Friday Rant — Avoiding the Axe

It's almost Christmas time. But the holiday spirit is not exactly alive and well this year for many companies faced with downsizing in the New Year. Even procurement and supply chain jobs will not be spared. Still, at least we can all drink the eggnog before we make our redundancy decisions public in January -- I love that British phrase "to make redundant". But many of us are thinking through these types of decisions now. It's not a pleasant experience. Later today, I'll offer a few thoughts on who you should axe. That's right. A downturn can be a good excuse to get rid of Spend Management resources that are holding you back. But in this post, I thought I'll offer up some advice on avoiding the axe.

First of all, if you're trying to justify your job, it's probably too late. Spike the eggnog, touch up the resume and make sure your bank is stable enough when you need to make a personal run on it in the New Year. But for others who think their job is more than safe thanks to the value and savings you're creating, don't be too sure. It's important to not only get results, but to market those results. At this point, arse-kissing -- at all levels of the Spend food chain, up to the CEO -- is not exactly the best way to do this.

But giving credit to your team members for work and savings performed is (you'll shine in the process). So one idea to help you avoid the axe -- not to mention your direct reports -- is to prepare a savings/value summary that goes beyond the standard BI mumbo-jumbo that you've got to prepare anyway. And make it pretty. We all like pretty. Executives especially like pretty -- especially after that holiday punch. Besides excelling at the internal marketing of results, it's important to come up with a list of priorities and creative ideas for cost cutting in 2009 that go beyond "the plan". Don't wait for that consulting firm to do it for your management team -- do it yourself.

One last piece of advice comes courtesy of one Spend guru -- or should I say lackey -- who has a certain technique that he shared with me for breaking the benchmark. That's right. When Hackett or some other firm comes in under the guise of benchmarking for process improvement in this market, chances are they're really coming in to make heads fly. So figure out how to game the benchmarking survey work they do. There are creative ways of providing data back (after all, that IT report is taking too long to run, right?). Now, not that I condone this type of behavior, but if you're really watching out for your own butt over the company's, my mischievous colleague would suggest that you take some creative license in the data reporting process.

Cynicism aside (just for a moment), career HR types will tell you that most axees know the pink slip is coming before it arrives. If this is true, you already know if you're on the short list. As an avid reader of SpendMatters, your thirst for world-class spend knowledge will hopefully keep you above the fray. The good news is that even if you're at the top of your game, the same factors that drive lean staffing are most likely at work within companies to find best-in-class personnel like you. Still, scrutinize your organizations overall performance and commitment to Spend Management. If you don't like what you see, it might also be a good time to go fishing.

- Jason Busch

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