Oosouji – big cleaning – was a concept I learned after being hired by a Japanese industrial manufacturer right after graduating from college. Life in Japan comes with seasonal activities and rituals, and oosouji is one of them.
Typically at the very end (Dec 28) of the year, all homes, schools, and businesses get busy with special cleaning activities. All the items that don't normally get tended to get a special cleaning session. In companies this includes cleaning out your desk, organizing file cabinets, moving this year's files to storage boxes and making room for the coming year's activities. Everybody sets aside his or her normal tasks to spend a day to create a fresh start for the New Year. There's the normal 5S routine in keeping the ship in shape on a daily basis, the oosouji part is that extra touch that makes a big difference.
In the US this isn't exactly a habit we follow – here, the end of Q4 is budget season and also the time when last minute deals get done. In Japan, most firms close their books at the end of March so it's not a fair comparison. Nonetheless, oosouji is a good habit to pick up. Cleanup efforts shouldn't be tied to audits and done by a few. Make it a broader activity.
There are many opportunities in the procurement area. Consider these individual areas and data silos:
- Suppliers – ensure that all contacts are current, with phone numbers and emails, banking info, insurance docs, certifications, etc. being updated
- Products – certifications, quality inspections, so many documents to associate with the right PLM and SPM tools
- Contracts – ensure that all documents (exhibits, schedules etc) been properly attached and stored with the right master document? Are file cabinets organized? Better yet, have all documents been digitized and the originals either shredded (for cutting-edge companies – pun intended) or sent off to Iron Mountain?
- Finance – don't let the rebates escape, make plans to retrieve them
- Spend visibility – as books are closed, it's time to analyze what was implemented, and in which cases the savings are still on the table
On top of this, it's a good idea to address the personal basics too:
- Clean out your desk – and wash that coffee mug
- Organize receipts and file expenses
- Update photos in your office
- Change the calendar
- Get a new flower or plant – try to keep it alive this year!
In Japan, another activity (after oosouji and the many parties at the end of the year) is hatsumoude (first shrine visit) – a fairly secular activity where people go (often in groups of colleagues, club members, etc.) to a shrine in the area to put some money in a wooden box, clap hands, ring bells, smell incense and listen to chanting monks – while making some personal prayers and hopes for the new year.
Even if you don't make it to a Buddhist shrine, it can't hurt to take a few moments to contemplate your personal and professional plans for 2013. Let's make cleaner data part of those plans! Or perhaps even be so bold as to dream of enterprise-wide MDM – covering suppliers, products, and customers! Alas, those prayers aren't likely to be answered soon...
Still, we can all do our own part for clean procurement data both through daily routine and less frequent oosouji-like efforts. Good luck!