ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition - May 2000

Issue Highlight - The Oversight Fallacy
---There is a persistent belief in this culture that when you have a problem, the way to solve it is to find blame, institute controls and watch it more closely...

In This Issue...
The Costs Of A New Economy
Behavior: It's Not Just For Sociologists Anymore
An Art In Museum Exhibits
Battle Over Stress

Peter Block Column
Views for a Change

Heard on the Street
Diary of a Shutdown

Sorry We're Closed
Diary of a Shutdown

Friday, March 3
---Seventy-six people leave today. It feels like the end of a great summer camp. They are all leaving, looking sad and happy at the same time, surrounded by boxes and souvenirs and promises to keep in touch.

---Warren Aiken makes the mistake of scheduling his staff meeting at 1:00, which is not good on any day of the week anymore, much less on Friday.

---I can't remember ever being this bored at work before.

Monday, March 6
--- At AQP's conference I realize that I hate telling people where I work. I'm proud of the work that I have done this year, but I don't like talking to all the ignorance that comes from outside. The worst question is, "And what do you do next?" The real answer is, "I'm trying to work in interviews in between negotiating my divorce and raising a child. No offers since the first three that I turned down."

---Walking through the Resource Mart I pick up some tools because I am determined to return to a normal work life this year.

---I feel all out of sorts with these happy people.

---I hand in my business card for drawings for a Disney book, a gold chain and several gift certificates. I look for the "Perfect Job" drawing, but to no avail.

Tuesday, March 7
--- I realize that I feel all out of sorts because I imagine that all these conference-goers have happy, secure, fulfilling jobs, so I imagine instead that they are escaping lives of corporate desperation and it cheers me up.

---I am cheered up even more by the Oshkosh presentation. They are warm, funny and proud of their accomplishments. After lunch I pretend that I am a part of their group.

---Listening to Meg Wheatley gives me a different perspective on the world. From this distance, Scientific Atlanta, Boeing, Motorola and even Coke do not seem like machines and I am starting to loose my fear of them. They seem just as confused as I am and I wonder if I should reach out to them.

Thursday, March 9
I am in the habit now of dividing my day planner list into two sections: New Job and Old Job.

---The numbers are in. Last month we completed 50 regulators, a lifetime (pardon) record.

---We have met the production goals, but the units may not get shipped in time because the shipping department is overwhelmed by the shipment of furniture and tools to other sites.

Monday, March 13
None of the engineers showed up for work today. None. Their area is even more quiet than usual. Bert wonders aloud, "I was talking to them on Friday about how it's up to them to help us with these failures and now they don't show up..."

---I log into a new board and I giggle to read the sponsor's name-Cruel World.

---I clean out my inbox on my desk by tipping everything into my garbage can.

Tuesday, March 14
Production has gone well, so the month is off to a good start, for those of us leaving, that is.

---Our counterparts in the "Receiving Site" are becoming increasingly more nervous daily, especially their point man, Noah Walsh. He is panicking at the realization that it is way too late and they aren't ready and soon what little help we could provide from here will be gone. The worst of it for him is, of course, that absolutely none of us sympathize with him because, well, he still HAS a job. I confirm his worse fears by agreeing with, "There's no way you can avoid failure at this point, Noah."

Monday, March 20
The vending machines have been removed, which has prompted another wave of mice (rat?) sightings, but this time mostly in the office areas.

---I am in early this morning, all alone, so I turn on my old Allman Brothers music, "I ain't wasting time no more..."

---Even the simple things become tough now (just like the song). For example, my e-mail contains a note with alarming language about "missing tools from the production floor."

---I'm not even sure why we're still using e-mail at this point, there are so few of us.

Wednesday, March 22
As we finish the contracts, we continue to struggle to have enough material at all levels. Either we can't count or we can't keep material. This is when molehills become mountains because our suppliers are long gone and our buyers are close behind.

---As the quantities get smaller, our accuracy decreases. Not a good trend in the mode we're in.

---Half the time I'm battling with the shipping department to get production priority over surplus equipment and the other half I'm battling with the warehouse not to sell or throw away my inventory until I'm through with production.

---Our missing containers had been shipped for excess because they were told to clear out by March so that's what they did, even though they knew we had extended the production contract. Rose explained defensively, "Hey, no one extended my contact. This stuff has got to go."

Friday, March 24
I walk in with Josh McShane, who responds to the security guard's greeting with, "And that's the last time you'll say that, William!" When he says good morning to the guard, he adds, "And that's the last time you'll ever hear me say that!"

---Mike, my current boss, is so happy that he finally discloses some job details. "I've got two interviews in two days, Elizabeth." He looks relieved and excited. He is wearing a tie and a nice suit.

Tuesday, March 28
The entire office area next to ours is having the panels removed from the empty cubicles. We found a snake yesterday and it was just like back in school days; a ring of excited children around some hapless animal, one brave soul trying to capture it, one guy running shotgun and the rest of us shouting instructions, warnings and theorizing on identification. "It's a rattler, oh no, it's a garden snake, look out, there it goes, stomp on it, no don't kill it, it's under that partition," and so on. Jerry Held captures the little villain, and triumphantly takes it out side to be set free.

---First we got rid of the cats, and then we got rid of the mice and then the rats, now the snakes. I guess we're working our way through the ecosystem.

Wednesday, March 29
I go into the new place, "All About Java," this morning on the way in to work and when they see my badge they ask me how I'm doing and tell me about job openings.

---I noticed a new phrase that has taken the place of "ASAP" and "I need this now." The strongest request these days is always followed with, "It would be greatly appreciated."

---I have seen many different exit strategies this year. Some people announce the day, arrange a farewell occasion, clean out their desk, train their back up and say goodbye loudly. The other extreme is Keith Seifert, who simply left quietly, apparently right in the middle of what he was working on. Jill Schrand notices, "Look at his desk. You can't even tell he's gone."

Thursday, March 30
Well I don't see how we're going to complete the production contracts, ever. These last units have too many failures and our cupboards are bare. Those of us still here are like walking ghosts. Everybody just seems empty, like the building. There is no more sorrow, or hate, no conflict. It's as if there is no real interest in anything.

---Funny how mood is woven throughout all of our conversations now, "Well, my energy is real low today, but I'll try," "When I look at the schedule, I can feel my heart breaking," and "I'm so relieved, the world is off my shoulders now." This overt disclosure of feelings is public, part of the way we discuss business.


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