The Nine Thirty Meeting – The Source?

Ah ha, another meeting. I know you’ve read about it before , but this is for posterity and tracks the waste of minutes/hours we are subject to when we are at our most vulnerable, I mean at work.

From scrawled notes, I can’t expect you to trawl throughthe handwriting to make sense of them. Thats my role, so here goes.

“The kitchen fairy is pissed” off at 10:04. Apparently the cleaning of the sink dishes is a task which is noone’s role but is the cause of multiple conversations. There’s even a dish washing machine suggested, we’re talking here of 5 people’s dishes.

“Who’s going to pack it?” someone queries.

Apparently Gwenyth is spoken too. An interesting move. Is she the recalcitrant who leaves unwashed dishes sink bound? This is not resolved and its left hanging there, a tea towel flapping in the breeze of kitchen anxiety.

By 10:46, and its been 45 minutes already we are on to the stationary needed. Three professionals and the EA are now huddled over what’s needed for the upcoming report wiriting.

“Gee it’s cold in here”

“What do you think of the printing?

“Why is the toner always low?”

“Maybe someone didn’t hit the reset button and/but its been a long time since we had a service call, besides I printed out those org charts, the one’s I laiminated and they were a bit hazy”. “The plastic containers for the copier are still sitting there, unknown location to stick them in the copier so maybe they’re the cause of the shit copies and hazziness.

‘I’ve ordered stuff for the kitchen for my six weeks leave, and we won’t be getting adminisatration support for that time either” ” Betsy has taken a package like many and to get their hands on the dough they have to leave pronto and before the 31/12″

And new phones are coming, but there’s no message bank on them and that not good. Someone remarks that

” That’s not good for the EA’s they’re under the pump.” That was was a faux pas worthy of ten minuted more wasted time.

And so it goes, nearly ninety minutes wasted on the trivia that passes as a morning “catch up”
All seems like ketchup to me!


Change Management

It was a role I took on in some desperation. No regular work for a year or so, I had managed to be interviewed for the role as production manager at the superphosphate plant in Geelong, when working in Brisbane as a quality manager for a truck seat assembler.

Several interviews, medical and then one or two HR interviews too many saw me at Melbourne airport for yet another encounter with the HR guru of the Southern Region, Sam. He was avuncular, a knock about sort of guy who said a lot by what was not said in response to some of my penetrating queries.

We proceeded to the plant, a pleasant drive to the south west of Melbourne. As the skyline of the city subsided into the parched bare plains of Werribee and then Avalon my heart jumped a little when on the forward horizon loomed the cracking towers and flares of the Shell refinery. A mix of trepidation, excitement and unresolved anxiety about how this might go. I dared not mention my previous experiences at the salt company headquartered just beyond those towers. By now that experience had receded into my fading past. Then along the back road on the foreshore skirting Geelong College, nursery for the kids of the rich and famous, and those who would be.

The regional manager, Karl, was too busy to see me, so chief engineer Dave, a soon to be colleague conducted me around the plant. The plant was filthy. In thirty years, I’d never been in a dirtier place. The cleaning bill for the plant was three million dollars a years so Dave said. It was a disgrace.

When we fronted Karl in his sixties style office the air was frosty. The temperature outside was cool too.

We exchanged a few pleasantries, though it was clear this wasn’t his real style. This style was ill fitting, baggy on his expression just like the suit hanging over his stocky frame.

He had done his homework on me, had read the reports sent through from HR, but still and all I’d been imposed on him. Truth is, his decision to accept me into ‘his’ plant was probably ultimately influenced by his brother, being an ex colleague and friend, from my time in a combined management team some years previous.

In the end it came down to this.

“So what do you think of it” he said.

There’s times in life when perhaps the those first impressions, the ones which are usually correct are better left unsaid

I replied. “Well, it’s not the cleanest plant I’ve been in; in fact it’s probably the dirtiest.”

He rocked back in the office chair, eying me up. Dave who sat alongside me was coiled in anticipation of Karl’s response.

“Well”, Karl said, “ it’s your responsibility now. I’ll be interested to hear your plans for improvement”.

So that was it. Change management programs come in all shapes and sizes. The plant ran 24/7, but the time actually producing was 40 or so percent. Of seven days it was working barely three. The operators thought it was a joke, and after a few weeks of coming into control rooms to see boots up on control panels and sensing the generalised air of ‘who cares’, I was bound to say to the operator team one day,

“When I’m in the plant I expect that the equipment will be treated with respect, leakages reported and cleaned up as they occur and reports of out of specification product reported immediately”

It all came as a rude shock that perhaps they were accountable for something. Daily things grumbled along and in these projects you never know if or how you’re making waves.

A few weeks late I was prowling the plant for possible issues and seeking out the nooks and crannies where improvement might be started, I needed a toilet and found one deep in the plant.

As I sat there I looked up at the slatted door.

And there on the door scrawled into the paint was my answer

“Poon’s a cunt” It said.

I felt relieved! Progress at last, such an affirmation.

I did what I felt that affirmation deserved. I took a pic.

Back to the office and by the magic of Bluetooth transferred the pic to my PC to be my proudest memento.

As as a screen saver


Have you ever given in to one of those voices that tell you that something seems feasible, but with a moment’s thought is clearly stupidity?

A welcome addition to the “did I really hear that series”, proving that those little asides or conversation snippets that which seem incredible, stupid or just plain dumb can be internally generated.

Here’s an example one from the very present.

Age really has nought to do with a dumb idea.

I’m sitting here in the office pining after a slice of that semi frozen pizza in the office fridge. Yum what a morning tea! There’s two slices waiting and if I can contain myself there’ll still be one for lunch. Someone has left the sandwich maker on and the aroma of toasted sandwiches fills the darkened corridor. Morning tea time comes, and as we are on a work to rules opposing the government’s draconian wages freeze, the union have imposed a work to rules ban. This will make the manager bureaucrats tremble when we just do our work in the allocated time which in fact we are paid to do. So we take morning tea away from our desks. Seems like another dumb idea to me but the comrades must have figured out this action will twist the bosses goolies.

But I digress.

Fascinated by the wafting sandwich aroma, I remove my slice of semi frozen pizza from the fridge and nuke it on low, low, low setting in the microwave. So far so good. Onto the sandwich maker hot plate I slide it, and a sensuous sizzle is emitted as the moist surface vaporises. When the top lid is lowered an even better harmony sings from the plates. In a minute or so it’s sizzling, yum, and starting to smell like a pizza tavern. The heating cheese turns to goo and the red capsicum and polish salami meld. My mouth waters awaiting the feast.

“It’s not to be left too long” I think, anticipation whetted by the sizzle. As the lid is lifted oh what a senses blast, and oh what a problem. Where the cheese has oozed from the pizza base, trickles of melt track over the plate. The top plate has pieces of salami and capsicum attached. I know immediately what to do and grab handfuls of paper wipes to scour the surfaces. It takes time to get the damn thing clean and by then the slice of pizza has gone cold! I eat disconsolately, and wonder how lunch will go with the second slice. Then it hits me. Why not use the paper towels beforehand and stop the melting onto the plates?

There’s important work to be done before lunch and I can only hope that at lunch time no one else has use of the sandwich maker. Happily a late lunch means I’m the only one there. Skilfully I put two layers of paper under and two layers of paper towel over the cold pizza. Onto the plates, there’s no sizzle, just the warmth of the heating plates. I can’t help but check at least twice that there’s no ooze onto the plates and sure enough there’s none. Ah ha, problem solved and hot pizza this time I imagine. Slowly the paper takes on a slightly burnt appearance and I figure it’s done. Yum. The slice slides easily from the plates to the tray and no messy clean up! Before taking up the knife and fork I go to unwrap the pizza, and somehow, god only knows how this happens, the paper is stuck to the base and the top too. Stuck like flies on fly paper. Thanks to the knife I quickly peel off the top layer of paper and half the topping. The underside isn’t so bad the base splits nicely and within moments I’m eating hot pizza, only it’s half the size I put in the sandwich maker.

Reflecting I realise I could have expected that, given half a moment’s thought, but to be frank it just seemed like such a good idea at the time.