There’s no doubt, I am good at my job. The problem is always the other people.
Last week was a little wearing. First we had an audit by a new customer. It was important in that, without getting ‘sign off’ from the auditor, we could not supply the goods. On the other hand, without us and the parts we will be supplying, the customer is, to put it mildly, fucked.
For some reason, that escaped me, our MD (who now, according to the latest and greatest organisation chart is, in fact, our CEO whilst our previously designated Technical Director is now the MD) seemed more like a headless chicken than the cobra (as designated by one of my colleagues). I would say headless cobra except, probably, for everyone else in the organisation, she still has the ‘bite’ associated with the cobra and, therefore couldn’t possibly be headless and, anyway, a snake without a head hardly runs around like a headless chicken does.
I have no idea why she seemed so nervous about the auditor being there. OK, so we may not be perfect but we do have things in place, more or less and, gradually, eventually, we are getting there.
Still, it is tiring having to be pleasant to someone with the personality of a slug as, I’m afraid to say, most auditors are, in my experience. I suppose it has something to do with the job they do. I guess I am more of an ‘overview’ person rather than a ‘detail’ person. Once I have the overview, I’m happy, the details just bore the hell out of me.
Tiring further was the meeting we had following that, with another customer. This customer was accompanied by their customer and by their customer’s customer (the ‘ultimate’ customer, sort of).
They had wanted an audit. For various reasons we were unable to comply with their request and I made it clear that they were not going to be able to audit. It would be a general commercial meeting with the focus on our documentation and our processes, so that they (the ultimate customer) better understood that we were not some cowboy outfit as they may have been led to believe.
And, why on earth would they have come to the conclusion that we would be a cowboy outfit, you may well ask?
The problem was that, our customer, in order to safeguard themselves, as people are wont to do, blamed us for many of the problems with the equipment that they were providing; blaming our equipment for the problems.
And so, the ultimate customer and their supplier must have thought we were, to put it mildly again, crap.
It was important, therefore, to present a company that was on the ball, fully up to speed with everything and with processes that were top notch. I knew that we had certain failings and, therefore, needed to be careful how we presented the company and the personnel we used to do this. We needed people present who could be relied upon and who could show the company in the best light. Also, as it was not going to be an audit (and I didn’t want it to become one) I wanted to keep Quality out of it a much as possible.
And so I picked the best people to be with the customer. Apart from briefly, this did not include Production people. So there was me (I’m good with the schmooze) and three Engineers – all of whom give a good account of themselves and have the skills and knowledge to present things in the right way. They also speak the best English, which is important for not ending up misleading the customer or causing confusion with them.
The whole day went so well. The ultimate customer was really impressed with our facilities, with the people I chose to have in the meeting, with our production and test facilities, etc.
The problem came afterwards. Unfortunately, not everyone fully understood what we (I) were trying to do. Firstly, during the time the customers were there, whilst we were on the shop floor, our Engineering Manager (apparently) blasted some of the people who, by rights, should have been there. But he shouldn’t have ‘cos they hadn’t been asked and, to be honest, wouldn’t have helped my (our) cause.
Worse still, the Production Manager, the next day, came to the Engineering Office and started being all big-headed about how everything had been good the day before. BIG MISTAKE. I hadn’t included the Production Manager, not only for the fact that he doesn’t speak English so well. And I had had some Production people involved, briefly, but when we went to the shop floor, for me, it would have been far better if there had been no one from Production or Quality around. Probably we should have visited it at lunchtime when no one from that area was there at all!
Of course, the guy who does the assembly had to be there but he speaks no English and had to be there because I needed him to do things when the customers wanted to see things. If it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have had him there either.
But not everyone sees what I do and now the CEO has asked me to explain it all to engineering because they are angry with Production and other areas for not pulling their weight. Of course, the Engineers have a good point. But to have done anything else would have been a potential disaster or, at least, certainly not made it as good as it was.
And it is difficult because my job relies on the fact that I have a reasonable relationship with everyone and I don’t want to piss off Engineering nor Production nor anyone else. But at the end of it all, people have different strengths and, I’m afraid, Production don’t have the strengths to be in front of the customer, it’s as simple as that whereas Engineering (well, most of them and certainly the ones I chose) do.
Just like when you have visitors to your house and show them round, you don’t show them the cupboard under the stairs for a really good reason.
Of course, the problem is also that, in my opinion, the CEO doesn’t really value the Engineers quite as highly as I think they should be valued. But I’m not the CEO so I can’t do much about that.
Sorry for the boring post but I was, partly, trying to decide how I go about trying to smooth things over with Engineering as I have been asked to do that by the CEO (who also doesn’t really understand what I do either!!!!!).