Catching Up

I used to be a runner. I used to be fast. I need you to trust me on this. Several of us would run around a local lake and often would have newer runners join us. They were usually slower. So, we would slow down and stay with them until we reached this one spot where they could cut across a park and we would take the long way around, adding over a mile to our run. Then we would speed up and try to catch them, which didn’t always work.

The reason for this is very simple. Let’s say that our slow friends are running at 8 min/mile pace. They have 4 miles to go to get back to the parking lot. We have 5.5. They are going to take 32 min to get to the parking lot. To meet them there, we must run 5:48 min/mile. To overtake them, we must run FASTER than 5:30 pace. If they get farther out in front, it gets worse. Let’s say the loop adds 2 miles to our run. Now we must run 5:20 pace to meet up at the lot and closer to 5 min pace to overtake them.

Once you are behind, it takes a lot of extra effort to catch up.

Every time there is a downturn and then recovery cycle in our industry, lead times for products tend to lengthen. As demand for product increases, there is usually a lag in the ability of manufacturers to respond. So, more product is requested than is being produced causing quoted deliveries to move out in time. As the companies, like ours, work to create enough product to meet demand, we eventually are making as much as the customers are asking for. The problem is that the lead times for product are now stuck at longer times than we like.

For lead times to be reduced, we must produce more product than the customers are asking for. Just like my running buddies and I had to run faster than the people we were trying to catch. There is always a cost to increased effort. We are expending more energy, spending more money, using more resources, just to catch up. I can remember lots of runs where about halfway back to the parking lot, lungs gasping, legs burning, I cursed myself for letting those people get out in front.

Interestingly, this rule about the effort needed to catch up once you’ve gotten behind is sort of universal. It applies to things like running or caravanning on a long car trip, to supply chain and production theory, and to many things in between.

Like relationships. Relationships require effort. You can look at them like a supply chain system. For each relationship we are in, the other person is relying on us for things: time, empathy, vulnerability, care, respect. When we are keeping current with the people in our lives, we are supplying those things in roughly the amounts they need, and they are supplying us. However, when our ability to meet their needs is affected by other pressures in our lives, or their needs increase due to things in their lives, we can fall behind.

Regardless of the “supply chain”, the sooner we can respond to changes, the less behind we get and the easier and quicker we can catch back up. Being able to adjust quickly is a combination of sensing that the needs have changed as early as possible and then pivoting to meet the new level of need. Not surprisingly, open communication, transparency, and honesty are crucial whether you are handling a relationship or a product line.

I hope you have people in your life that can sense when you need a little extra care and are willing to pivot and put the additional energy into being your friend. I do, and it is wonderful. I want to be a person who does that for the people around me. If we all do that, then it is likely we will also be a company that does this for our customers and community. Paying attention so I notice when needs have shifted and then being willing to run a little harder to catch up makes a difference in people’s lives, and it is the Kimray Way.