A few months ago at Decide we chose to embark on a Corporate Social Responsibility project, an initiative proposed by the Human Resources Department. After an internal round of questions and suggestions, we opted for the Food Bank of Madrid.
Yesterday we held our first meeting with their Secretary General, José Ignacio Mata Ramayo, to try to see how Decide can help them. It is important for us to help wherever we can add most value: building a Decision-Making Support System that allows them to improve their operating efficiency. But I do not want to talk about Decide, or Business Rules, or Optimisation, but rather the Food Bank.
As the meeting progressed, we began to understand the enormous job they are doing, and the pragmatic and efficient way in which they are doing it. At present, they distribute a total of 13,000,000 Kg. of food a year, or 50,000 Kg. a day. And they do this with an annual budget of €300,000 and four employees. For anyone with a basic knowledge of logistics and supply chain management this information would be enough, and I could end my post here.
But I’m going to explain it a bit further, so that everyone can understand it.
To do this job, they have a management team comprised of former executives from major companies and Public Administration officials. In other words, a group of exceptional managers collaborate in a completely altruistic manner. Many companies would wish to have such a management team.
Also, they collaborate with many businesses and individuals who donate food, vehicles, etc., as well as freight shipping companies that use their return trips to bring food to the Bank.
Many volunteers devote their free time to sorting goods, as well as to negotiating and obtaining donations. An army of people who have no time to waste, and who work hard and with dedication so the Bank will always have provisions.
But one of the things that struck me most was their pragmatism. Pragmatism that would be very beneficial if it spread across the fabric of Spanish companies and institutions. And this pragmatism was reflected by a story that José Ignacio told us, which is the following:
“Some time ago, a volunteer joined the Food Bank. When they saw his Curriculum Vitae, they realised he had worked as a General Manager for a large international company in Spain, then he had been General Manager for the company in Europe, and finally he had ended his career leading the multinational company in the United States.
When they saw it, the President and the Secretary General of the Food Bank said: “This person knows more about all this than we do”, and they decided to ask him to manage the Bank.
When they did, he replied that he had spent all of his life making important decisions and that, now, the only thing he wanted to do was decide on which shelf to put the kilo of rice he was holding in his hand.”
Aside from this anecdote, what struck me most was the absolute pragmatism visible in the President and the Secretary General’s decision: when they realised this person could be even better at managing the Food Bank, they did not hesitate to propose him for the job. Can you imagine something like that happening in any other company or institution? Almost impossible. There are cases of company founders who have delegated management to other people (companies, by the way, which are generally very successful). However this is not common. It shows a focus on efficiency, service and an exceptional level of pragmatism.
When we left the meeting we wanting to collaborate with them even more than when we had gone in. Because we know that any help we can give is going to the best place possible, and that every little increase in efficiency in their operations that we can provide will have a direct impact on improving their service for others.
It is an honour for Decide to have the opportunity to collaborate with this institution and we’ll do so the best way we know how. We still don’t know exactly what we are going to do, and we are working on finding where our services can add the most value, but it is clear that we will take part, because we are going do our best to find our niche.
At other times in the past when I have tried to help someone, I end up asking myself:
“Really, who is helping whom?”