Monday, October 11, 2010

Defend the crazy?


I was a superintendant of MD-11 Major Structures Production back in the days when that was not a very friendly place. The requirements of the position were extreme and it always seemed like people were thinking of reasons to cause us to fail. Long hours and seven day weeks wore on us all. Quality was to slow. Tooling never worked. Engineering designed the impossible. And, those Supplier Management guys lost the parts on purpose! Of course none of this was true, but unfortunately we believed it at the time.

One day my director came through and I was expecting the same butt kicking I normally got. This day was different. He asked me if I would be willing to take an assignment in Supplier Management to “straighten out those parts guys.” I was told earlier in my career to be careful what you complain about because someone will select you to fix it. Funny what happens in situations like these. The same people that thought they would be fired taught me the way I ran production caused many of the problems. I quickly learned there were good people all over trying to do the right things. I could not believe how quickly I could help the new team and improve performance. They were surprised this “crazy production guy” would actually defend them in public.

Have you experienced a change were you moved to a team you did not much respect only to find you had an incorrect perception of their capability and intend? What did you do?

7 comments:

Ignacio Santiago said...

I had a similar experience, previously I worked as staff and now on the line. The perspectives of the same reality are completely different. As in physics: "The phenomenon depends on the observer's position"....

ken kuang said...

Great insight!

Jim Fox said...

Yup, "be careful what you ask for, you might get it!" This is a good technique to keep in your bag of tricks as a manager. I have used it.

Casmer Hill said...

There is a natural conflict which exists not only in the example you cite between Supplier Management and Production but also between Line Management and Overhead Departments which also have a reporting responsibility to a Corporate entity. Typical, functional departments like Human Resources and Finance come to mind. When you have "two masters", it creates a natural conflict between supporting Line Management in your Business Unit as a "Business Partner" to meet Unit objectives but also to support the Corporate entity's requirements. Theoretically, there should be no conflict but we all know and can give examples of numerous situations where these functions often get confused and exhibit behaviors which seem irrational. The effective Leader recognizes and deals with this natural conflict and is able to balance the demands of both entities or "customers" for his services.

Lawrence Hallett said...

John, I think this speaks to the vision of your director. If more companies would have the vision to see the interrelationships of process groups and people, then a coordinated effort to support the business and the customer would ensue. Thus, leading to increased customer service, quality and profits. Congratulations on your ability to embrace change and drive improvement.

Robin Katarya said...

Not only is this relative to the workplace, but life in general. I participate as a mentor for the FIRST robotics team at Hartford Public Schools. The outside perception may be one of kids from a less than desirable area who are sub-par compared to other schools. The impression of the school and the people in it made it seem like a challenge to choose that school to participate at. While talking to another mentor, he said having them working on this project at school is keeping them off the streets, which was part of his motivation. While working with these kids, I realized how talented many of them are and gained a great appreciation for who they are and what they are capable of. With a little direction and support, they can really let their true colors shine. The new season is upon us and I am hoping for some of the new members to continue to bring this percieved underdog to the top.

Anonymous said...

John;

Always a pleasure to get your LiaV email. Nicely done.

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