A Day In The Life of the Vice President of Business Process Improvement at Office Depot

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Vince Pierce

Have you ever want to know what it would be like to work in a different job or industry? PEX Network's twice monthly "A Day in the Life" series continues this week as Vince Pierce, Vice President of Business Process Improvement for retail giant Office Depot, describes his daily routine.

5:45 a.m.: My weekdays begin with an hour of exercise while watching an episode of ‘Boston Legal,’ ‘The West Wing’ or another one of my favorite TV series. Today’s episode of ‘Boston Legal’ ends with a compelling closing argument coupled with sophomoric courtroom theatrics. It’s what I love about the show and a great way to start the day.

7:45 a.m.: I make my routine stop at Starbucks, where I look forward to discussing the latest problem-solving activities with the store manager, a Lean leader for Starbucks. Today, she describes the approach her team is using for improving the efficiency of order taking. It centers on a structured problem-solving process using a simple A3 format. Good old-fashioned PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) thinking. We agree to schedule a visit together with my continuous process improvement leader for the following week.

Vince Pierce, Vice President Business Process Improvement, Office Depot

8:15 a.m.: My day in the office always begins with saying hello to each of my team members. I also visit the offices of my direct reports to ‘check in.’ My ERP leader and I discuss the timeline for a major compliance-driven software upgrade in 2012. We agree to schedule time with a couple of the business leaders to begin setting expectations on the amount of business involvement required during the upgrade. My CPI leader and I discuss progress with our pursuit of best possible DSO (days sales outstanding) and, in particular, the burn-down rate for the accounts payable contact data clean-up work being performed by the contract sales team. We agree on the key messages that she will deliver in the executive committee meeting the following day. My PPM leader and I discuss the outcome of the business case review she conducted for one of our strategic initiatives. I agree to speak with the business unit finance leader to better understand the rationale behind changing the sales productivity assumptions.

9:00 a.m.: After handling a few e-mails, I visit the office of our VP of organizational development for a scheduled discussion about change management support for our strategic initiatives. We quickly agree on next steps and further discuss the need for establishing a shared vision for one of our strategic initiatives.

9:45 a.m.: En route back to my office, I visit our CPI team leader who is leading the transformation for our enterprise supply chain processes, one of our strategic initiatives for 2011-2012. I listen to updates on all tracks – people, process and technology. I probe for understanding on key assumptions and inquire about the data analysis behind a few important conclusions. The team is doing great and I let her know that before I leave.

10:30 a.m.: I complete an assortment of tasks during 30 minutes of ‘office time’ – summarizing next steps in an e-mail to an Office Depot counterpart, making a few notes for an upcoming meeting and discussing travel for an upcoming conference with my assistant.

11:00 a.m.: I attend a weekly executive committee review for one of our transformation efforts. The review is attended by our CFO, CIO, and several other executives within finance and the participating business units. The review covers an integrated performance scorecard and business case update for 12 active projects. We focus our attention on the red and amber key performance indicators, the associated issues and the countermeasures outlined by the project teams. The program coordinator reviews the action items, and the meeting adjourns 10 minutes early. The direct involvement of our senior leadership has been a key factor in our success. On balance, we are slightly ahead of plan and there is a general sense that ‘it’s working.’

12:15 p.m.: I have lunch with my PPM lead. Our discussion focuses on an upcoming Accelerated Change Event (our approach to GE Work-out and kaizen). She reviews the proposed scope, which nicely fits under the broad points we discussed a week earlier. She walks me through the next two weeks of activity and asks for my support in two areas.

1:00 p.m.: I run into our CFO (and my direct manager) in the elevator, and he asks for an update on one of our initiatives at the upcoming operating committee, led by our CEO. I make a note to prepare for the update and to send him a draft of the material by the close of business the following day. I routinely bring the program manager and business counterpart to these senior executive updates. My assistant schedules time the next day for the three of us to work on the material prior to submitting it to our CFO.

1:30 p.m.: I review the weekly performance dashboard for our in-store customer experience initiative. After making a few notes, I sift through my reading folder and select a white paper on business process automation. Keeping informed on market trends, best practices and other insights is important. I try to invest 30 to 60 minutes a day to reading such materials.


3:00 p.m.: I attend a working session with our indirect procurement team. The team members are mapping one of the Level 2 processes in the overall seven-step strategic sourcing process. I introduce the notion of understanding and managing the key inputs that drive the key outputs. Understand the relationship between key inputs and outputs, the essence of Six Sigma (the transfer function), is one of the fundamentals of our CPI framework. We agree to add input metrics to their operational scorecard. That’s progress.

4:30 p.m.: After the procurement working session, I spend 30 minutes with the process improvement team working on one of our marketing initiatives. We walk through the current state process maps and I provide coaching on how to introduce one core process supported, for example, by an exceptions matrix to accommodate different business rules (as opposed to the dozen-plus processes that are currently organized by transaction type). We discuss the importance of standard work and spend a few minutes outlining next steps. I agree to facilitate the next process mapping workshop to demonstrate the approach. When I return to my office, I send the team a short article on standard work and its origin (the J programs).

5:45 p.m.: Following a few minutes with my assistant, I spend time in my team area checking in with team members. We toss a soft football around for a few minutes – ending the day on a light note. Our work is difficult – leading change always is – and it’s important to keep morale up and the environment light.

6:15 p.m.: I spend the next 30 minutes working on a deliverable that the VP of FP&A (financial planning and analysis) and I have been asked to put together. We spent time the day before outlining how to approach the problem, and I agreed to render it into a simple one-page roadmap. I love chevrons.

6:45 p.m.: I leave the office. The end of another productive day.

Do you want to share your story with PEX Network? If you work in process improvement we'd love to hear what your day is like! "A Day in the Life" submissions should be between 700-1000 words and can be sent to us at info@pexnetwork.com. Please include a brief professional biography, and a jpeg photograph. Please note: submission does not guarantee publication.