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David T. Jankowski has retired.  We would like to thank him for his commitment to the APICS community and especially for serving the Central Penn Chapter as an instructor and Board of Director advisor for many, many years.  We wish Dave the best in his retirement.


Tyranny of the Urgent by Bruce Spurgeon, CPIM, Six Sigma

Tyranny of the Urgent is not a new concept. Charles Hummel wrote about it in the 1960's and numerous others have weighed in since then. In my view of the supply chain world, the Tyranny of the Urgent is making a BIG comeback.  For those of you not aware of this concept, it postulates that there is a conflict between things that are urgent and things that are important.  In many (if not most) situations, the urgent wins.

A simple example is a part shortage.  The urgent - a part shortage gets your attention and time and may be resolved - for that single occurrence.  But very often it is a recurring shortage that you do not recognize as recurring or notice but do not prioritize.  So the urgent trumps the important - which in this case is supplier improvement, a new supplier or even an engineering change.

We are now in a digital, real time, 150% urgent world.  There are studies that show that a "smart phone" can make us dumber.  In a study, participants were given a math test.  The 2 different groups were the same level in college, with similar GPA's, etc.  But one group was allowed to take their smart phone into the test and the other group was not.  Even though the group with the smart phone did not actually use the phone, their test scores were lower than the no phone group.  You have all probably read about some of these and seen the YouTube videos of people walking into things, ignoring those around them (including their children/parents) and other items that seem absurd.  And they are real.

So how do we deal with the urgent AND the important? What does that mean for you and your supply chain?  We can't just ignore the urgent. That part shortage is probably holding up orders or shutting down a production line. Or is it?  Perhaps that "shortage" is just short to safety stock. If we don't work on what is really important our competition will eat us for lunch.  My view is that we need to use our tools - Technology (ERP, SC, IoT, TMA, WMS, etc.), Process Improvement (BPR, Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, etc), and Metrics (Perfect Order Fulfillment, Days of Supply, First Pass Yield, Balanced Scorecard, etc) to get a view of both the urgent and the important.  The urgent seems like it does not need help to get a view as people call you, come to your office, and send you texts and e-mails!  But do you have a way to quickly confirm that they are truly urgent?  Do you collect data on the "urgent" that you can turn into information. As has always been true, we need to develop People/Process/Technology that positively identifies BOTH the urgent and the important.

Then we need to sort out the "most important", these are the "building blocks" that get us (or keep us) on the continuous improvement path.  They may or may not be the fastest payback and that can be the dilemma.  We need to again focus on the important - which may not be the fastest ROI.  There will always be many important projects, process changes, etc. so we must be able to get to the "critical few".  This is because no matter how large or well financed you are, there are only a few projects (perhaps culture changes) that can be effectively, efficiently and therefore successfully completed.