By Ed Sawicki

In the mid-1970s, when I was working for Tektronix in New York, a man named Bill Weiman was hired as an electronics technician. For a time, he and I worked in the same department, repairing Tek oscilloscopes and other products.

One day, Bill wasn't feeling well but not bad enough to go home sick. He had difficulty focusing on troubleshooting but he was capable of using a soldering iron. I suggested that we split the workload. I would do the troubleshooting and Bill would make the repair by changing the bad component. While Bill was making the repair, I'd troubleshoot the next item.

It worked so well, we decided to continue it in the future, but we'd alternate roles periodically.

Each item to be serviced had a tag and paperwork attached. Our manager evaluated us on that time, so we had to be sure to evenly split our time on the paperwork, which was a nuisance. At some point, we discovered that our team approach was yielding productivity better than each of us normally achieved individually.

At first, our manager was suspicious about the numbers and spent a few hours checking. When he realized the productivity increase was real, he was initially pleased, but he wondered aloud how this would impact performance reviews. How would he know which technicians deserved the better raises?

I replied with, “Why would you care when productivity is improved? Give both people a good review.” He wasn't buying that. His job performance was measured by keeping payroll within limits. Increased revenue from higher productivity wasn't something he was measured on.

An unforeseen problem developed. Other technicians in the service center didn't like our team approach. Two of them had tried it but it didn't work out for them. They thought we were showing them up, and they complained to the manager.

The manager eventually decided that the increased productivity was not worth the personnel problems he was having. He told us to stop our team approach and go back to doing our own work. I remember responding by mimicking someone scolding Henry Ford for his production line. The manager didn't appreciated that but I didn't care. I had other prospects.

Anyone who thinks stupid decisions are only made by government and inefficiency is the exclusive domain of the public sector has been brainwashed.