Friday Rant — Recognizing Superficial Wounds

Earlier this week, my three year old managed to do what many younger brothers (egged on by older ones) tend to do -- he visited the ER following an explosion of blood after some brotherly roughhousing went awry. All is now well and quiet on the Northern (Chicago) Front -- there's nothing that a few stitches or the superglue that's now available for closing wounds can't cure -- but the experience did teach me a few lessons about recognizing superficial wounds versus the kinds that are truly serious. Moreover, there's a lesson that we can apply to our jobs in procurement and supply chain as well.

When the injury happened, my youngest son's head appeared to have exploded in blood (as I later learned is often the case with many forehead injuries). This was not a pleasant thing, especially considering that his brother and mother do not do well at the site of blood. But within a few minutes, the bleeding had subsided. Nearly completely. It did not require an ambulance trip or even speeding dangerously to the ER. Rather, a cool, collected response was in order (along with showing empathy towards the little guy).

When we did collect ourselves and both physically and mentally stabilized the patient, we ventured out to solve the problem. And even though it was a busy night at the local Children's ER -- I surmised after a quick count of patients in the triage area that 80% should probably have gone to a primary care physician first, but lacked adequate insurance so guess where they ended up, but don't get me started on this point. We were seen rather quickly and after the new superglue they use for these things, everyone carried on with their evening. As is the case with most of these situations, I think the parents were the ones who were most traumatized (along with the "plastic ice cream cone throwing culprit" -- he knows who he is). The actual patient ended up in perfect spirits only a few hours after the incident.

I think in the procurement world, far too many of us react the way I did after first seeing the injury. Which is to say overreacting and not stepping back and recognizing what was actually a rather superficial wound that just looked bad at the time. Whether it's panicking over a supplier bankruptcy, a late shipment, a contaminated or waterlogged container not detected early or even when a supplier takes a new hard-line negotiating stance -- more often than not -- our initial observations result in a more frantic response to the situation than is often warranted.

Most wounds are superficial even if they don't look like they are at first. But to be sure, it's essential to step back and seek multiple informed opinions (as quickly as possible) in as calm a manner as possible. And then, after a rational assessment, take action in a non-panicked way, implementing only the steps that the situation really requires versus sounding the loudest alarm in the place. That way, when a real disaster occurs that warrants serious attention and alarms on all fronts, you won't end up being called the procurement boy who cries wolf (moreover, you'll keep your hairline as intact as possible along the way).

Jason Busch

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