The Top Gun Myth

May 4, 2009

Top Gun:  Top Guns are our fastest and most experienced counters and are placed in areas such as checkout or areas that require advanced counting speed and accuracy.  Top Guns are everything that RGIS stands for and are the “cream of the crop”.  A Top Gun’s professionalism and skills represent the best we have to offer.
ASET (Auditor, Specialist, Expert, Top Gun) skill level definition

That’s what they want everyone – both clients and employees – to believe. Conflict of interest notice: I used to be a Top Gun under the old standards. So you may want to take what I say with a grain of salt. On the other hand, inventory supervisors are told to “protect the five”. This means that the five best counters in an inventory are to be given areas to count that will help them maintain their average per hour (aph) status.

This isn’t a rant against the remaining 3 Tops Guns in our district. They are certain among the fastest counters in our district and deserve to be Top Guns. But even they have trouble attaining Top Gun aph’s in some inventories. And that brings us full circle to “protect the five.” Some stuff is just plain easier to count. Other stuff is hard to count and no one can sustain a Top Gun aph counting it. In a big box store inventory we did last week, one of our Top Guns was counting around 450 pieces per hour instead of the 1040 pieces per hour required of him as a Top Gun. Was he slacking? No, the problem was lack of preparation by the store. When 20% of the merchandise doesn’t have tags or bar-codes that scan, productivity suffers. When the racks are so full that you have to remove merchandise from the rack to be able to count it, productivity suffers.

This is why “protect the five” is needed. If Top Guns weren’t protected, eventually they would no longer be Top Guns under the new productivity standards.

So the end result is a two class system – Top Guns and everyone else. Since the Top Guns get to count the high aph areas in every store, it is very hard (and frequently impossible) for anyone else to achieve Top Gun level aph’s counting the merchandise they are assigned to inventory. Some people get around this by doing a bit of cherry-picking themselves and risking the wrath of the inventory supervisor. There is no team in RGIS anymore, it’s every man for himself. You have to protect yourself when you are prevented from achieving a higher aph by company policy.