Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Unlike Ants...

     We're not, my peers at work and I, interchangeable; we have different skills sets, different strengths and weaknesses, different subsets of the equipment and facilities that we know well or poorly.  Unlike ants, we can't leave an unambiguous scent trail for one another, either.

     All of that is by way of explaining why, when my boss cc;'d me on some e-mail regarding some fairly complex work interfacing with an outside contractor at a site (the near-abandoned North Campus of our Skunk-Workings) I know very well, and was sending a tech who does not know it at all well, I suggested to him that I'd better go up there and at help our guy and the outside guy find what they need.

     "Do you really think you need to go up there?"
     "Well, the cables aren't marked and if they get into the wrong one, it will shut the whole place down."
     "Oh, it's not that complicated...."
     "No, it's very, very simple: there are single points of failure all through that system and freeing up a connection point will require identifying the ones that are no longer in use."  (The ones a former middle manager told me it was "not an efficient use of time" for me to ID and remove!)

     Why do I bother?  Some days I wonder if I should just let 'em shut the place down through refusal to recognize that in Engineering, we have specific areas of expertise and assigned responsibility.  Decades ago, I was hired on to be the person-on-the-scene at the North Campus.  The far more reliable equipment we use now has reduced the need to have someone there from 40 hours a week to almost zero -- but it didn't change the history of me having installed most of what's up there, nor has my responsibility for it ever been changed; I just never get time up there until something has either already failed or I can see a problem coming and try to head it off.

     And I have to beg 'em to do that.



Anonymous said...

There is a famous Dilbert cartoon, that hung in many offices. The pointed headed manager says, "I've come up with the schedule for your project. I started with the assumption that anything I don't understand must be easy to do."

I feel your pain. And I wouldn't have your job for anything.

Earl said...

Thanks for your service. Every day is good.

diesel smoke said...

Some times it pays to let them make the big mistake. They need to learn that they do not know all. If you advise them, and they go all stupid. Oh well.
I have a friend that did that to me once. Now I listen to him very closely.
I make some dumb mistakes in my line of work and I pay the bill for the education.
One of those lessons I learned by watching others is never let a piece leave my shop until a critical eyeball has inspected it.
I count those eyeballs as friends.
By the way i work on airplanes.

Anonymous said...

The term I use is "beligerant compliance"

Then when it turns to crap I say "I told you so"

I got away with it, because there was nobody else in the company that could do my job.

D.W. Drang said...

I, too, feel your pain.

Old NFO said...

LOL, Anon wins with 'belligerent compliance'!!! I'm SO stealing that one!!!

Joseph said...

I think it's that they don't want you to be the single point of failure. They don't want to depend on one person who might be run over tomorrow.

Roberta X said...

I am not a "single point of failure," Joseph, and I have worked very hard to ensure that critical paths and circuits are well-documented (many of my co-workers do not). This was an unusual case, relighting an abandoned connection. I find your suggestion that I might be indulging in job security through secrecy to be highly insulting. I worked *with* the other tech who was assigned this task and he now knows as much about that system as I do.

Far from wanting to hold on by pretending I have some secret damn special insight, I'm thinking it is time for me to move on from this job. The only problem is that job openings in my line don't come around very often, and for my Mom's sake, I need to remain in Indianapolis. But I don't need to remain in that particular job, nor will I be all that much missed.

What one tech has done, another can do; however this job did present a significant chance of either a major interruption to our main product, or a clumsy kluge. I wanted to avoid both, not because it's any skin off my back either way but so my employer didn't suffer bad consequences.

Next time you're minded to make a wisecrack, don't.

D.W. Drang said...

Long(er) version of "I, too, feel your pain":
The Suits have been making stupid decisions regarding the workings of my line of business in The Salt Mines for years, aided and abetted by various and sundry "stakeholders." A vocal subset of first line managers (of which I am one, albeit a working man/getting hands dirty" manager) has for years been advocating "Letting it all burn down" as a way of demonstrating just how stupid these decisions were.
Some of us have for just as long been pointing out that the stakes are higher than making a point.
Oddly enough, the suits had their way, it all came perilously close to burning down, and the advocates of letting it all burn to a cinder have lost their jobs.
I won't say "All is well", but at least we get more attention now. (And one of "us" is one the fast track to becoming a suit, we'll see whether this gives me new faith in the system or if a new era of cynicism is ushered in...)

WV: (Holy crap, I'm supposed to be able to make sense of that blur?!)

Robin said...

Many ... many years ago, I had a tech job and used to argue with management about poor decisions.

I got a review that said that I "argued too much" with management. So I made a single comment, and if ignored, I shut up.

After several near catastrophic failures, the following reporting period I was again down-checked on a review for "failure to share critical knowledge". And counseled that two sub-optimal reviews put me in danger of being terminated.

I took the two reviews to top management and suggested that engineering needed some competent managers hired in.