Who: Roger Podwoski
Title: Vice President and General Manager, Logistics, Operations, and Customer Support
MINM: The Daily Operations Review
AKA Morning Briefing
Frequency: Daily, at 0830 hours
Purpose: What happened last night? And, what do we have to do today to make sure things run as smoothly as, if not better than, yesterday? It's a continuous improvement meeting.
Why I Never Miss It: Customer service is all we have. We don't make widgets, we offer reliability. This meeting is all about ensuring that. Our reputation is on the line every day, every shipment, every customer.
FedEx's Daily Operations Review is the Barry Sanders of meetings — 60 minutes of fast, focused, low-to-the-ground performance that enables the $10 billion shipping giant to pull off a daily logistics miracle involving 3 million packages, 211 xountries, some 37,000 vans and trucks, and more than 550 planes. Fedex Vice President Rodger Podwoski understands that "when the life cycle of your relationship with a customer is anywhere from 15 to 17 hours, you don't hav etime to sit around and say, 'Oh let's have another meeting on that afterwards.'"
Every weekday at 5 a.m., a taped recap of the night's performance is made available via voice mail. Participants check in to review any problems they'll need to discuss and solve at the meeting. Many have been up all night, but people come to this very energized. Ground Rules It's a military model. The corporation's Global Operations Control and Coordination (GOCC) group chairs the meeting. Fifteen to thirty representatives from key departments - Air Operations, Hub Operations, Customer Service, Computer Systems, Meteorology - stationed around the globe attend or participate by conference call. It never runs longer than 60 to 75 minutes. It's fast and action-oriented - like a football team in a two-minute drill. You need to get the ball over the goal line. The team is focused on a real-time solution. GOCC is like the quarterback who determines the best solution. The quarterback understands the playbook and the individuals are responsible for maximizing their capabilities.
GOCC follows a military-style checklist. The GOCC leader will say, "Meterology," and that department will come back with their report. Then the leader says, "Flight," and if they have no issues, they'll say, "No comment." It's a very disciplined pattern that flows quickly and smartly.
Two chairs at the head of the conference room's horseshoe-shaped table, usually occupied by GOCC people. When our CEO Fred Smith attends, he definitely gets one of those chairs.
We've only recently gone from either suit and tie or uniform to casual dress. We're not in ponytail territory, but we've entered the 20th century.
Global conference calls with people all over Europe, Asia, and the Americas; projector and screen; weather maps.
Coffee and soda for caffeine. No food.
If a problem can't get solved in the meeting, GOCC will list it as an action item with a deadline. And they will follow up on that.
The Memphis airport was shut down by fog for the night a few years ago, which diverted nearly 100 planes to surrounding airports. The next morning briefing we mobilized to call 5,000 employees to come in to help get us back on track. Fred Smith walked into that briefing with two comments. First, he commended the tremendous effort to take care of our customers. Second, he wanted to know why we hadn't installed jet engines at the ends of the runways to blow the fog out of Memphis. And he was serious!
Matt Goldberg is a New York City-based editor for Tripod http://www.tripod.com and a frequent contributor to Premiere and Swing.
A version of this article appeared in the April/May 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.