ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - April 2000
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Issue Highlight - Hard Measures for Human Values
--- We have now made the stock market our primary measure of well-being. It is the lead story on the news, it stares me in the face at the top of my home page. It peers at me from the lower right hand corner of my TV screen...

In This Issue...
Looking For Adventure
Healing Blue Cross And Blue Shield
Applying The Magic Of Disney
When Teams Are Destructive

Features...
Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Pageturners
Briefcases
Diary of a Shutdown

Sorry We're Closed
Diary of a Shutdown


Friday, February 4
--All the way to the meeting I silently repeat Keith's advice like a mantra, "Stay calm. Stay calm. Stay calm."

--I'm glad he didn't say, "Don't cry."

--Paul starts the meeting with a gratuitous pep talk, "I just know that all the great people in this room can come up with a way to make schedule, I just know it." We are a month behind schedule and the plating line has been down for two weeks.

--I have tried to explain the inter-relating problems that prevent us from making schedule, but Paul is still looking for a silver bullet.

--For the next three hours, 12 executives take turns at "Meet The Press," Spanish Inquisition and corporate tribunal as I answer for my failure.

--They ask about run times, part shortages and personnel. They are looking for a quick answer or at least an admission of guilt.

-- I am thinking about Wendell Berry's poem, "You will be walking some night...." The questions get quicker but my voice stays slow and hard, "The normal production rules don't apply anymore. We are building the last 650 units ever of the last contract ever at this facility that is shutting down, with a workforce that erodes daily."

-- Paul is irritated by this, "You keep saying 'in a facility that is shutting down', but what does that matter? The chairs don't care, the building doesn't care. If this bothers us so much we ought to get in some people from another plant."

--He warms up to this idea, leaning toward me, "What do you say to that? Get some people in here who aren't affected to finish this up!" No one responds because he is looking at me.

--I take a swing, "So, you're saying that people that already have full-time jobs in a plant that just went through cut-backs can get summarily uprooted away from their families to work on a product that they don't know anything about, that has no future for an undetermined length of time and they won't be affected?"

-- Paul is tired and mad at the end of the meeting and he dismisses everyone except, "Jan, I need you both in my office for a few minutes."

--He slumps down in his chair and I remain standing, feet firmly planted, facing him squarely. He starts, "OK, now that we've got the reschedule behind us, we have got to get extra vigilant."

--I refuse to take this advice, "Paul, I am extra vigilant every day. If I wasn't, I couldn't have sat here and answered three hour's worth of questions. So don't lecture me on trying harder, OK? That I already know how to do."

Monday, February 7
-- Robert, Jan, Sharon and I spend the morning trying to come up with a schedule that we can believe but this task, which is normally so straightforward, seems impossible. Every unit that we have in work is failing and/or is short parts.

--We are managing suppliers that are in the same spot that we are, delivering the last of the last. We wrestle with this puzzle all day long, calling in engineers, technicians and just basically looking for clues.

--When we finally present to the executives at 4 p.m., the response is less than appreciative. They can't hear anything we're saying. They want us to finish on time so badly that they cannot accept the reschedule.

--And, since they can't accept that fact, they also can't and won't plan how to manage the slip. They are furious and after an hour I have to leave to pick up my son. For the first time, driving home, I wonder why I am staying and if I can make it, and, most importantly, do I really want to stay? I can't put up with another two months of this brutality. None of the production programs have closed out in time, but this one is getting all of the attention because it is the last one.

Tuesday, February 8
-- I have decided to disengage from this company. I need to look for small ways to do that everyday. I have resolved not to work here. I am tired of trying to prove myself to these guys (and to myself). I have nothing left to prove and the only one that I'm going to protect is myself.

--Continued exposure to these guys will leave me bitter and angry.

Thursday, February 9
-- How strange that I feel lighter and more relaxed now that I have decided that this relationship is over. I don't have the specter of the whole company's future to deal with now. My concerns are limited to my own behavior and three more months. I don't have to answer for more than that.

--Now that I don't feel connected, I have more energy for my job, more creativity and more courage.

Monday, February 14
-- The last career transition seminar is scheduled for this week. Should we give Susie Schmidt, the instructor, a going-away party? She was surprisingly helpful when I was waffling on the offer from other sites, "Elizabeth, I don't get this. They are low-balling you and you know it. I know you're loyal, but to these guys it's just business and that's how it should be for you, too." She was right.

Tuesday, February 15
-- I can't wait to see my therapist today, I feel like I'm just holding on. How much longer will I hang on to this diary? I am bored with my words and myself these days. Blah, blah, shutdown, blah.

Wednesday, February 16
-- As it turns out, we are short 30 ELQ kits. We didn't lose them, we didn't break them, we just didn't kick out enough internal work orders to finish out the contract. Oops! So, finally after studying this problem for a month, we decide that we need to order up some more, so that we can see if we have the materials on-hand to build them all.

--My colleagues at the other site are incredulous that we are going to this much trouble, "What is the deal? Why drive yourself crazy? It's the end of the contract. It's not supposed to go well. I've got three units that have been waiting eight months for parts, but they're the last ones on that contract, so we figure-who cares?"

-- I think 'Who cares?' is the most important question.

Monday, February 21
The shutdown date looms on the horizon.

-- I am dreading my last day because then I will be truly alone. It's one thing to be alone at home and another thing to have a job that you hate, but come the end I won't have a job or a home. We are planning a party for that last day because there are so many of us leaving that day.

-- I suddenly realize that I won't have anyone with me at the party. No one in my corner, no one to drive me home. I decide that I should invite someone but I'm not sure who. My mom?

Wednesday, February 23
I am slipping away a little bit each day from the plant and the life, the world that we created there. I am doing good work but I don't feel connected.

--It's as if I can hear some huge clock softly ticking throughout everything we discuss. I'm not even mad at them anymore and it feels disconcerting not to have an enemy. I am so afraid of my last day.

-- Everything will be over and what if there is nothing next? I was afraid to go into this cave a year ago but now that I have been in it so long I am afraid to come back out. I am afraid to be alone.

--This has been miserable but it hasn't been lonely.

Tuesday, February 29
This is like working in a busy emergency room.

--Every morning I walk into chaos and bleeding and as soon as anybody gets well or dies they leave. This morning the weekly meeting is laden with tension because the big boss (a joke because he's short) showed up in the classic micromanagement response to our most recent problem.

--I arrive late, but I had called in to warn Jan. There was standing room only at the meeting, but no one was sitting in my chair, so I took my place and caught up. We had to repeat ourselves several times because of the constant sound of hammers from next door.

-- I am pretending to take notes as I calculate my remaining vacation. My 60-day notice came today. No speech, no nothing, just a notice handed out by Mike. Well, what do I want him to say? I don't know, how about thanks, or I'm sorry, or it's been nice or anything at all.

--But we both pretend that it is no big deal. Every time I look at that notice I get a surge of adrenaline and pick up the phone and make another job call. It also begs the countdown.

--Today I have 45 working days left.

 

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