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Evaluating and using effective time management

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Ralph was the purchasing manager for the northwest region of an electronic assembler. He and his staff were responsible for maintaining inventory for his company's three assembly plants that made various makes of car audio equipment.

He had been in his job four years, and in that time his company's sales volume had nearly doubled. When he started he had a staff of four purchasing agents. He had gotten up to a staff of seven, but had lost one position several months back in a downsizing. Now his resources were really stretched, and Ralph was working long hours. Everything seemed to operate in crisis mode. Any change in shipment and delivery of components would cost down time in productivity; any delay was cause for immediate scrambling to find an alternate supplier, since his company operated on a just-in-time inventory policy and maintained only limited in-house inventory of parts.

Ralph went to see his boss, the general manager, about feeling so overworked. The boss helped him prioritize a few of his current obligations and then basically said to him: there's waste in the system; find it. The boss gave him a few examples of what he meant, but he suggested that Ralph get input from all his employees about how to streamline the processes and become more efficient. Ralph didn't think there was much hope of streamlining anything, but he figured he had little to lose by presenting the idea to his staff.

In fact, when he first brought up the idea at the meeting about how they could all become more efficient, one of his agents spoke up immediately and offered an idea. She said, "If we could enter into some long-term partnerships with vendors we could probably get better rates. We could use the money we save to buy a more functional tracking system that we could integrate with the systems of each of our vendors. As it is now, we can only track one vendor at a time, rather than being able to compare them side by side. If the information from vendors was all in one place, it would make us so much more efficient." Other people chimed in registering their agreement. This Quick, What Do I Do? issue had been raised once before about entering into long-term contracts with vendors. Ralph had just never had a chance to pursue it before so, out of habit, things continued as they had been. Ralph felt so overwhelmed that he hated the idea of taking on another project. He asked Sally, the agent who presented the idea, if she would help
him work on it. It was obvious he didn't have much enthusiasm for the idea.

Someone else on his team sensed his hesitation. "I know you are already feeling overworked, Ralph, but we'll all pitch in and help you if you and Sally will just look intothis. Something like this has the potential for making all our lives easier, especially since we are so understaffed." A couple of the others agreed. Ralph realized that this was important, and he was just going to have to find the time to do the research and planning necessary to make it work
out. He would have to be the one to offer proposals to the vendors.

Ralph's staff was as good as their word, and somehow the work got done, even though he spent four to six hours a week working on the new project. Before he proceeded too far, Ralph consulted with the boss again and told him about his department's recommendation, including the new tracking software. The boss was delighted and especially happy that they had a way to pay for it. "This is exactly what I meant. We should have done this before, and I'm glad you are making time for it now. You know, sometimes it's surprising how much you can get
accomplished if you start looking at things a little differently. It's a matter of balancing the priorities and reshuffling what has to be done. Let me know how it's going. I guess I'll have to be the one to sign any new agreements with vendors."

Ralph and Sally continued to work on the project and in four months they had new agreements with two vendors and two others under consideration. Ralph was feeling more hopeful again and acknowledged to himself that he was dealing a lot better with the stress level now.

1. Identify, describe and evaluate the time management strategies that Ralph used to get his work done on time
2. Describe how you could use these time management strategies in your personal and professional life.

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The expert evaluates and uses the effective time management.

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1. Ralph changed the priorities from working with just-in-time shipments to developing a tool that would be able to effectively and efficiently manage vendors. He recognized that he had to shift the focus from working in the present to looking into the future and becoming more efficient. This new way of doing business was going to be instrumental in getting the company back on track.

Ralph recognized that he did not have enough time or the expertise to be able to do ...

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