The basic premise of my job is to help customers get their orders sooner. Sometimes this is just a matter of getting up from behind your desk and touring the office until you find the right person who can make the snafu in the system that is holding up your order go away. One day recently I walked around the building with what amounted to a plastic handle needing two stickers. The order was months old and I had already tried sending e-mails and making phone calls, so I just resorted to walking around with the physical item until everybody agreed I could ship it.
Other problems aren’t so simple. Even before I got this job I was selected to represent our plant for an internal customer turnaround project. I have kept this duty through its ups and downs of urgency, now on its third spike in as many years, and my responsibility is to identify constraints on late orders, advise when they will ship, and make the same review of upcoming orders owed. And I have never done this in three years.
I don’t have any reliable way to look up what is holding up an order in production without asking someone. If I can get someone to tell me what is holding up an order, I probably cannot also get them to tell me when it will ship, and vice versa. And if I can drub or cajole both bits of information, I certainly cannot get them to seriously look at upcoming orders and tell me anything accurate about them.
This is the third time we have been red-flagged by this critical customer. Their chief complaint is our inconsistency. Taking care of this is one of my foremost job responsibilities. My boss’ boss has alerted my plant manager’s boss that we have a serious problem with this customer.
I need help, lots of help, to even understand what is going on, let alone to improve on it. I need buyers and planners and manager to tell me how everything is going to come together to ship these orders. Earlier in the week I tried getting the help by bringing up the orders in the morning meeting with everyone present. The plant manager said “We don’t all need to be here for this, do we?” which resulted in nobody being there for it. Today I tried offering to e-mail a report (since nobody wanted to review it in person) and I was kind of indirectly laughed off the stage. There were some looks going around the room and the plant manager interjected to note how he had talked with a higher-ranking figure in the company who had not raised any issues. He did not say this in direct contradiction to anything I said, he basically just changed the subject, but also indirectly undermined that there was anything to be much worried about.
Some of the biggest trouble I have ever been in was the last time I got fed up and told the customer turnaround group that my plant was not engaged in the effort. I did not get a formal reprimand or anything but there were scorch marks on my bridges. If I just want to make myself look like a victim I can go whining that nobody is helping me, but that will have no good effect on the long term willingness of people to help me out when not forced at gunpoint.
But I don’t know what I can do to make the importance of this problem to my role, my superiors, and my department felt and acted on. And I don’t know how to let my superiors know that my wheels are spinning without running over all my necessary allies at the same time.
And this has been part of my illustrious, lauded, shining-star career for three years now.