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July 2009

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Education

Lost Record?

 Did you hear the news story about NASA losing some of the original moon-walk video tapes? My memory of the TV broadcast is getting fuzzy, and it would be nice if we had a video record of the event. It would be awesome to watch the original moon landing in HD. But now that record has been lost. Or was it?

Unfortunately, difficulty finding old records is a common problem. Keeping track of government records is such a big deal that there is a very powerful Federal agency devoted it. The National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) sets record policies for most government  organizations. By categorizing documents into record schedules, NARA provides guidance on the types of documents which must be kept and the document retention period.

While cumbersome to deal with [what government program isn’t?], having a consistent record retention policy for documents such as contract and purchase order files, is a good thing. Not only does the NARA contract-file record schedule require files be kept for a certain period, just as importantly, the NARA schedule, authorizes the destruction of the record after that period.

Destruction of records is a controversial topic for at least two good reasons: 1) records that get destroyed after a lawsuit has requested it for evidence (naughty boy) and/or 2) an embarrassing record that shows up years later when everyone had hoped it would be long gone (oops). Obviously once a lawsuit has been filed, it’s too late to clean house. However, if the requested record had previously been shredded in accordance with a clear record retention policy, then the legal discovery order will come up empty.

As many lawyers will tell you, having an old and unexpected record is often more of a problem than having no record. It’s sometimes easier to defend a company based on normal business practices and procedures rather than a specific action which someone might have screwed up.

Example: Company policy and standard practice is to pay invoices in 10 days or less. We have hundreds of files that show we follow the standard practice. Unfortunately contract payment records from 5 years ago were destroyed in accordance with the company record policy which says we only keep contract files for 4 years. We have lot of evidence that our standard record policy is being followed. Thus, lacking any specific proof to the contrary, it’s reasonable to assume we probably paid the old invoice within 10 days.

To be defensible, a record retention policy has to be well established, consistently applied and appropriate for the business. In addition to a standard practice for documents, the record policy should also make allowance for a specific record to be taken out of the normal course of business and sequestered for unique circumstances. Example: files relating to a lawsuit or discovery order will be kept by legal – away from other files and only destroyed after the legal need is finished.

So what happened to the NASA moonwalk tapes? Unfortunately, when they were created, the moon-walk tapes were probably dumped in a box along with all of the other typical business tapes and then recycled at the end of the record retention period.

NARA does have a category for records of national historical significance (like the original draft of the constitution). To avoid loosing records of national significance, NARA controls, archives and stores them separately from other records. Thus our moonwalk tapes, probably weren't lost, but just miscategorized as normal business transactions and a record of an historical event is lost.

If you don't have a formal record policy, setting  one up is a good idea for all the reasons suggested above; 1) to avoid accidentally loosing something of significance, 2) protect your company against old documents being used against you 3) reduce the time and effort to search 40 years of files in response to a legal discovery order and much more.

The record policy should be set after getting legal advice on minimum retention periods required by law or regulation. Take a look at the NARA record schedules to see what is required for Federal agencies.

Don't forget, your record policy also applies to those pesky little electronic email messages as well as written contract files. We’ll talk more about this subject during my workshop at the Pacific Northwest Purchasing Conference in Anchorage.

More information: http://www.mltweb.com/seminars/electronicRecords.pdf 

NARA : http://www.archives.gov/index.html

General Record Schedules: http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/ardor/records-schedules.html

Records management guidance: http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/memos/nwm02-2009.html

 

Electronic Records

Over the past 10 years we have been gradually weeding the piles of paper out of our contracting process. The resulting pile of electrons doesn’t take up nearly as much room.  That’s the good news. 

 Unfortunately the bad news is that it isn’t easy to store the electrons in a way that satisfies government record requirements. Many auditors, corporate tax accountants and attorneys are more accustomed to reviewing paper files.  And this presents a problem for us.  How to store contract related files electronically and still satisfy the auditors.

In my workshop at the Pacific Northwest Purchasing Conference, we will talk about electronic record requirements and review some options for getting rid of paper files.  I hope to see you there.

Affiliate marketing suggestion:

Encourage all members to take past issues of Inside Supply Management or affiliate newsletters whenever they go to a waiting room. Ask that they leave the magazine or newsletter  behind in the waiting room magazine rack when they are done with the appointment.  Everyone in the community visits the dentist or doctor. Having something  interesting to read in a waiting room would be a welcome change for most people.  Leverage the publication, by adding a colorful sticker with affiliate contact information, web site address and an invitation.

This strategy could be a table-top topic discussion at your next meeting.  Discuss, other pubic waiting rooms public locations where publications could be deposited?  Encourage participation by offering a reward to each member whose copies of the publications were seen in a waiting room by an affiliate officer or BOD member.

Personal Development

Say What You Mean

Above all, contract correspondence should be clear.

When there is a failure to communicate, it’ not the time to try and score an “A” in college prose.  Long, garrulous sentences, filled with interconnected phrases and third person perspective are hard to read and understand. Sentences like that are not improving communication. Instead, write it like you would say it.

  1. To be clear, be direct
  2. Be concise
  3. Be specific
  4. One problem = one statement, not three contradicting paragraphs
  5. Bullets are easier to read than paragraphs
  6. Numbered bullets are easier to reference in subsequent conversations
  7. “Problems”, “issues”, “concerns” and “questions” are vague ways to avoid saying what you really think.
  8. “Please” is a polite way of asking but not an effective way of directing.
  9. “ASAP”, “soon”, “now” are not dates
  10. “Good”, “better”, “helpful”, “bad”, “worse”, etc. are all opinions, not facts.

When writing to a contractor make it easier to understand what you are trying to say – by just saying it. Do not give anyone room to interpret, guess, analyze or confuse your direction. Don’t assume the other person knows your thought process or where you are coming from. Their background, impressions, ideas, may not lead them to the same conclusion you have. Start at the beginning, and present a complete picture. A decision maker may only see one letter, so make it complete.

Try this as a general outline and insert facts to fit the occasion:

Attention Contractor, 
Stop work!.

  • As described in letter xyz you have violated the terms of our contract.
  • You have failed to comply with contract provision abc
  • Submit your recovery plan for my approval by date
  • Propose consideration in Buyer’s favor for your failure
  • Do not start work until notified in writing by me 

Have a nice day [ O.K., maybe nice is a little out of place, but you get the idea]
 

Read more thoughts about clear communications and negotiations:

Technical Agreements Online:

http://www.techagreements.com/about.aspx

 Looking for an example of a lease agreement? How about one that was used between the University of Washington and Safeco Insurance  for the lease of Safeco Field.  TechAgreements provides access to   actual agreements used in over 500,000 transactions covering all industries. The database of agreements provides competitive intelligence and reference terms for business professionals or lawyers negotiating a deal or drafting an agreement covering thousands of types of transactions such as employment agreements, technology licensing agreements, financing agreements and many more.

ISM News

Leadership Workshop 2010

The 2010 Affiliate leadership workshop will be held in conjunction with the ISM International Conference in San Diego. Starting at about noon on Friday April 23 and ending at about 5 on Saturday April 24.  Leadership workshop participation is free and will be handled about the same way as last year.

The leadership Workshop Planning Committee will be considering program ideas for the 2010 affiliate Leadership workshop.

Please send me your Leadership Workshop program suggestions before August 25 and I’ll pass them along to the committee.

Last year’s program topics in Charlotte were well received. You can find copies of the presentations in the ISM members only pages of the ISM web site at  www.ism.ws/ .  The programs were good and we had some useful discussions.

Leadership workshops are a great place to train, encourage and energize key members of your affiliate. Officers, Committee Chairs, Board members, and other active volunteers all benefit from the information about ISM and networking with other affiliate members. Encourage affiliate members to plan on participating.

I highly recommend new officers and active members of the affiliate attend the leadership workshop. Given the location, I expect it to be a well-attended and fun event. Even if you don’t yet know who a new officer will be, budget the cost to attend, make a TBD reservation and initiate travel plans

Affiliate pre-meeting discussion topic:

How to keep your professional network healthy.

Software Tips

IE 8? Windows 7?

Recommend you wait. Remember, being the first mouse to get to the mouse trap isn't always a good idea.

Mail merge

Use mail merge to send a personalized email message to each affiliate members. In the message display the company, mailing address, email and phone number ISM has on file. Encourage the members to log in to the ISM web site and correct errors. Ask your membership chair to download the membership list from the ISM web site to Excel. Set up an email merge using MS Word,  and insert appropriate information for the specific member.  Read more about using mail merge 

Really Cool Keyboard shortcuts

Read through this internet discussion to see hundreds of very useful keyboard shortcuts. http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies-archive.cfm/94772.html

If you are using Microsoft Word 2007 try these shortcuts just for kicks.

Place the cursor in a document where you want to insert a horizontal line. Type any three of these characters and click enter.

  • --- (hyphens)
  • === (equal signs)
  • ___ (underlines)
  • *** (asterisks)
  • ### (number signs)
  • ~~~ (tildes)

BACK UP YOUR DATA!

Recently one of my colleagues had a hard drive crash.

Reminded me to remind you about backing up data you have stored on your hard drive. 

Hard drives do fail ( it’s surprisingly common problem).  Before that happens you should consider what data is stored on the hard drive that you might miss once it’s gone.  Then backup your data.

I have another friend who was whining about losing a long list of Outlook contacts when, a few months ago, the office computer “puked”  [my friend’s technical description not mine].  So I asked, “Do you now have a backup copy of your contacts list at home on a thumb drive?”.  The answer was, “No – I can access my work computer from home”.  My simple suggestion was, "Remove head from sand."

Read more about making backups: www.mltweb.com/ec/backup.htm   You can find thousands of help files and articles on the internet about how to make  backup copies. It’s a lot easier today with USB drives than it was 5 years ago.   Here are a few more articles about backups:

Want more???? [who doesn’t?]   Try this Google search:
www.google.com/search?num=50&hl=en&newwindow=1&q=how+to+backup+data+files

Hotlinks 

Provide Feedback and suggestions for future newsletters at any time. I'll try and use what I can.

I really do appreciate those of you who take the time to write and comment on this newsletter! As always, you are welcome to use my articles or presentations for educational purposes. Just as long as you are not charging for the materials and credit the source.  

TTFN, 

Mt


Read more articles in the Purchasing Toolbox at http://www.mltweb.com/prof/tools.htm and in the BuyTrain news article archive at http://www.mltweb.com/tools/buytrain/index.htm Return to MLTweb

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MLTWEB is assembled and maintained by Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M. 
Materials and articles prepared by Mike may be shared for purchasing education provided that this source is cited and no fee is charged. The rights for any other use are withheld.
Copyright;  Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M.
Last Updated: 05/23/2006