ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

July 1999

Teams That Work And Those That Don't

Teaching Dollars And Cents Makes Sense

Cycle-Time Redesign

Baldrige Winner Wins Again

Be Careful What You Ask For

by Peter Block
Sorry We're Closed: Diary Of A Shutdown

Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review

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The Quality Tool I Never Use


Diary Of A Shutdown
Sorry We're Closed

March 12
The pay-for-performance incentive program is being implemented, but only those who are worth 'incentivizing' will be notified. Since I haven't been notified, I assume that I'm out. Bummer. Oh well, at least maybe I can find out what I'm missing.
Rumor has it that this incentive plan is so secret that before your manager discusses it with you, you have to sign a 'Non-Disclosure' statement.

I know that this journal is an act of betrayal and I accept the price. It is worth it to have this view, this information out there, even if it is not read by a single soul (except for my mom). This is why I am here. To establish this record of how we died. To take a picture of this mass grave.

March 15
The employee surveys are out this week. I think this is perfect timing because they can blame all of the negative feedback that they get on the layoffs and the shutdowns. They won't have to plan any corrective action because all the people with 'bad attitudes' are quitting and being laid off. I think they can even milk this at least one more year, when the next results turn out worse, by labeling it 'survivors' syndrome.'

March 16
I was not supposed to come in today because I'm leaving for the transfer site this morning. However, Jim called me at home last night and requested an early meeting with me. I have been up since 4:00 a.m. trying not to worry and giving myself pep talks. I am worried but I know I can handle whatever comes along. I have been in worse spots that this. I have deep faith in myself. I know I can handle whatever he says.

Jim tells me that Chris Janning will take the job in Dallas, after two months of negotiating they have one more fine point to resolve and Jim says that he'll leave July 10th. Jim says; "I'm asking you to take Janning's job, Elizabeth but I know that this is a problem for you. But I'm faced with 8 months left to deliver the remainder of the contract and no one else to do the job."

Jim tells me about his uncertainty. He was interviewed in Tampa and they never got back to him and never did reimburse his travel expenses. He was offered a job at the transfer site, which he accepted. Then they called him back a month later and said that he would have to compete for the job with other internal candidates. Then he was notified of a manager position job in Columbus and he is competing with his friend Lawrence Miller for that one. He says; "I get so turned around by all this that I don't know what to think any more, Elizabeth." I sympathize and tell him that I appreciate his care and concern during this difficult time and he starts to cry. He says; "Well, I'm trying to shoot straight with you because no one's shooting straight with me, and that's when I can get anyone to return my calls."

March 17
My friend Eric asked me what my calling is in December and I have been working on it for several months. I even designed a process for finding my calling. And finally, I discovered it!
My Calling, by Elizabeth Hill

I create places (that ring with the music of passion)
I provoke pictures (that incite heartbreak)
I hear dreams (of healing).

If I become SMC 123 production manager tomorrow my work life will change dramatically. Will this happen? I don't know. This is like those mechanical bull rides and I'm not going to let go before I say the ride is over.

On the plane home I listen to the announcements about the connecting flights and suddenly I want to go somewhere else, anywhere else. Maybe when this is over?

March 18
Jim calls me in to discuss the job but he is so wrapped up in his own problems that he can barely speak. He tells me the same stories that he told me Monday about his job offers and interviews and his family. We talk briefly about my new job and I wait for him to offer some kind of bonus. What an idiot I can be.

The word must be out about my new job because I am getting copies of all kinds of email.

March 21
I went to an art show with my friend last night. It was so beautiful, startling and disturbing that this morning I feel slightly drunk. How can anything be wrong anywhere when there is this much beauty somewhere?

When Megan Nartker, the artist, was talking about finding objects and weaving them together, I knew exactly what she was she was talking about because that's what I'm doing with this story. I look for phrases, people, tones, music and tears and put them into a picture - a real big picture.

When I told her about me writing this small everyday story about the death of an organization, she said; "This is like the Titanic, you're going down with the ship."

It felt great to say; "No, I am not dying, the company is."
"Do you have a lifeboat ready?"
"No, but I know how to swim."
"Where is the happy ending?"
"There isn't a happy ending."
"There has to be one."
"Yes, I know there has to be one, but there isn't one."

I make the call to Chris Janning and arrange our first transition meeting. He seems happy, so between us there is balance. As I wait in his office I notice that the only book that he has on his desk is a religious text by Pope Pious. I also notice his brand new printer.

Throughout our conversation he reads and apparently answers his email messages. I consider leaving and coming back in with my laptop.
I jokingly ask if we should notify the cafeteria to bring more donuts to the meetings now that I'll be attending. No laugh. Tough room. Welcome to SMC 123.

March 22
I noticed this morning that I am still parking in the same spot even though there are spaces that have opened up that are closer.

Al Smith reminds me of the four tenants from Angeles Arien:
1. Show up.
2. Listen intently.
3. Be authentic.
4. Be open to outcomes.

I know I can get those first three, but that last one is a killer.

March 25
It took me three tries to find the Indian restaurant for the latest round of engineering going-away lunches. When I found them, it was well into the meal, but they pulled up a chair and got me some food. When they heard about my new assignment, Greg said; "I'm sorry, Elizabeth. Would some new equipment make you feel better?"
I consider it and say; "Well, what have you got?"
He grins; "You name it, I can get you anything."
"A printer?"
"You got it."
"A scanner?"
"You got it."
"No problem."
"Okay, I think I do feel better."

When I tell my friend Keith about this I am struck by the fact that at this point there is more emphasis on controlling us than ever before, but we are less in control than I have ever seen. What is the lesson here? Are we just gypsies in the palace? I think there's something more, but I can't put my finger on it. Equipment is being logged and tracked and tagged and reported on, but at a lunch on Friday I can get anything I want. It is in part because we care about each other. So does this mean that caring and corporate goals are mutually exclusive? This is a riddle that I can't let go of. This seems like true power, even stronger than the power that shut us down.

March 29
What am I betraying by doing a good job at this SMC 123 production? Is it Bridge Over The River Quai to get this area running smoothly and efficiently just before we lay off everybody? Am I leading orderly troops into a massacre? The better job that I do, the easier it will be to shut us down. The better job that I do, the more I support the business case for closing this place down. This is why I have this assignment because I can make everything okay, just before they blow it up.

Which is more honorable, success or failure?

April 1
Maureen Moriarty says; "I can't stand to be here during the packing up. I'm gone in August and I want a big, throw up in the pool, call around to find your clothes the next day, party."

I need a drawing from Design, but I ordered it 3 days ago and still no response, so I go talk to the manager. He shows me how to operate the equipment myself because all of the technicians have left and the administrative assistant that is filling in is way behind.

Stephen, the manager, says; "I think this is the lobster panic syndrome. When I was spear fishing, I could tell that the lobsters could tell that their buddies were getting zapped and they would start shuffling around. Some would dig in deeper into the hiding places, but some would make a break for it out into the open and that's when they would get zapped, unless they were real fast. We are the lobsters. Some people panicked and they got zapped by bad jobs and bad deals."

April 6
I am not proud of the fact that we are desperate and scared enough by this monster company to be grateful for the grudgingly offered tokens of jobs.

I take credit, but no satisfaction, from having trained good and obedient and cheerful slaves

I am incredibly frustrated because I can't just put my head down and ignore the larger picture and when I look at the larger picture I am furious and baffled about what to do. I wonder who else knows how bad this is. The constant chaos, the broken people, this huge open wound bleeding knowledge and money. I wonder who else is strong enough to believe this truth. The information that I have is dangerous, but I think that there is power in that danger, if I can find it without getting destroyed.

April 8
What if we all stayed? Just refused to move stuff and ignored the shutdown orders and kept building and shipping product from this site? How long would it take them to notice? What a final show-down that could be. "This is the police. Move away from the assembly line. Put down the blow torch and come out with you hands up."

July '99 News for a Change | Email Editor
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