Back To The Future In 2000
Purpose, Planning and Preparing
Get In Touch With Your Emotions
No Gimmicks. No Frills. Just The
What A Difference A Day Makes
by Peter Block
Diary of a Shutdown
Views for a Change
Diary of a Shutdown
The stress level keeps increasing, so I made a pitch
today for stress management, explaining to Dan and Mike
that my original model for us achieving some plateau of
stress and then staying there was inaccurate. The stress
has been steadily increasing and will continue to do so,
that is the new model.
Today I took a big risk. It didn’t seem like any
big deal until I saw how nervous my boss was. I presented
a series of observations about stress and grief across
the plant and a proposal. I told Paul Neff, the plant
manager, the following: “Our assumptions that we
would hit some sort of ‘stress plateau’ and
then we could just lock on target and manage from there
were incorrect. The stress continues to increase,
linearly if not exponentially.”
I made the case that this is a healthy response. We are
dealing with grief over losing our past and uncertainty
about the future. The workload keeps increasing and the
work content keeps changing.
“This shutdown is going to go on for a while yet.
We need to realize that and generate activities and
change some structures to accommodate, even support this
increased stress level.
“We should offer the option to work flexible hours.
It could help employees that are trying to take care of
interviews, resumes and retirement decisions. It could
help on checkups and all of those medical details that
people have been putting off.
“We should offer some short courses on how to deal
with all of the stress and confusion.
“We should look at bringing in an office masseuse
once a week.
“We should think in terms of easy things to offer,
like free coffee on Fridays and donuts on
I finish my presentation on time and ask for comments.
Paul is excited, “This looks great. You can manage
this. I like it. What else do you
I am happy with this response,
“That’s all today Paul, except of course we
should continue the whole pizza lunch thing.”
“You got it. Go for it. And next time, I want you
to think bigger.”
We are informed that For Sale signs will be going up soon
and that we have 30 interested buyers.
So why are we putting up signs?
Large areas of the parking lot have been roped off
because they are drilling through the asphalt to test the
soil for development.
What if they strike oil?
I think this whole thing could be a great sitcom for a
couple of years. People come and go, eventually everybody
leaves, the last person turning out the lights, handing
over the key or whatever.
Dan brings a caution to me from the executive staff
meeting, “They heard about your proposal to Paul.
They think that your ideas about stress and all that
stuff are good, but they don’t want the expenses to
get out of control on this. So, be
Paul canceled the pizza party for tomorrow, claiming that
the cost was too high. He vaguely dismisses the rest of
the proposal with, “We’re going to have to
watch our spending real close from now on.”
I am so pissed off by this that I can’t talk about
it, except to laugh when my friends start digging,
“Hey Elizabeth, make mine with extra cheese, hey
Elizabeth, let’s go to lunch,” and so
I cannot get to sleep tonight. I keep tossing around,
imagining conversations with Paul. I am so mad about that
pizza decision that scenes of revenge, declarations,
threats and fantasies of walkouts dance in my head.
‘Twas the night before shutdown
And all through the plant
The computers were silent
The people were scant.
Wow 200 days today!! I made it! I deserve something
special. I’m not sure what yet, but I’ll find
As I get clearer about my next job, I know that I have
got to stop looking internally, even though that is my
reflex, because there is nothing here. To keep looking
(although loyal) will only be disappointing. I have to
stop trying to save this company that does not want to be
At my next off-site training session, I want to talk with
Lisa Feil our CFO. I call Lisa and Susan answers the
phone; “Financial Services, may I help
I explain that I am from the plant that is closing and
that I am going to be in her neighborhood and I would
love to meet Lisa and get her perspective on the
company’s direction and if possible, a little
Susan seems taken aback; “Well, what an idea! For
you to just pick up the phone and call like that, it
doesn’t seem right for me to say no right away. So
what do you do?”
“I am an engineer and the production manager for
the SC 23. I have had the job for several months and we
have broken production records each month.”
“Well, this is just the sort of thing that she
might want to see. Are you coming here to train us on how
to do that?”
She makes me laugh and I am somehow gracious, “No,
but I am applying the concepts that I learned at your
site a year ago. I am available at any hour, breakfast,
lunch or dinner or just a hallway flyby.”
She takes my name and number and I dare to hope that I
could talk to Lisa. What advice would she
Lisa Feil, our CFO, dissed me via her secretary,
“We just think that this is the cutest idea,
“Cute is not what I was going for Susan, but thanks
for trying. Could you recommend any other people that I
She gives me three names and I start to pout. Someday
Lisa Feil will want my autograph at my book signing and
I’ll tell her, “Sorry, I can’t fit you
in.” Someday, I’ll be lecturing to thunderous
applause and she’ll line up to meet me but to no
avail. I’ll show her.
I resolve not to even call the other three contacts.
I’ll spend my extra time at headquarters talking to
headhunters and that will be time well spent.
By 6:30, I am calmed down enough, so I call the other
three contacts. Not only do they all agree to talk with
me, but I also get invited to Joe Moran’s program
review Friday morning.
Jill is stunned and tickled when I tell her about
visiting Joe Moran. She does the little happy dance and
gives me high-fives. “I know you, Elizabeth, I know
how this is going to go.”
I am on my way to training at headquarters.
My trainers at headquarters are intensely curious about
the shutdown and all that it touches. As I try to explain
the widening circle (employees, families, suppliers,
customers, receiving sites, outsourcing), Anna sighs,
“Wow, you should write a book. I remember when we
shut down our line for just one day and then set it up in
the building across the street. There was huge trauma and
grief. I just can’t imagine what this must be like
for you and everybody.”
Forget kindness, I love the sympathy of strangers. It
seems more real, somehow.
The welcome is warm at the program review. A group of
people surrounds me with introductions, asking me if I
need a sponsor. Someone from the crowd says, “We
fight over guests here, we get extra credit for
that.” My sponsor, Maria, had saved me a seat, so I
sit right inside, not along the walls like many other
visitors. She is the center of a lot of attention, urgent
conversations and people grabbing her elbow. She is firm
and direct and I like her right away. She tells me the
meeting protocol and runs out to get me a cup of
The meeting room is full of round tables, where the
regulars sit, with the highest-ranking being closest to
the center of the room. Even though there are about 60
people present, this meeting feels and sounds just like
my weekly meetings. Only now this time it’s Joe
Moran who is part cheerleader, part master of ceremonies
and part interrogator.
He is engaging and seemingly sincere. I feel more than a
little pang of guilt when he responds to the latest round
of leaks to the press with personal hurt, “Why do
people talk about us like that? I just don’t get
it. Can’t they see we’re doing the best we
can? Here we are, sharing all this information openly and
we can’t do it without being violated.”
But then I think; “YOU feel violated? Poor