Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

April 2001

Born supervisor

I have always been more fascinated watching people work than actually getting in there and doing it myself. To be kind, you might say I'm a born supervisor. Far too many will bring the word "lazy" to the top of their minds.

Be that as it may, let me share with you some conclusions (tentative ones; I'm not through watching others work quite yet, thank you.)

Consider a woodpile. Typically, it starts out as a jumble, most often a jumble in an inappropriate place (driveway: blocking the garage; beside the driveway: killing the shrubs; at the end of the driveway: blocking the mailbox.) So, the woodpile in its initial configuration needs processing, sometimes even sawing and splitting. How many valid ways are there to get it from heap to heat?

It absolutely depends on the quality of the work force.

Note well that I have concluded that quality is the precedent variable, not quantity.

A work gang is capable (usually) of moving a pile from here to there. However, their pile over there isn't that dissimilar in form from your pile over here so there remains a need for quality control if you're looking for order and utility. To have the new pile looking and performing better than the old pile, I recommend using a committee of one. For whatever reason, the design, orientation, length, height and depth of the new pile is best left to a singular vision if you want the job accomplished in a weekend.

Now, to the meat of the process: Know your worker.

Some need only be shown the jumbled pile and the target zone. These workers are motivated by work. The larger the pile, the harder they work. They seem to be actually energized by huge tasks. You do want to watch their first few trips to make sure their vision is in focus with future needs such as access to doors, bulkheads, and meters. The upgraded responsibilities for directing the work-motivated worker is a small price to pay for a tear-free quickly repiled pile.

Tear-free? Using almost any other-motivated worker than a work-motivated one to repile piles involves strategies for dealing with weeping and gnashing of teeth (they weep, you gnash.) I've often thought blinders might help. As energized as some are by the enormity of the task, more often workers faced with daunting chores are daunted like crazy. Some can stand and look at a pile of wood longer than it took to grow it.

Short-interval scheduling was born to overcome the overwhelmed. Never, and I mean always "never let folks on short schedules see the big picture." Concentrate on the time to move one log from here to there, "See, that's good! Less than a minute. Great!" Then later, "Oops, you're a log behind. Let's pick it up a little."

At last resort, get a Sony Stackman and load up a CD with every cover of "Working on the Chain Gang." (I think it's in the elevator-music-with-a-beat section of your local music store.)

Speaking of work songs, do you remember the title of the ditty with the line, "He holds the lantern while his mother chops the wood?"

Whatever it takes, keep up the good work; I'm watching. Hey, I'll even hold the lantern.