I hope that you have enjoyed the article “13 Tips For Big Purchasing Meetings, Part I.”
Much of what I teach, I’ve learned the hard way. Such is the case with some of the tips in the above-linked article and the articles that will follow it. Here’s a little story…
At Next Level Purchasing, we have a purchasing skills assessment. It began as an assessment of seven purchasing skill dimensions and was wildly successful and popular. This assessment mathematically measures skill levels and helps purchasing departments benchmark their skills with others.
As we grew our content, we reach a point several years ago when we decided to continue offering the seven-dimension assessment but also offer an advanced nine-dimension assessment. We built the expanded assessment, tested it, and had a client champing at the bit to be the first to use it. So, we rushed it a little.
The client had its entire purchasing team of 20 people take the assessment, we generated the reports, and discussed the reports with them via conference call. The client couldn’t believe how badly the team scored! The call ended in a bit of disbelief, but the client was still interested in discussing the results of the assessment and our recommendations for purchasing training going forward.
Between the end of that call and the time of the next scheduled call, we discovered a coding error in the expanded assessment. Though it was just one line of code that had an error, it caused the client’s scores to be lower than they actually should have been.
We re-ran the reports for the client, saw that they scored markedly higher, and expected that they’d be thrilled to learn that things weren’t as bad as they seemed when we initially reviewed the erroneous reports with them.
They were not thrilled at all.
In fact, they had some choice words for us. They felt that the fact that the initial reports contained errors undermined the credibility of everything we did. They told us that they were not even interested in seeing the corrected reports, were no longer interested in doing business with us and, in fact, no longer interested in even speaking with us again.
But, you know what? I can’t blame them.
The error was our fault. We should have been more diligent in our testing and proofreading for that first client of the expanded assessment. We blew it.
Well, we learned our lesson. We obviously fixed the coding error, tightened up our testing procedures, and made it part of our culture to double- and triple-check things when we introduce something new or rely on manual calculations rather than automated calculations that have proven tried and true.
We recently did an assessment for a potentially huge client. This client not only wanted our standard reports, which we know are now bulletproof, but also wanted our reports sliced-and-diced in Excel in about 60 different ways.
That customized manual slicing-and-dicing made me nervous.
So, before our meeting with this client, an employee and I went through each and every calculation by hand. If there were 60 reports, there were probably thousands of calculations.
I knew what was at stake. Though I can’t say that this client would have dismissed us as instantly as the previously-described client, I didn’t want to lose credibility with the client over one bad calculation out of thousands.
Interestingly, and not unexpectedly, we found one error in a calculation that involved extracting data from the system and manually manipulating it in Excel. We fixed it. And we delivered a great – I’d claim perfect – assessment package to the client. Things look promising for our future with this client.
Executives hate math errors. Look for them. Find them. Correct them…before you meet with executives.
This was a lesson I learned the hard way. Hopefully, the above-linked article and this story will give you one less lesson to learn the hard way.
Check that math thoroughly!
To Your Career Success,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3
President & Chief Procurement Officer – Next Level Purchasing Association
Co-Author – The Procurement Game Plan
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