It’s Been Lovely Having You…Now Get The F**k Out

The fat lady singing

Other luminaries have expressed the same sentiment as

“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”               

Ben Franklin

“Making a long stay short is a great aid to popularity.”         

Kin Hubbard

“My evening visitors, if they cannot see the clock should find the time in my face.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Alas, I’m from Jersey, I said it was lovely having you…that’s nice right?  For the last part, well I was trying to make a point and get everyone’s attention all at the same time…perhaps I over shot.

The Point

In every outage there comes a time when the “work style” has to shift dramatically.

What do I mean by that?  Well I’m glad you asked.

The beginning of the outage is all about motion and moving material, whether it is demo going out or new material coming in, it’s all about motion.

When I was I @ Con Ed,  my division’s management (which included me) went to Rutgers to have our business studied (We were a 1000 man outage gang made up of Con Ed workers represented by the utility workers union. We did all the work in the stations, there was nary a contractor seen on sight. Times are different now but I digress). The Rutgers people came up with a matrix for evaluating our work during an outage and the matrix was called “Moving the Metal”. We (the Forman) were literally measured and ranked on how much metal we moved on average.

“Moving the Metal” is a must for a great outage, but it is not the only thing

So, what do I mean “work style”? Well “Moving the Metal” is one work style and the other is what I will call “Close Out”

During the “Moving the Metal” phase you see sparks from torches, hot rods, gouging rigs and grinders. The “pretty blue light” illuminates the space with almost a magical aura. Huge slabs of tired, used and abused metal leave only to be replaced by shiny new. People are moving, rigging, burning, welding, building scaffold. This action is so heady, when it works; it’s like a bizarre ballet with each tutu adorned ballerina hitting their marks to the sounds of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (for your listening pleasure )

Although… it probably looks more like this:

(The Hippos from Fantasia).

During the “Close Out” phase our valorous Valkyries turn into the most austere pedantic DMV clerks you can possibly imagine. “But why?” you cry out “I like the Valkyries, they are so much more sexy then a DMV clerk!” Aha, this is exactly the point of the speech:  it is very hard to see the DMV clerk as sexy as riding horseback through the air and filling Valhalla with the valiant, but trust me they are and more.

“Moving the Metal” and “Close Out” phases are equally essential to have a great outage. A missing gasket, shield, bolt, piece of membrane etc. etc. although small can and will bring the unit down and often the lost revenue cost’s more than a day or two of the outage.

What’s a girl to do?

People don’t instantly change from a screaming Valkyries to a pencil pushing DMV clerk…

Again I say aha, you’re right!

You need to get their attention pretty startlingly as if to throw a bucket of ice water into each any every face. You can’t throw water at people (creates a slip hazard, Safety First!), but you can give them a little shock and awe hence the phraseology. When someone of my gentle demeanor says “Get the F**K Out!” generally people notice that something has changed.

The close out is second only to the planning, in regards to importance of a great outage. It is however a different way of being. Instead of running around and lots of motion as in “Moving the Metal” there is just slow deliberate choreographed steps marching every closer to completion.

It is the Outage Manager’s decision of when to call the switch in work styles. Too early is better than too late always, but like Goldilocks “just right” takes some practice.

The Story     

There I was, just a poor simple little (well not so little) Gorilla, minding my own business and …

Wait a minute, that doesn’t make any sense.

Well glad you caught that… let me explain. You see I used to refer to myself as a Gorilla in a cage and when there was a problem they would let the Gorilla out and Gorilla would go make fix (not proper English, I know, but we are talking about a gorilla)

Back to the story, I was (as a Gorilla) a turnaround expert for power plants at the time of this story (still am now just less the Gorilla) I joined a plant in need of a turnaround just 30 days before their major outages.

We planned and planned, the plant was not welcoming to say the least, but luckily I was quite a big and scary Gorilla let’s not forget.

The outage went very well except towards the end, it seemed that no one knew how to close out an outage.  It was like Dawn of the Dead. People were walking around with vacant stares and seemingly no direction. I kept going from job to job, Forman to Forman, Lead man to Lead man…nothing!!!! The zombies were winning.

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I was getting madder and madder, we had done everything so well but nobody could close out and moreover it seemed that no one had a clue of how to do it. Well this Gorilla, although at times, in certain conditions and zodiac alignments, has the patience of job, was steaming out of the ears.

At the night meeting I lost it

I thanked everybody for all the hard work…Zombies

I said we really need to finish….Zombie groans

You need to follow the entire close out processes we had created….Zombie stares.

The Gorilla had had enough “YOU NEED TO GET THE F**K OUT NOW!!!”  in full Pavarotti.

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 (to really get a good visual of what this looked like;

from http://theoutageexperts.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/outages-101-dont-be-penny-wise-and-dollar-foolish/   “Here I need to take a minute again to describe me for those of you who have yet the pleasure of meeting me. Body: Shrek meets Luca Brasi meets and average sized bear, Face: wise, warm, insightful, angelic some have said. However when mad ….well you know the cartoons when steam comes pouring out of the guys ears, That plus my eyes bulging out of my head like Roger Rabbit and to top it off a loud booming voice that can put Pavarotti to shame”)

All of the sudden the spell was broken, the vacant stares of the Zombies started to slip away, color came back to their faces, the light shown in their eyes once again. Everyone started, slowly at first, about what they needed to do to close out each of their areas. We talked about how the close out was different than the last week had been, It’s all about the details it’s not about speed. Completion matters, closing doors matter, getting everything signed off matters, not how much metal did you move today.

 The reason everyone became a “Zombie” was because they were stuck in “Move the Metal mode” and there was not metal to move.

The speech became known as the “Get the F**k out” speech”. As years went by many contractor owners and management would travel just to be in the room to hear its delivery for themselves. I still get calls from people who know the speech and want to come by and hear it, if they are in the neighborhood at the right time.

These days I’m less Gorilla more Orangutan (you know older, wiser) and because I know there is a switch needed I prepare for it and communicate it much much better so the speech doesn’t have quite the same punch, but it shakes the Zombies up and out (there’s always a few Zombies) even to this day.

3 thoughts on “It’s Been Lovely Having You…Now Get The F**k Out

  1. Chad Jones

    I don’t care what you are doing, tell me about what’s done so operations can have it back. Outages go so much better if you start looking at your return milestones as soon as the scaffolding is up. Sign off tags , close the doors, and fire this thing up. Starting stuff and making progress are great but being done is it’s own reward. People who are done are not on the critical path, sorry insulator dude, you’re always last.

    Reply
  2. Robert Kremer

    Jay,
    I had a deja entendu at your former alma mater and got the magic finger.
    As always your epilogue is sublime.
    Hope I meet you one of the days or nites,
    God forbid it may result in us to making money!
    Robert

    Reply

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