This week saw the start of AJ's new idea - micro-managed self-empowerment - and the sad thing is he can't see the flaw.
Monday: AJ called us together for the morning meeting and said he'd decided over the weekend to implement a three-stage "creative thinking" policy, where we'll be encouraged to develop new ways of doing things. This will (apparently) free us from the structured thinking that's been such a handicap to our individual and team development, and allow us to take personal charge of our activities, goals and aspirations rather than relying on him to make minor decisions for us all.
The warning bells went off in my head at this point and I thought he can't mean self-empowerment - he gets twitchy if he doesn't check on us all at least every half hour.
I said do you mean self-empowerment? and he said yes, I'm glad to see you're with me on this one - but that's the third stage when you're thinking the same way I would. We've got to reach that stage first. This week I'll be giving you guidelines to help you appreciate the need for change, and if everything goes according to plan you'll be able to choose your own actions and make your own decisions later.
After he'd handed out the guideline sheets and gone back in his office, James said I don't get it - did he mean he's going to let us make our own decisions? Donna said that's what I thought, and LeeAnn said oh, good. I said no it doesn't. I said it means he wants us all to do things his way instead of doing them the way we've always done them before. James and Donna both sighed, and LeeAnn said oh, §*#?¿
James told LeeAnn she shouldn't swear like that so she told him §*#?¿ off granddad, she could §*#?¿ swear if she wanted. I took my copy of the guideline list over to my office, and sat and read it through. If any one of us want to do anything (in my case, if I want to ship out a part to a customer) we have to arrange an appointment to go discuss it with him. We have to tell him any problems, queries or comments about the last time we did anything similar (it's nearly always a carrier problem for me) and what we'll be doing this time to cut those problems out (but there's nothing I can do about it once it's out the door.) Then we have to wait for him to check it all out and decide whether our precautions are adequate or not. He'll then arrange another appointment with us to tell us either it's all OK and we can carry on (I can ship the part) or it's not good enough and we have to go away, start again, and come back to him when we've worked out a better way of doing it (the customer rings up and screams because they haven't got their part yet.)
I've got this strange sinking feeling I'm not going to get any shipping done at all this week. He's right on one thing though - it's going to make me so frustrated it's certainly going to stop any structured thoughts I might've been tempted to have.
Tuesday: I tried to get an appointment to tell AJ I wanted to ship an item to a customer, and finally got in about half three. He said oh yes, I remember these, we've had trouble with these before - they rang up last time and complained to Donna, didn't they? so what are you going to do to stop that? I said there's nothing I can do. He said oh come on - there must be something.
I said they complained because it was two weeks late - Production missed the contract deadline and finished it late. He said yes, well, yes, but that's nothing anybody could control - it was delivered late too, wasn't it? I said yes, the carrier lost it for two days. He said well that's your problem - you'll have to do something about the carrier. I said there's nothing I can do - I complained officially but they just said well at least we delivered it in the end, what're you making a fuss about. He said you'll have to use a different carrier then and I said I can't - they've a deal with Head Office and part of it is us smaller ones have to use them too. He said Head Office don't have these delivery problems, so I said that's because they send out about forty times what we do every day and the carrier's scared of losing the deal. He said you're not being very co-operative.
He thought about it for a minute while I sat there, and then said OK, I suppose it's best if you just ship the item then. I said I've seven items to go out to another customer as well. He said that's all right, ship them too.
Andy put his head around the door just as we all were going home to say he's on vacation for the next three days, so he'll see us all Monday. LeeAnn said does that mean AJ's signing the Production orders, or am I signing them? He said you'd better ask AJ to do it, then when she frowned at him, he said no, that's all right LeeAnn, you'd better do it - he'll be too busy.
Wednesday: I finally got another appointment to see AJ as soon as he came in at half eight, but as soon as I said I needed to ship an item he said wait until I can talk to you this afternoon. I went out and went through to get a coffee as there was nothing I could do until he said OK.
James didn't get in to see AJ until about three. He was in there for a good half hour, and was absolutely wild when he got out. He said it's just taken me half an hour to get that §*#?¿ idiot to sign Mike's petrol expenses because they're coded to 'allowances'. He said why couldn't I code them to 'transport' instead - I had to tell him about six times that's what Head Office wanted and that's what I've been coding them to ever since he's been claiming them, and he's only just said oh OK then.
Donna said at least you've got him to sign it. I'm still waiting for him to approve the customer letters I wrote on Monday - he's had me re-write most of them several times now and I still can't get in to see him to get them okayed. Head Office have rung me twice now, saying why haven't they gone out.
Thursday: The office is at a standstill. James won't do anything because he can't be bothered trying to get AJ to agree. Donna's typing stuff for Carly, Amy's got her hands under her desk knitting a scarf for a friend of hers, and Fiona's either staring out the window, moving files from one shelf to another, or talking to James. LeeAnn's given up trying to look like she might possibly be working - she's just sitting with her feet up and her headphones on.
AJ put his head around the door about half two and said I'll be very busy this afternoon and won't be able to see anyone, so if anyone wants me just take a message. Donna said I might as well not bother about the customer letters - I'm not going to get them done.
Friday: AJ said at the morning meeting he'd been very pleased at our response to his "creative thinking" policy. He said now you've taken my guidelines on board and you're beginning to understand how I want you to deal with things, next week we'll start thinking in more general terms about your goals. We may be able to relax the guidelines a little, too. We all looked a little more hopeful at that, until he said well not too much, of course. You don't want to slip back into your old passive thinking, do you?
Everyone was sitting around for the rest of the morning waiting to go see him about outstanding things, so nothing was done. Just before he went to the afternoon meeting at Head Office he came in and said you'll have to take responsibility for yourselves this afternoon while I'm not here, so after he'd gone we all leapt into action and did as much as possible just to get it out the way. At half four James came out and said wait a minute, this is stupid - I'm going home. Fiona said I'm going too, I can't catch up all week in one afternoon. LeeAnn and Amy got me to threaten to switch Donna's PC off at the server, as that was the only way to get her to stop and go home.