I have been reading Seth Godin’s book Linchpin lately and I love it more and more every day. Maybe it is something I can relate to because I have a ton of experience working on assembly lines and seeing how people in that environment are treated. He talks about the assembly line model and how we use that model for many different businesses that do not have assembly lines.
I have been blessed in my career so far but I feel that there is something more out there for me then just having a “comfortable” job and fitting in. I think my career so far has been preparing me to step into this coaching role by showing the suffering, pain, and stress in an assembly line environment.
Side note: when I say assembly line I mean any company that produces things with the same mind set as an assembly line. I worked as a project engineer and I felt I was working on an assembly line. Part of the project was pushed to me, I did my part, then I pushed it onto the next person. There is no room for emotions, genuine human interaction, no room for me to be creative in the process. Just doing what I am told.
The suffering, pain, and stress I am referring to is not the 3rd world dictatorship kind. This is the insidious kind that is not easily noticed. It comes from feeling like a cog in a machine where you are not valued as a person. You are to be told what do to and when to do it. There is no room for creativity. Your work is defined to each movement you should make like a mindless machine would be (I just had a realization, we are turning people into machines). To add injury to insult you are slapped on the hand anytime you want to stop acting like a machine and go see your kid’s baseball game or play.
I have started doing lunch and learns with the folks that work on the line to teach them about building effective resumes and the best ways to find work they enjoy. Recently one of the participants mentioned to me they want to become a manager so they can help fix some of the problems.
I started to explain it is a long term losing proposition. In typical manufacturing companies everybody is there to keep the status quo so there is very little innovation and everybody is trying to help everybody else keep things as they always were. So for the company to compete they need to keep lowering prices. To do this they need to keep cutting costs. Part of this cost cutting is my eliminating people to do work.
Now sometimes there are great innovations that make it where you do need less people. You cannot fault a company for this; the purpose of a company is to make money. This is another selling point to have your own business.
Most of the time they are just cutting heads by piling more work on other people. Then they expect managers to do more with less people and take over some of the other manager’s responsibilities. When you cannot do this then you are considered a bad manager.
Some people are better at this than others and will last longer in this process but the push in this direction will eventually clip everybody because it is never ending in cost cutting.
I have seen managers go into roles more attached to production and they are the most stressed and miserable I have ever seen them. I have seen managers gain a ton of weight and others get to the point where they are just going through the motions because they are so stressed and cannot actually think.
My company expects me to go into that role next and that kind of abuse does not appeal to me (another reason to kick this coaching thing into gear).
This race to the bottom is one where everyone loses.
This is why it is not important to just get a management job, it is important to figure out who you are and find a place to work (be it in your own business or for someone else) that you are treated properly.