Tomorrow (at 6 AM!) we begin our annual inventory here at work. Inventory means different things to each person familiar with the word. There are many kinds of inventory we do and should at times take of our own lives or our possessions or desires and goals. Those types of inventories can be done at your own pace and will benefit your life. Taking an inventory of your desires and comparing what you desire to the actions you take on a daily basis may cause you to change your actions and develop different habits that will more closely align your actions with your more important desires.
Of course this is really a post about a different type of inventory. In this inventory, my coworker and I are in charge of making certain that over 2000 different part numbers are correctly counted. This doesn't sound too difficult (except for the quantity of part numbers). But when you add in varying degrees of accuracy and human error and the fact that auditors do come behind you and if too many errors are found will require the entire inventory to be done again (as in 2004), the weight of the responsibility grows a bit heavier.
We have fine tuned the way inventory is taken for the past four years. We've found that the best way to ensure accurate counts is to have two independent counts taken of every hand counted item. We then compare those two counts. If they don't match, we will send another sheet out with a third counter. If that doesn't match a fourth can be sent. This method seems to give us what we desire - an accurate inventory in which the counts are almost always repeatable when we are audited. Of course, it means that we handle a ton of paperwork and checking. We even have the counts typed in by two individuals and compared in access for data accuracy. All of this takes time. Sometimes (like tonight while I wait for one computer to finish downloading data and another to open a different system for me to make adjustments) it seems to take too much time. But, the results - an accurate inventory that can be trusted by our materials department as they pull parts, by our project management as they commit to customer orders, and by the finance people as they state with certainty that we really do have a certain amount of inventory as an asset is worth it.
Finishing a task like inventory (as I hope to in by no later than Friday night) feels good. Tasks like this can be broken down into small jobs done by each of the 25 people involved in this endeavor. It's a task much greater than one person, and only succeeds when each person does their part. One person who doesn't care and choses to do a sloppy job counting will have a huge impact on the progress of finishing inventory. In the same way, choosing to allow a poor habit to rule you life can impact your future in ways you never imagined.
So if you're doing inventory in any way this week, don't let it be in vain. Give it your best!