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Diatribes: Outthunking Our Competitors

By Anthony J. Lockwood

It isn’t the best news for manufacturing, which you knew already. He said thatfor the second quarter most of the jobs created were in service industries—thinksweating at the dry cleaners or vacuuming hotel rooms—or high-end jobs, such aslawyers, engineers (it’s not clear what kind—yet), computer scientists, and bankers.Manufacturing jobs still stink. He ended the article asking, “so, what are wegoing to do ]about this situation]?”

A terrific question. We can blame the politicians. We can blame our managers.We can blame the terrorists. Hello? Casting blame fixes nada.

First, IMHO (in my honest opinion), we have to recognize that your fortunes,the dork’s who works next to you, and mine are hopelessly intertwined. We’re allin this together. Ben Franklin comes to mind: “We must all hang together, or assuredlywe shall all hang separately.”

Next, we gotta think. How does the company beat the overseas competition? They’vecheaper labor, and their craftsmanship is getting good. If they have labor andenvironmental laws, well, let’s say they’re less strict than ours.

They’re pretty smart too; so don’t just give me the outthink-them line. Look,I used to work for an enormous publishing “house,” as we described our multibillion-dollaroutfit with offices on five continents. Our group got in trouble during the early1990’s bum economy. Corporate’s solution was to bring in high-priced free-agent,um, professionals from parts unknown.

Climbing upon their mighty egos, these guys immediately screwed up everything.Not only did they dump on everything we ever did, they misunderstood our corecompetency and our market. They fired the wrong people. They ticked off the survivors.They got knighted as geniuses for ideas we had pushed (OK, stuff we talked aboutmaybe, like, once). And they goofed up those ideas. Best of all, they got bigpaychecks for all of that.

Soon, they left to “fix” another outfit. We survivors were left a cynical, bickeringmob, sitting in the middle of a bigger mess than when the cavalry rode in. Wenever recovered.

Over time, some folks wandered away. Others stayed until the end. We got soldand immediately closed.

I think about that joint often. It once was a great place to work. In retrospect,however, maybe we should have outthunked them before we needed help from superheroes. Maybe if we weren’t so obsessed with our turf, resistant to change, andready to blame those too stupid to recognize our genius, we might have changedour destiny as the economy unraveled and before our competitors hit their stride.Maybe if we weren’t such crybabies, management would have listened.

I’ll never know. But I do know this: We all better start working together andthinking up ways to make our own breaks. We can either do that, or we’re assuredlygoing to wind up hanging some rich guy’s laundry separately.

Thanks, Pal.

Lockwood
tlockwood@helmers.com

 

About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Desktop Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@deskeng.com.