Corporate Idiocy

By Ed Sawicki

In the mid-1970s, when I was working for Tektronix in New York, a fellow employee named Bill Weiman and I worked in the service department repairing oscilloscopes and other products. Bill wasn't feeling well one day; he had difficulty focusing on troubleshooting but he was capable of using tools. I suggested that we split the workload. I would do the troubleshooting and Bill would make the repair. While Bill was making the repair, I'd troubleshoot the next product.

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

Each item to be serviced had paperwork attached. We had to mark down the time it took to make the repair. This determined how the customer was charged, and our manager evaluated us on that time. 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 achieved when working alone. At first, our manager was suspicious about the numbers. 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, revenue, and profits are 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 sarcasm but I didn't care. I had other prospects.

Anyone who thinks stupid decisions and inefficiency are the exclusive domain of goverment has been brainwashed.