Saturday, October 14, 2006

IG Quality of Life Survey

A while back I promised that if I managed to finish anything I wrote I would post it. At work on Friday I was asked to fill out a Quality of Life Survey. One of the last items on this generic survey was the question "If you could change one thing to improve this aspect of your quality of work life, what would it be?"

Here was my answer to that question.

Close the ever widening chasm of mistrust, misunderstanding and lack of communication that has formed between center management and the engineers, scientists and support personnel who actually do the work around here.

In VADM Massenburg's Quaterly Update of Oct 3, 2006 he presented us eleven short paragraphs about the status of NAVAIR. In only one paragraph did he briefly mention the work that most of us do. Paragraph four he cited several technical successes as a justification for continued support for the AIRspeed program.

Most of us worker level employees couldn't care less about AIRspeed. We are too busy trying to get our jobs done with less money, less materials, less support, less planning, and less attention by management (OK, so that last one is a good thing), less of everything, except for process improvements. There is plenty of that piling up around here. The engineering work is why we are here. Unfortunately management has forgotten about the work we do. They only concern themselves with how we do it. The "process" has become their product.

There are still a lot of hardworking dedicated people on this base who are still busting our behinds to provide the best weapons development, testing and integration for the United States Navy. Unfortunately none of them are in management.
Our managers spend all their time talking about

  • "streamline development"
  • "change how we work"
  • "Lean"
  • "Six Sigma"
  • "Theory of Constraints"
  • "why we do the things we do and then changing it"
  • "merging the continuous process improvement activities"
  • "business plans, artisans, leaders and funding lines will transition"
  • "Enterprise Resource Planning" and my personal favorite
  • "focusing on execution and accountability, and enhancing our productivity"

Funny, all this time I thought my focus was supposed to be on the product I deliver to the fleet.

You want to improve our quality of work life? Give me a management chain that understands that innovation cannot be mandated, genius cannot be regulated and brilliant science and engineering development cannot be squeezed out of a business model. Sometimes a manager needs to know when to shut the hell up, get out of the way and let the smart people try something just a little unorthodox. Then if it doesn't work according to plan, tell them to take another educated guess and give it another shot.

VADM Massenburg summed up everything that is wrong with our quality of work life today is one sentence; "One Master Black Belt said that in her 30 years of government service AIRSpeed is the first thing she’s seen that really works."
Really? Maybe someone should tell that Master Black Belt and the VADM Massenburg about a few other things around here that really worked: Sidewinder Missile, Shrike Missile, Walleye Missile, Phoenix Missile, STANDARD Missile, Maverick Missile, Harpoon Missile, Tomahawk Cruise Missile, The F14, F16, F18, A6, A7, HARM, RAPEC, VSS, SNORT, and I could go on for literally pages and pages but you should be getting the point by now. (if you don’t believe me check out this short China Lake History)

It is hard to come to work everyday knowing that the entire management structure that we work for has forsaken the goals we all started out with. To assure that the United States Navy is equipped with the best weapons, support equipment, and aircraft available in the world. Management’s "process" is not our product, and until they start recognizing the work their people do, and the level of effort we are putting in to get it done in spite of their new process oriented mindset this is not a healthy, happy or fun place to work.

I realize that my comments on this survey will have about the same effect of standing outside in the wind and yelling at it to stop blowing. But they asked.

1 comment:

Norma said...

Or, someone might read them and you'll be downsized. Suggestions are never for criticism.

I'm retired; therefore much smarter than I used to be.