Minneapolis Procurement Savings for Agriculture


Agency: Department of Agriculture

Title: Minneapolis Procurement Savings for Agriculture

Background Information

The Minneapolis Field Servicing Office procurement team saved half a million dollars for their Department of Agriculture customers this year. They intend to double that this coming year. One million dollars in savings is something to brag about. The money was saved by working smarter and utilizing government discounts and vendors. The results of their efforts are easy to see.

Prominently displayed on a 10 foot tall chart which looks like a huge thermometer is the cumulative total entitled "Degree of Savings." When savings are made be an employee an announcement is made to the staff, the buyer is congratulated, and the savings are added to the thermometer. The team now completes 90% of all purchase orders within 24 hours of receipt with an error rate of less than 1%. The focus is on providing exceptional service to their customers and customer satisfaction is high. Does this sound like an office that you'd like to work in? Today it is. Yesterday, it was much different.

In the "Black Hole Days of '87-'88", as they are now characterized, stacks of purchase orders were found hidden in drawers. Phone messages were routinely thrown away on the assumption that if they were really important, then someone would eventually call back to check. Employees, both managers and workers, often found reasons to be sick and supervisors reacted with threats and with disciplinary measures. The stress on employees and supervisors was incredible and it was reflected by a 30% turnover rate. Today, absences are down and the turnover rate has dropped to 3%. Workload has dramatically increased while staffing has dropped by 30%, yet the quality of work has greatly increased.

What changed for these employees? Why are they now so upbeat and proud of the work that they do? Why is there such an obvious commitment to first-class service? What is the secret, you may ask? The answer, according to director David Gradick is the empowerment of employees accomplished through an intensive training program and development of self-directed work teams. It is listening to employees and assisting them to solve their problems. The answer is removing the barriers from the path of those who do the work.

This philosophy is becoming a cultural feature in the FSO. Mary Thornhill, a team member of the procurement team, reiterated this concept, saying, "You learn quickly that if you take a problem to David, he will always ask you if you have thought of a solution for the problem. You learn to think about a problem instead of complaining."

The Realty Team is the longest running Self Directed Work Team, SEDT, in the office. "It gave the rest of the office something to shoot for." Annette Maros says of her experience with the team, "Realty, fortunately, had the radicals to begin with. We had been unhappy for a long time about all the silly regulations that kept us from getting our customers into office space in a timely manner. We all went full out to take advantage of the reinvention laboratory status to get new things going." Bonnie Smith has been training in Total Quality for some time and is a part of the team. She points out, "We knew that there were better ways to do business, and because of team training and management support, we have begun exploring them."

Mick Turk, a longtime realty member, says proudly, "We have been able to cut the bid package from 44 pages to a maximum of 19 pages, usually only 10 pages now. We've cut the waiting time for prospective tenants by two-thirds (from 18 months to 6 months) because of the waivers we've been granted and by turning our focus from process to outcome," Rick George has felt the frustration of knowing what to do to help customers but the bid and lease documents were needlessly complex. Now, he says, "We have standardized contract terms to speed up acceptance time and have worked to proactively represent the tenants and get them the type of space with the amenities they desire."

According to team member Terry Gmiterko, "There is much more that we can do if we can get GSA to grant more waivers and with our team approach, we'll certainly be able to outdo our records in no time." This attitude is echoed by the rest of this sophisticated realty team.

The leadership of Dave Gradick and his management team has enabled Stacye Tyler and a team of 20 employees to begin the process of marketing the skills of the entire office to the rest of government and to begin to develop a strategy for showcasing FSO's unique, team-based support service to the public and to potential customers. Stacye says, "We've built a new philosophy around customer service, and we're going to take it on the road." That is what "reinvention" is all about.

Main NPR Category: Employee Empowerment

Related NPR Categories: Customer Service

Contact Person: David Gradick

Contact Phone: 612-370-2207

Minneapolis, MN 55404

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