When the going gets rushed, the cash starts flowing: Roger Trapp reports on the expensive 'culture of urgency'

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The Independent Online
IN THE hurly-burly of modern business there is a temptation to try to do everything in a rush.

The result is what some commentators are calling the development of a culture - or even a cult - of urgency. It manifests itself in documents being faxed when they could be posted, deliveries being made by courier rather than parcel post and telephone calls instead of letters.

Recent research by Gallup for the Royal Mail shows that nearly a third of businesses send something 'urgently' by post, fax or courier between once and three times a day.

However, the study suggests that there is little common understanding of the term 'urgent'. Seventy- five per cent of secretaries thought it meant that the item in question required immediate attention, while 30 per cent of managers said 'urgent' meant something had to arrive at a particular time - a view shared by less than 20 per cent of secretaries.

With less than 3 per cent of the 600 senior managers and secretaries interviewed knowing the cost of courier deliveries, it is easy to see how they take the quickest option. But the consequence is great confusion - and incalculable cost.

Keith Ward, professor of financial strategy at Cranfield School of Management, who helped to compile the study Urgent - A Report on the Overuse of 'Urgency' in Business, said: 'People do not know the true cost of distribution because they are rarely required to account for it. However, by introducing a distribution policy, it will help companies control costs.'

The report suggests that a first step towards establishing a delivery policy is to follow a four-point plan concentrating on deadlines, appropriate methods of delivery, proper accounting of various means of delivery against set targets and the most suitable method of delivery for the target audiences.

The report - the first in a series of five designed to show how businesses can use the Royal Mail more effectively - is available free of charge from the organisation's marketing manager, Colin Cook, by writing to FREEPOST/KE 8421, London EC1 1ES.