The Boss

September 30th, 2009

Today was the endof the month and the end of the quarter. I worked late because of this.

It’s been a long time since I worked late because of the end of the month. At least, if I was sick and would rather have gone home at any point during the day. It’s been a while since my boss specifically asked me to get involved with the end of month games.  Actually I was working closely with the manager mentioned in my last post, both sharing the same pupose.

I’m not sure if I was supposed to be all along or what. My boss asked me what I usually did, so I told him: “Nothing.” If the orders get properly booked then they will ship and it will all be happy.

This month, though, it became important that we interfere. For months we’ve been working to get the majority of our product shipped from the distribution warehouse several states away, and we’ve had plenty of opportunity to see that we can’t easily decide to ship the product direct; it takes a considerable amount of intervention to pull this off. But this is what I was asked to do with everything I could get my hands on. I was also told to follow some exceptional rules in deciding which orders to ship.

I believe it is substantially and seriously true that we do not operate our business around the customer; we operate around the shareholder. Shareholders are the real customers of public companies and especially of the managment of public companies. In crunch time, it is not customer priorities that matter, but shareholder priorities.

I have a lot of trouble working for my current boss. I try sometimes to start off with an open mind and a positive attitude but if there is anything much going on he usually handles it in a way that disgusts me. He did it again today.  I got this boss the same way I got my last boss whom I liked and respected: doing nothing. In both cases I was reorganized without my prior consultation and wound up with a new boss.

This happens all the time everywhere–getting new bosses, I mean. Promotion, firing, job hunting, retirment, politics in general; it’s vain to plan your career around a personality.


September 29th, 2009

Yesterday I received an e-mail from one of the managers in the plant in which he directed me to force two orders to drop for shipment. The orders were due to ship next month. My new desk is close to this manager and I know he is more of speaking than emailing kind of guy. So I got up and walked over.

“Um, can you help me understand why we would be shipping these orders now if they are due next month?”

“They moved the orders out. They were due this month and then they screwed us and moved them out to next month. So now we are going to screw them back.” He made a ring with one hand and drove his finger through it enthusiastically to help illustrate his point. He can get upset about these kinds of situations, but he wasn’t at this time; he was just providing a friendly illustration for my benefit.

The customer in question is an overseas branch of our company. Often they move their orders around on us when the demand on them isn’t what they expected, causing us to pay the expense of their poor forecast. We have enough bad forecast of our own and don’t need to hold onto unique product for them that we can’t use and they ordered, especially at a sensitive time (end of the quarter).

“Ah,” I said, “They asked for it and now they don’t want it.”

“Yep,” he said. “We’re gonna send them a little present.” He sneered on the last word.

I went back to my desk and when I had a minute I checked the order history on the product in question. The orders were booked well in advance (they way we prefer it) and the dates were never changed. No orders had been cancelled (except one that showed out in 2034; some kind of keying error that was quickly cleaned up). I sent the manager an e-mail stating that their had been no date changes or cancellations, including the file which showed it so, and asked who told him there had been.

“They must have cancelled an order they had for this month,” he said. “We didn’t build the tools because we were bored.”

I checked the workorder history. The tools were built in June 2008. I sent him that, too. I did not see any reason to ship the orders and risk someone there complaining (to my boss’s boss) about us helping our numbers at their expense unless I had a good excuse for doing it, which I was not finding.

Today when I came in the orders were already dropped for shipment. I did not get any reply from the manager to my last message. Without indicating I already knew they were out for shipment, I asked him in the morning meeting if he wanted me to call and ask if they would take the shipments early (which I could have offered in the first place, if I thought of it; nothing wrong with asking).

“Nah,” he said, “don’t worry about it.”

Now of course when this manager first explained to me his rationale, he seemed to have a legitimate case (although I didn’t think my boss would agree with his reasoning).  I did not like the way he presented it; I have greatly edited his language down, because he goes enthusiastically and colorfully beyond the casual WTF even before he gets upset. I don’t care for it. It’s not the words, which I have heard enough to be familiar with, but his highly agressive style and attitude toward basically everyone else, whoever the else might happen to be at the moment. To be honest I find it intimidating as well as distasteful. I’m afraid of him; not controlled by fear, but definitely influenced.

If I don’t want to relocate, he’s probably going to be my next boss. The only role in this facility I see that would fit my skills and inclinations reports to him.  And beyond merely his style, he is evidently not interested in responding to my concerns.

Success! Maybe

September 28th, 2009

Today I tried running my latest version of the on-time delivery tracker at the site with the highest volume. It didn’t exactly work because the latest version of the upgrade was not ready for roll-out; it was work in process. Even if I had thought it was finished there would have been glitches, so not even thinking of it as finished there were enough problems I never got through a complete and fair test.

My brother helped me identify that my biggest obstacle here is probably the network performance, which my personal experience on-site confirms is very poor. I suppose when one takes an industrial manufacturing facility and converts it into the business hub a certain lack of information infrastructure may become evident.

My hunch is that the solution (operating the analysis on the local sytem, without handling files from the network) will adequately address the problem. Since my boss clearly does not want me to spend more time on this project, a successful outcome of this test will result in him saying “Okay, whatever you tested, let that be the working system and let’s move on.” I cringe in anticipation. Please refer back to remarks about this not being a finished version. It is painful trying to do maintenance on a system that was never actually set up to keep running.

Another thing I did today was haul out more than a week’s worth of data from the version running at my own site, and send out my reminder to everyone who was supposed to check over it and fill in the gaps. Nobody here really uses the data from this analysis; we package it up and send it off like we are supposed to, but we don’t try to do anything with it. So what outcome of this stop/go analysis will I consider a success? I ought to be clear on my bias before performing the test, don’t you think?

Slacking in the face of overload

September 25th, 2009

Toay I took a half day off work. It was secheduled in advance because I have trouble using my vacation if I don’t schedule it in advance, which they have been asking us to do.

Next week I have to give a stop/go recommendation to my boss on one of my biggest projects, the analysis of our late orders. The project pretty much fell apart at the end of June with unexpected problems in the implementation and it has been on the rocks ever since. I have been avoiding it, really, because I don’t know how to fix the problems. It sounds like my boss has already decided to axe it which makes me want to save it.

Of course it sounds like my boss has already decided to give me a number of new projects. In about two weeks I am scheduled to fly out there and meet my new work. I’m excited because I like new problems that I think I can solve in new ways. But I am worrying that my late October experience will be trying to keep four or more big projects going at once.

No word yet on whether my CPIM training will be approved.  This would take a half a day per week of my work time and also some of my own time as well. CPIM certification would allow me to move into planning and scheduling (something with more tangible effect on production facility) and may form a bridge into more technical database work.

Far From Home

September 24th, 2009

Today my boss asked me again if I would be willing to relocate. It was funny timing. On the one hand it was obvious; I had told him before that one of the reasons I was not willing to move was the care I was giving my grandfather, who recently died.

But that didn’t seem to be why he mentioned it. He brought up the possibility of relocating after he outlined a number of projects he wanted me to be involved in, and for every one I can recall it would be beneficial for me to there, several states away, rather than here. Further, all the projects would have very minimal impact here–at the site I am supposedly assigned to.

If you look at my job title it says something about orders. I was supposed to be a liason for the central order managament functions, helping drive more customer awareness and order fulfillment sensitivity. I’ve always preferred back-room database development to front line people manipulation so how much my work has been defined by what the description suggests has always been murky. But in the course of changes we have begun a plan to send products from the factory to the central distribution warehouse, rather than shipping from this site to the customer, and that further undermines what role someone with my title would have here.

My boss said we had to consider my future development and further roles I could take with the company. But I already told him how I wanted to be developed and what future role I was looking at.

I hedged. I told him I would seriously consider it and let him know if my mind changed. It’s not fair to ask me at work, because when I am at work all I think about is work; and as concerns work, I would prefer to be there than here. But the sharp division between my work and the rest of my life is something I would like to erode. As far as I can see, I would have to leave my family to pursue my work–a devil’s bargain.