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May 30, 2013 / TeknoKai

June 1 is Just Around the Corner and My “Inner Middle Management” is Chuckling Maniacally, or, Life Lessons Learned From Business Experience

As many of you know, I have spent most of my working career in the Information Technology sector, but I have applied my computer knowledge at a couple of fairly big manufacturing companies in my time.  This time of the year is when my inner “corporate cubicle worker” shakes with glee, and I remember a lesson that I feel will stick with me for the rest of my days.  It is nice to remember, and it does give me motivation to continue ever forward.

Working in the Manufacturing Industry, you very quickly learn that there are basically two types of people in this world.  Those who are forward thinking, progressive, creative, and full of energy, and those who are, to be blunt (but by no means should this ever be taken in a negative manner) realistic.  One such company where I was lucky enough to be employed, created a product that was shipped (by the Ton) each month to clients who purchased it.  Now, in this organization, from the first day I set foot upon the ground, I was buffeted by the ever pushing “Production” members, who are for all purposes, the forward free -thinkers, and “Accounting”, who were for all intents and purposes, the realistic ones.

Now, one of the first things I observed was that everything vital to our organization, and I am sure it is this way universally, was accounted for at MONTH END.  I used capitals because as a measurement of time, this is one recurring deadline that cannot ever be missed.  Not if a company wishes to survive.  When I first started at my company, things were sort of, flexible.  Production would push as much tonnage as possible through the plant, and at the verge of month end, they would “stretch” the time so that they accounted for product that was all but ready to ship, only it wasn’t quite put on a truck yet.  Now, there never really was a problem here, except that the blurring of the lines would always help at the last moment of MONTH END, but it would detract from the beginning safety net of the BEGINNING MONTH.  No one was ever quite clear on exactly when we were “closing the books” until they were literally closed.

Now, in my tenure, this company purchased an all encompassing Software system that replaced everything we were using at the time.  It took two grueling hard years, but we migrated every bit of data from the old system to the new, and we finally had a system that determined MONTH END.  It would happen, whether you wanted it to or not, automatically, at 11:59 PM on the last day of the month.  Problem solved.  Right?

Well, not to “Production’s” eyes.  They still wanted to push as absolutely  far into the new month as possible, and the scheduling manager just couldn’t quite understand that he could no longer do this.  I remember quite clearly the first meeting (all staff attended a 9:00 AM Production meeting every day, without fail) where this production manager was trying to tally the total tonnage he would claim before MONTH END.  One of the departmental supervisors was trying to explain to him that this was no longer possible because of the way our system was designed.  The funniest thing I’ll ever remember hearing, and this is why it has stuck with me for ever, is the department manager asking the production scheduler something along the lines of “…just how do you intend to do that?  Are you going to be here on the 32nd day of May?”

Those words will stick with me forever.  At this time each year I contemplate my time and what I learned from that company.  I am no longer with them, I have moved on, but a part of me is me because of what I learned there, and I carry it with me into my daily tasks.  Aside from the humor that this incident brought me, I learned that it actually does take both types of people in the business world for a company to succeed.  You do need the forward thinkers, the ever-energetic creative types, bursting with ideas.  But you also have to have those who are grounded in reality.  One cannot exist without the other.  I have been lucky – we in the Information Technology sector are a rare breed.  We are often pushed to be creative and clever, but we must maintain our step-by-step methods to achieve our desired results.  We embody the best of both worlds.  And I like to think that with our unique perspective, we members of the IT crowd, are just as necessary to both groups of thinking in the business world.  I like to to think that I can use what I know to help my company, personal, extended problems find answers because I can be both creative and realistic.  So I work as hard as I can each day to try and be far enough ahead in life, and in work, that when I reach MONTH END I do not have to take future incomplete product, thought, or action in a rush on the 32nd day of May to survive.  Instead, I could quite possibly have the 1st of June as a well deserved vacation.  It all comes down to the balance between optimistic forecasting and reality.

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