probe whether the required approvals and criteria are necessary.

Cleveland Metroparks cut its New Vendor Qualification Form down from two legal pages to half of one letter size sheet. Staff had been filling out an investigative form (which typically took three days to complete) on all vendors. In some instances, the purchases were less than $25!

3. Design simple forms with critical information and guarantee their validity. When the purchasing division informed staff that completion of the proper forms guaranteed immediate processing, the forms were filled out in full and without hesitation. Fulfill all obligations and don’t hesitate to make a commitment. 4. Empower and trust support staff.

They know. They perform the work, they handle the product and they see the problems.

Let them in on the decision — not just in appearance. Seek their trust and respect their opinion.

Some of Cleveland Metroparks greatest adjustments have been made because of the in-roads established early on with line level staff. They knew that comments to purchasing were heard so they continue to provide feedback today.

5. Insist on field trips and experiences for all staff including the division manager. Remember that the climb to success is a winding, all-encompassing staircase. There are no elevators to the top that ensure such an experience.

When the experienced employee reaches upper management, they know the value of line level input and they use it accordingly.

Administrative purchasing departments can easily become removed from line level functions and, inevitably, input. They lose the awareness that ensures quality products and an uninterrupted flow of services to the staff and end users.

Cleveland Metroparks’ purchasing division has utilized staff experience extensively over the past years and the establishment and maintenance of financial integrity has been the result.

Ronald D. Ciancutti is the purchasing manager for Cleveland Metroparks, a metropolitan park system that encircles Cuyahoga County and includes more than 20,000 acres of natural land, six golf courses, seven nature centers, a variety of special interest facilities and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Ron can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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