This from my 8 year old as we stood in front of the audio book racks in Barnes and Noble in early 1999
What were we doing there?
Well, you see I read a set of books when I was around ten. It still shapes how I think to this day and I wanted to get this series of books for my son and read them together.
He was not impressed or interested in these books, but I didn’t let that stop me. Onward I pressed, after all he was 8, what did he know?
We got his books. We passed by all the fun stuff in the kids section and marched over to the audio book section…he got his now it was time for me to get mine
As I surveyed all of the offerings my son started asking me questions.
“Why did we get these books”, I explained for what felt like the hundredth time, “you see Joe, when I was a little older than you I read these books and they shaped how I think even to this day. So I want to read them with you so you can learn the lessons for yourself straight from the source”
“Why are we looking as these tapes” … Don’t you just love when the questions just KEEP COMING! My son was mad about me dragging him to a store to buy a BOOK!!! Of all things! AND he was going to made his displeasure known…”We’ll like those books we just bought, they teach you things you haven’t learned yet.” I continued to peruse the selection.
“Why are you mad at the people working for you”….You see he was present to a few outstanding rants on the cell phone with members of my current team (Rants= yelling loudly, neck turning purple, veins in my heads growing to inordinate sizes)…”Well ,it must seem like I’m mad at them but really I’m just confused and frustrated. You see, daddy has been a boss for a long time. Longer than you’ve been alive. I have never had anyone working for me disobey me. I don’t know what to do with them; they’re good people they just don’t think like daddy.”
Then from the mouth of babes “Why don’t you make them listen to your tapes”. I’m so thickheaded that I didn’t get it. “Why would I do that Joe?” He told me “Your making me read these books so I can think like you, if they listen to your tapes then they will think like you do right?”
I’ll tell you sometimes I’m amazed at how dumb I can be and how smart my son is when he’s trying to teach me a lesson
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him to fish and you feed him for life. Apparently this is a Chinese proverb, I had thought it was from the bible, again I’m wrong.
Management in a power plant can be like trying to grow grass in granite. It’s like that Chinese finger trap; the harder you pull the more the trap has you. So what do we do most of the time…pull harder, the trap will break eventually. I have had the privilege to manage thousands of people in our industry. A great deal of them moved up the ranks. Some of them become supervisors, department managers and plant managers. I did the meaner than everyone thing. You know the kind. The guy that thinks he knows more than you do, the do what I say thing kind of thing. Nothing worked so quickly and so well as listening to those tapes as a team. Truly teaching a man to fish is the way to go.
As the beginning of this blog talks about, I was frustrated. It was just after a bunch of successful outages (The ones described in Outages 101). I had come to the plant with my usual “sit down, shut up and do what I say” and the magic wand speech (a blog for another time) just before their major outages. I ran the outages with an iron hand as I always did, but I had hoped that once the plant saw the success of the outages they would not fight me as much…I was wrong. After the outages, it seemed they were more determined than ever to see my ideas fail. It was as if they were saying “well you may have been right this time but your wrong now”. Each new thing I introduced to the facility was met with more and more resistance from the supervision and management. As each new program succeeded the next program took more and more effort to get it through (The Chinese finger trap). Me being part Irish, part Italian and part Viking and all hardheaded, fought back. If it wasn’t for my son schooling me I’m sure I would be still fighting today.
After I got what my son was saying to me at Barnes and Noble, we went home and I bought a tape recorder to tape hundreds of blanks. I gave my wife the tapes I wanted copied and made her make 20 some odd tapes of each.
I showed up on a Monday with the first tape we would listen to as a team. I called a meeting and informed everyone that they had till Friday to listen to this tape and we would have a catered lunch in the conference room where we would have a discussion about the tape. People raised many objections, I told them not listing to the tape would be deemed direct disobedience and offenders would be suspended (I told you I was…Bullish from time to time)
Friday came and we had a great discussion and lots of ideas came from it. Next Monday there was another tape but I didn’t have to threaten anyone this time. All in all there were about 6 tapes over 6 weeks.
This plant had its worst performance in 1998 and by the end of 1999 the same crew registered record breaking performance in both production and safety at the same time.
I think my son’s idea speaks for itself.