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A Balancing Game
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Every year at this time, we have to set our inventory for the new year (we use a fiscal calendar), basing it on the previous year's inventory and then, for this year especially, adjusting it for inventory sent to another part of the country or for inventory received from yet a more distant part of the country.

There are ways to check the numbers, of course, and the inventory has to balance out at the end for everybody. It's a zero sum game.

I've done this balancing out for many years now, and every previous year the end result at first has been one or two off. I have to go back over the numbers, checking and double-checking the data, until I find it (them).

I sat down this year with all the printouts and the lists and special requests for adjustments. There is always a list of "druthers" from my employees, and I accommodate them if I can, within the constraints of numbers and of management's seemingly arbitrary rules.

This year, as I ran the totals for the first time, the numbers all came out right. I sat there, shocked and dismayed. How could that be? They never balance the first time through. I must have done something wrong. Surely there's an egregious error somewhere and I just haven't seen it.

I waited for the central office to call, with sorrow and pity, to tell me that I had truly screwed up this time.

The call came. The numbers didn't balance. Oh, by the way, my inventory allocation was fine, but could I help with someone else's. That person was off by two.

I responded at first, foolishly, by defending my procedures and results, until the message (repeated twice by a patient colleague) sunk in. My balance was fine; could I help explain to the other office what went wrong with their numbers.

I'm still in shock. Right, spot on, the first time through. It will never happen again, so I'm marking my calendar.

Maybe 2007-2008 will be a year to remember.

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