Trimech customers get #1 rated treatment

I'm a BSME with copious design and MFG experience that realized that technology needs to change the way that we work. Through many
companies, including 3 that I owned and founded, I've learned that the needs extend far beyond the engineering group.
Once upon a time, there was a company, and in this company was a group. The leader was a...well he was a bizarre sort, very technical, not much in the social skills and certainly not great in terms of management skills. But he was pretty damn good at what he did and he was in charge of the group. Under his tutelage, the group flourished, knocking down significant backlogs, increasing the value to the clients through a variety of initiatives. This group earned kudos from their clients, admiration from their vendors, and the group was used as a primary differentiator against competitors.
The upper management of the company then decided that this group belonged under operations, instead of technical, and moved the group to another functional silo, another wing of the org chart, and they were now direct reports to the President. The president did have all of the management skills (or so we assume) and indeed had managerial experience, but was in no way technical. The group started on a downward slide, but still managed to stay afloat.
The upper management intervened again, deciding that it would be more cost-effective to move this group to another state, to the operations center (away from the founder of the group). Along with this move, all of the group members would now become direct reports to a mid-level manager who was a direct report of the President. The new manager had little or no management experience, but used to be technical, having moved to another technical area of the company a few years earlier.
In fairly short order, the group started to slip. Call backlogs raged, clients raged even louder, vendors became incensed with the volume of complaints that they were receiving about their "star."
A few of the articles and books that I've been reading have made me ponder this situation and what went wrong. The mode of operation of this group in their heyday, was one of self-sufficiency. Since he had very little management or people skills, the group leader positioned himself more as a group mentor, allowing (or even insisting that) the team members make their own decisions. When they couldn't make their own decisions, or ran into a technical problem that they couldn't solve, they would go back to the team leader who would walk them through the logic to help them understand the answer, the logic leading up to it, and the reasoning behind it. When the group was thrown across silos, they still remained in the same physical location, and they still relied on that same mentor, even though he was no longer a part of their group. So while the group did start to falter, even more when the President insist that the leave the mentor alone so he can work on other initiatives, they still had that crutch to lean on to keep them out of a jam. Once they moved away from the mentor and received a middle-manager, they made the move from being empowered team members to being "direct reports" and the bureaucracy of hierarchy hit them hard. They lost the freedom to act in the best interest of the client or the company and had to start waiting on management to develop "corporate lines" to address every situation.
There certainly were a lot of other factors involved, personality clashes ensued (these seemed more difficult and cumbersome once the bureaucratic process was imposed on them), some of the technical management tools used to keep the group together fell by the wayside, and so on. Upper management decided to add yet another layer of managers and now the direct reports were buffered from the owners by two brick walls of management. And the owners were now three levels away from their clients.
A lot of talk these days centers around hierarchical structures getting so obscene that the upper management is so far removed from their clients that they have no idea of what's going on out there. I've seen three layers of management introduced in companies of less than forty employees. As I said in an earlier entry, ye olde one manager to six direct reports theorem is only still valid if you hire people that cannot be trusted to make decisions.
The Opinion section of the May 2005 HBR by Frank Furedi entitled "Treat Employees Like Adults" addresses the dumbing down of organizations that is fueled by paranoia and an aversion to risk. Furedi goes on to point out that overly restrictive employee codes are formulated by lawyers to "protect the company", but the net effect that they have is that every comment and action that occurs between two employees, is immediately put under the microscope to determine if (based on the code) they should be offended or if they should initiate sub-management notification process 14? The net result is that people censor themselves and simply aim to fly below the radar and not make waves, lest they get crucified as described in the handbook or as they've seen the fate of others in the past.
These robots that have been created will strive to keep their jobs, and that's it. While management shields them from information about what's really going on in the company ("that's strictly on a need-to-know-basis, now get back to work"), the employees soon realize that they are not allowed to make their own decisions and the primary source of the truth becomes the rumor mill. They have severe demotivators preventing expression of free thought, developing any kind of working relationships amongst colleagues, and certainly against innovation or questioning any of the company's assumptions.

Hierarchy are a great way to run a 1912 Ford Assembly line, but they just don't hold up in today's innovate or die eConomy. Companies focus on hiring the best and the brightest, you need to let them shine.
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Funny, this is a great read.
I started as a consultant at Firm A and did quite well and had all the freedom in the world. At one point Firm A received a huge contract from Firm B and decided to higher me on full time for less money but guaranteed work for years to come. I said yes unfortunately but at the same point it looked good to not have to look for more clients or dealing with the crappy bill collections, so I for a percent of profits returned from my other clients thrown into Firm A's pool, it seemed an ok deal. Anyhow things seemed ok for a bit but slowly our team leader was pulled into Firm B's way of thinking. The downward slide began....
Firm B in the bigger fish swallows smaller fish scenario (I am the minnow swallowed earlier) Buys out Firm A under the same pretense Firm A took me in so I in the period of 6 Months have gone from being a consultant to employee of Firm A and then Firm B and more bureaucracy is brought in.... Sliding faster. At this point I have gone from being looked at as a peer and enjoying the shared respect for each other, to being an employee and "do what I say and dont ask questions" feeling belittled and quite frankly pissed off at the situation.
Now today they have taken my previous clients I gave to Firm A and dumped them to another company without asking me and of course not giving me the Percentage Firm A promised me. The excuse is that We are Firm B and we did not promise you that Firm A did so go talk to them and sort it out...Maybe they missed something here Firm A NO F%&$^ LONGER EXISTS! Ghaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!
Next the upper management after implementing a new command structure cannot understand why there is a total loss of productivity and why it takes longer and more money to do what was done before with the same people.... They decide to give me a full project to do on my own again, that should improve things right a little empowerment for the masses.... At first deemed to be a good move. But after trying to get help from the once peers but now bosses, well they just dont have time to help the little people like me, but were kind enough to put up red tape and other obstacles for me to deal with instead.
Well there are others now looking like they want to jump ship, besides myself. Word to the wise. IF IT AINT BROKE DONT FIX IT! But funny how greed and more money delusions make people forget this one thing.
Very similar to what you have here in your article. The only add in is my DumbAssidness of leaving my consultancy has put me at do not pass go do not collect $200 and start again. Wish me luck! Now I just have to poise myself for the leave cause my wife and I are going to have our first baby in 6 months...
Sorry to vent like this, I initially intended to say "good article" thanks. And then the flood gates opened. But for what it is worth I do feel better now. Kinda hope someone in the company reads this.
Ben
snipped-for-privacy@verizon.net wrote:

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That, very accurately, describes what my previous company "grew" into over the course of the ten years I was there. During that time, we went from a 2M a year company, to nearly 40M.
In the beginning it was fun. We all worked together, and we could design, build, and debug, a whole automated production line amazingly fast. About year 5 or 6, the walls started going up. Groups were compartmentalized, managers (unbelievably stupid ones) were hired, and the turf wars began. What a total waste. They went belly up a year after I left.
Mark
----- Original Message -----
Newsgroups: comp.cad.solidworks Sent: Thursday, August 25, 2005 12:36 PM Subject: Trimech customers get #1 rated treatment

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Ben feels validated thank you... Gahhh! Ben is doing the third person thingy like BobZ now. Ben has to stop...
Thanks Mark, I am not alone in the world...
MM wrote:

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See what happens when you leave?
The last two companies I left closed 3 months and 3 weeks (respectively) after _I_ left.
Sad but true.
S.M.-"The Closer"-Adams
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To summarize this:
1. People can work together efficiently. Any people, even those without "people skills". 2. Products can be designed efficiently and rapidly, even complex products. 3. To do 2 requires 1. 4. Management's job is to recognize what causes 1 to occur and at the least allow it and at the most encourage it. 4a. Management's job is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the managed and direct the managed in a way that utilizes the strengths and avoids the weaknesses. 5. Management's job is to understand 2 or leave it to those that do.
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Thoughtful and relevant insights
Training, experience, learning the business from the ground up, followed by promotion have been largely replaced by text book business managers and selfish individuals with a shortage of common sense and practical instincts. Many (not all) of these trendy individuals honestly believe they are the chosen few who really understands what a company needs to succeed and the rest are clueless or insignificant. I believe the majority of working employees care about the quality of their work and respect and help fellow associates to excel. These people are the backbone of the organization and not the other way around. Unfortunately, it only takes a few bad apples top down to spoil the whole barrel.
Kman

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