The fight started out on the production floor, the manufacturing manager got so mad he put his fist through a wall after accosting my Quality Engineering manager. I’ll be the first to admit it; I started it. But it couldn’t compare with the time I was sitting at the Number 10 across from my brand new employer Datapoint in San Antonio when a wine glass flew overhead and smashed into the plate glass mirror behind the bar. I turned to see the director of personnel with female employees under each arm yelling at the owner that he positively was not going to throw him out of the place. I looked at Larry, my boss and said, “What have you gotten me into.”
At a company in Arizona almost my entire quality inspection group came from the local Holiday Inn’s weekly underwear modeling show, seems my predecessor liked to frequent the place.
Doing a walk through at Compaq Computer’s brand new factory one day, I asked my Quality manager who the new inspector was. Looking puzzled, he walked over to find out that our “new employee” had been working for the past two weeks. Apparently she just walked in off the street from the local watering hole after hearing that we needed people.
I arrived at the supplier’s facility just in time to see the daily ritual of selecting which of the wino’s lined against the wall would be used to stuff electronic components into printed circuit boards that day.
The Manufacturing Director I worked for at ITT Courier Terminal Systems suggested I follow in the footsteps of his previous Quality Manager who used to dress up as an SS Officer with hip boots and a crop to give the workers a little levity. “Relieves the stress” he said. “Everyone knows a happy worker is a productive worker”! I think he became a college professor at Arizona State soon thereafter.
Silvia was a fast-talking, street savvy statistical data clerk that didn’t have a clue how to add two and two and get four consistently. A random number generator could solve it faster. But she was the top mans pimp and prized labor informer. So she became Quality’s Master Statistician and my responsibility to manage. So it goes in the confessions of a Quality manager.
These are just a few of the incidents that go with 20 years experience in business. Everyone has them but it does appear, from talking to others, that a profession in the quality industry is kind of unique. It seems that the best and the worst are accentuated when you’re focused on the quality of products, services, work, decisions and relationships. People are naturally averse to being monitored but they seem to get really incensed when you’re thought to be insinuating that their ability to perform work correctly is lacking. As you might imagine it tends to generate an adversarial relationship up and down the chain of command very quickly. Overcoming that natural tendency was what I thought implementing quality was all about. After all a happy person is a productive person and quality minded one at that, Right?