The One Bad Habit That Costs Your Team Millions

There are plenty of bad habits: multi-tasking, procrastination, poor communication; all of these habits will negatively affect your business, and can set you back financially if they aren’t dealt with. Chances are if you’ve worked around test for a while, you already know the one bad habit that sets test teams back the most due to how visible it is. That habit is hoarding- hoarding of equipment, labor, support services, and knowledge. While equipment hoarding is the easiest to see and quantify when pointed out, the rest are there as well. When you allow hoarding to go unchecked, you are guaranteed to lose  millions of dollars from your bottom line, and countless man hours. However, hoarding is ultimately a symptom of a bigger, systemic problem.

Why Test Teams Hoard
Hoarding is the result of distrust. Test professionals hoard because they don’t trust they’ll be able to get their testing done on time if they don’t. Distrust doesn’t discriminate, and like any other mood, it’s contagious. Test teams also aren’t the only teams with “trust” problems; they just happen to be who we help.  Moods of distrust and cynicism, a particularly corrosive form of distrust, also exists in their internal customer organizations and both (often unknowingly) participate in a dance that only reinforces their distrust of each other while it increases costs and thwarts time to market.

When we mention hoarding, people often think of equipment, but we’re talking about much more than that. People and departments hoard any resource they might need including equipment, budget, people, services and knowledge to name a few.

Distrust is cultural and common across the departments of many large companies. Their rigid hierarchies worked well when marketplace changes weren’t coming so fast. Companies, departments and the people that work in them can no longer sustain their competitiveness without changing and learning how to foster and build trust. Hence, we see many leading companies who’ve been around for a while engaged in “transformation” initiatives. The world has changed and, as they’ve said to me, they have to change or risk becoming the next Blockbuster.

How Can We Tell If We Have a Hoarding Problem?
We focus on equipment hoarding initially because it’s so easy to see when pointed out. It’s not so easy to see services, knowledge or budgets being hoarded. We have many funny stories over the years of equipment being squirrelled away under stairwells, in ceilings or bathrooms, or just about anywhere someone thinks they can hide it. We can also “see” it in the especially low equipment utilization audits we perform. Every place we’ve done an initial utilization audit, equipment utilization is in the 10% to 20% range; equipment owners often don’t believe that at first. Walk through your facilities and labs and count those pieces of equipment actually being used, and actually taking measurements; it will make you stand up and take notice.

Initially I was surprised by how consistent the range of utilization was until I realized there was a sort of “physics” at work. The “physics” are a set of principles, laws and mechanisms from engineering to economics to linguistics that provoke certain behaviors that produce distrust and make hoarding (of more than just equipment) and the costs that accompany it inevitable.

How Hoarding Hurts    
Hoardings costs time, energy, money and lost opportunity. The financial consequence, depending on the size of your company, could be millions of dollars to tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. To explain, we will stay with our equipment example. Equipment hoarding comes from an understandable place; employees need access to equipment to do their job. When they don’t trust that they’ll have what they need when they need it, they take it, sometimes through “midnight acquisition” from other labs before they need it, and hold on to it. This renders the other departments that use this equipment incapable of doing their job, slowing them down. It costs their project time while they look for the equipment, and they waste their energy talking to people about their equipment problem trying to solve it. They also likely acquire more equipment and hoard it themselves, costing more money than necessary. All of this means they can’t spend that time, energy and money that’s been wasted as a result of hoarding on new opportunities for growth, which is essential to competitiveness in today’s rapidly changing marketplace. This all creates a vicious cycle of distrust, and the habits that form as a result, like hoarding, continue. They hoard equipment, knowledge, services and budget, all because they can’t trust beyond a very small circle. The root of the distrust could be anything: they shared before and “got burned”, they or their team got blamed for something that wasn’t their fault, or poor communication or gossip resulted in a misunderstanding, and trust was broken.
This vicious cycle of distrust between individuals and groups diminishes the opportunity for departments to collaborate, share, and increase the velocity of their innovation. Solve this problem, and you can begin down the path of increased speed, cost control and growth.

What’s the Solution? 
There are various strategies that companies have employed over the years to deal with equipment hoarding, but none solve the problem of distrust that unleashes the potential of the team. They “band-aid” the problem like we do when we take an aspirin to reduce fever. It produced short-term relief, but doesn’t deal with the underlying problem which can fester and become life threatening.  In this case band-aids are things like asset databases, storage cribs or asset rentals to name a few. We all know band-aids are very useful and often part of the ultimate solution so I’m not disparaging them. While these solutions may give you the feeling of control, they don’t get results unless they are wired to break bad habits that produce the distrust, while they introduce new practices that increase trust. When done properly, solving the trust issues solve all of the hoarding issues. No more hoarding assets, no more hoarding knowledge and no more wasting people’s time and energy. The result: teams go faster, innovate more, and cost less; they get competitive. That’s where Sente comes in.

If  people, equipment, services and knowledge are hoarded systemically, it’s best they are all managed in the same software and with a common set of practices that deal with them systemically and that allows trust to build. When this happens, all of the hoarding can be solved at once with huge strategic gains. This is not possible with common point solutions like property, asset or knowledge management solutions.

With our award winning state-of-the-art software and services, we’re able to develop a custom plan that distributes your assets, knowledge and support resources where they are most valuable, allowing everyone to do their job effectively. We use our software not only to track information about assets, but also to track and update behaviors that are important for building trust and enabling success. That means that not only will your equipment be distributed in a way that optimizes speed and value for your company, but you’ll have real-time information on the status of your resources, equipment, projects, and support teams, and it will dynamically adjust as your requirements change.

It’s time to get collaborative, and start using asset management that goes beyond the assets by building trust and enabling innovation. We believe in departments working together, better. By providing your teams with what they need, they are enabled to trust each other, and start working together to innovate, optimize, and succeed.