I am too much a gossip

After delivering bad new, I usually grin. Unless I feel personally affected by the events.

This week in the daily meeting, M.B. the production manager gave us the sketchy details of the recent visit by the Scary One (the member of senior management most prone to asking for what we are not ready to deliver). The Scary One had two main points:

  1. We spend too much time analyzing problems that we should be simply attempting to fix.
  2. We need to complete our visual management system.

On the first point, I agree. To my mind, analysis is a tool for when you no longer have a very clear idea of what is causing your problem. When you have a pretty good idea, take action without waiting for the nitty-gritty. Your solution may be wrong, may even be significantly wrong because of a critical overlooked detail, but it is likely to at least be an improvement, and to be more educational in practice than most analyses are in theory.

As for the second point–well, the greater Acme corporation has comitted itself to a system of communications boards whose design I think is seriously flawed. They communicate a lot of information that the nominal beneficiaries of the boards do not understand or directly influence, thus jeopardizing the communicative function of the boards. But the standard has been agreed upon and committed to by the corporation. In situations where you clearly have to do something ill-advised or unpleasant, it is best to just do it quickly and get it over with. And we haven’t.

After being told about how the Scary One wanted to see those boards in place in short order, one of the planners–one who is admired for his intelligence and not just tolerated for his seniority–began to opine, loudly, insistently, and with some earthy adjectives, on the worthlessness of these boards. His immediate supervisor was in the room, but the two members of the plant staff to whom he is most responsible were present. After initially attempting to interject responses to the planner’s criticisms, the two waited silenty for him to finish his tirade. When he was done, the meeting adjourned.

Within days another planner, who is not respected by anyone, spoke even more disrespectfully in direct reply to his superior.

Nothing that I know of was done in response to either outburst. Something may have been said or done behind closed doors, but I would think that for public rebellion some public punishment ought to follow. Not necessarily what my former boss suggested, immediately escorting the man out of the building and possibly not letting him come back, as that could have blowback. You need employees who will strive to implement management decisions, not deride them publically, but if you don’t want a bunch of empty sycophants, you must also allow some evident disagreement. But the disagreement should be expressed reasonably, respectfully, and with the right audience.

Suspension or firing may be in order. If I were to suspend someone for that, I would want to state clearly to the same audience that witnessed the outburst that nobody would be suspended for criticizing the management policy in my office behind a closed door. I would remind them that they are employed to execute the strategies of the management as well as they possibly can, not to complain about how those strategies can’t possibly work.

I am not very fond of these boards and I can’t blame anyone else who also thinks they are useless. But the decision to use those boards did not come from the managers on the site. It is not their choice; their job is to execute the decision of upper management. They cannot be subjected to abuse for doing their job if it is legal and ethical, and certainly the case in question meets those requirements.

When it comes to ethics, though, I think poorly of my own response to such outbursts, which was to immediately tell people I work with what happened. Did you hear what he said?

It was a public meeting. While those I told were not at the meeting, they had the right to attend. In a strict sense, I did nothing wrong to repeat what was openly said. But there is no glory in revealing the sins of others. I tried to justify myself by saying that this was a major event in plant politics and could have reverberations that would affect so-and-so and it would add so much more clarity to their lives if they knew what was behind it all… but clearly, that is an artificial excuse.

The next week is shaping up to be not much fun. It is the end of a quarter, which raises the stakes, and the end of a bad month that saw a particularly widespread quality issue, and it ends on Sunday. So Saturday and Sunday are both work days, and then at the beginning of the next month all hands are required for the annual plant-wide inventory.

However, because the Scary One, um, scared everyone, certain staff members are frantic to make changes–and not to bother worry too much if the are even at first glance reasonable or reasonably executed, because after all we have been spending too much time analyzing. So my supervisor, the stockroom manager’s supervisor, he decided to start relocating some inventory in this week right before inventory. The timing seems spectacularly bad and this kind of urgency bodes ill for the entire month of October.

So, when I wondered several posts ago if P.B. would keep up the good fight, the answer at this time is it really doesn’t matter. I went with him to his latest performance review, and it turned out not to be a review of his performace so much as an opportunity for other staff members to argue amongst themselves about how best make these hasty changes in P.B.’s area. The man himself, the nominal supervisor of the area, kept his mouth shut, since he had nothing to gain by opening it.

One response to “I am too much a gossip”

  1. […] _uacct = “UA-1202685-1”; urchinTracker(); Map of the Ethereal Land The Ethereal Voice Front Page – Politics – Money – Knowledge – Art – Food – Fun Masthead About I am too much a gossip By Chicken Man | September 23, 2007 – 8:24 pm Posted in Category: Front Page, Money After delivering bad new, I usually grin. Unless I feel personally affected by the events. This week in the daily meeting, M.B. the production manager gave us the sketchy details of the recent visit by the Scary One (the member of senior management most prone to asking for what we are not ready to deliver). The Click Here to continue reading. […]

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