Worthington, Minn., claims to be turkey capital of the United States. Worthington has competition, though. Example: In his autobiography, Dennis Green, head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, described his plan to sue the team’s owners if they refused to sell him a 30 percent share of the company.
Since a) privately held companies have no legal obligation to sell themselves to head coaches; b) writing an autobiography when you’re as unaccomplished as he is reveals an ego as big as Green’s waistline; and c) when you play hardball politics you’re best off doing it covertly; Minneapolis gets to include Green in its turkey production total. And at 285 pounds, he compensates for a large fraction of Worthington’s turkey production all by himself.
While you’re in the mood for turkey, here’s another turkey story for you from a reader I’ll call Stan, who worked for “a major US corporation.” The words are mostly his — I’m lightly paraphrasing from his description.
Once upon a time, Stan was a front-line manager responsible for keeping a large number of PCs up and running in five locations. Stan instituted a preventive maintenance program, and logged the results to help him spot trends — information that came in mighty handy on several occasions.
Then his management instituted a new trouble calls process. Instead of end-users’ calling Stan’s department directly, they were directed to call the front desk, which in turn called the help desk at corporate headquarters, which then opened a trouble report and paged Stan’s department, alerting them to a problem occurring probably no more than a several dozen paces away from their office.
Stan’s analysts would then log onto the corporate mainframe, find the trouble report, assign it to themselves, change its status to open, and then fix the problem. Afterward they retrieved the trouble report, closed it, and reported their time (including the “administrivia,” which was usually more time than it took to fix the problem), and what they did to fix it.
One thing you get from an advanced help desk system is statistics. Lots of ’em. And so Stan got some feedback on the success of his preventive maintenance program: Of all the offices, his had the smallest volume of trouble calls.
You know where this is going. Stan’s managers were devotees of the if-you-can’t-measure-you-can’t-manage school of process supervision, but not graduates of the be-careful-what-you-measure-because-that’s-what-you’ll-get college of advanced techniques. They measured productivity by number of trouble calls responded to, and therefore Stan’s office was the least “productive.” Management could not justify paying three salaries for such an “unproductive” office and gave Stan 30 days’ notice. Stan predicts that when the trouble call volume increases for this office (as it inevitably will), management will be able to point to its statistics to show how cutting one salary raised productivity.
OK, let’s be serious for a minute. Stan’s management made two basic conceptual errors. First, it designed its new process around management reporting, not staff effectiveness. Management reporting became the goal of the system, not a desirable byproduct. Problem management systems must always improve convenience for end-users and be unobtrusive and helpful for technicians, or they’ll fail.
Far worse, though, Stan’s management confused internal process management measures with external, business results measures. “Trouble calls responded to” merely measures a departmental sub-process, not a business result. The business result is measured by end-user up-time, however it’s accomplished.
Stan’s management, obsessed by numbers, had no interest in the business result. (No, I won’t name the company. If I did, companies that might do some soul-searching wouldn’t bother.)
Oh well. At least we won’t suffer from a turkey shortage this Thanksgiving.