Monday, May 16, 2022

Industrial Fiction, Offer made. Offer accepted

The story starts HERE

“You just had to drop a coupla hand-grenades into the septic tank, didnt-ya?” the graybeard softened the accusation with a chuckle.

For a change, the graybeard had called Snodgrass. It was 9 in the evening and it had been a very long day.

“Point being” the graybeard said “going back to the office in the morning might not be the wisest thing for you to do.”

It had not occurred to Snodgrass to NOT go to the office the next morning.

“Should I work from home?” he asked.

“Nope. Go back to the plant and report in to the Project Launch Manager. You don’t work for her, of course, but wheels are turning” the graybeard said.

“What is going to happen to my boss?” Snodgrass asked. It was inconceivable to him that Lonnie Cross would be able to hang onto his position as manager of the site purchasing department.

“That is a question you are not supposed to ask. It really isn’t your concern. Suffice it to say that he is in your past” the graybeard informed him. “NOTHING good will come from you having any information about what happens to him.”

“You said ‘wheels are turning’, can you educate me about that?” Snodgrass asked.

“Normally, at this stage of a product launch the launch team is dissolving. People are finding positions to return to” the graybeard told him.

“The project manager agreed to take you on to smooth the transition. You are going to pick up the bits-and-pieces of team-member jobs as they leave. In effect, you will be the project manager’s man-Friday.”

“I am not sure I want to be somebody’s executive assistant” Snodgrass said, bristling. He wasn’t the one who had screwed up so why was he being punished.

“You are looking at this wrong. You won’t be glorified secretary. You will be how the project manager can be in two places at once. You will get a very close look at how a fast-tracker operates. Most of our Vice Presidents cycled through a job like this. It is a great way to see how all the pieces fit together but on a smaller, more comprehensible scope.”

Snodgrass showed up at the plant at six in the morning. The place was already humming.

He went to the station where the can-opener was installed and watched for a while. Half of the product going through the station was the new, high-profit model. According to chatter Snodgrass heard the day before, there were other bottlenecks that prevented them from running 100%.

He had been watching for about 20 minutes when he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Paula Stevens, the Launch Manager. “Come with me” she said, beckoning him with a crooked finger.

Snodgrass wasn’t any good at guessing women’s ages but he guessed she was a little bit older than he was.

Her skin glowed with the deep luminescence of supremely good health. She glided the way a cheetah walks just before dropping down into the final sprint to catch dinner. Her hair was pale, straight and in a short, practical cut. Her fingernails were closely trimmed and her polish was clear-matte. Otherwise she appeared to not be wearing a speck of makeup. Her clothing was on the casual-side of business-casual, heavy on cotton knits that were loose enough to allow free range-of-motion yet tight enough to not have danglely bits that could get caught in machinery.

She led him to a small stand-up table near the end of the segment of production line dedicated to the can-opener. The other pedestrians moving down the aisle subtly adjusted their paths to create a bubble around the table. Instant privacy in a crowd. Plants tend to be rich in ambient noise. Nobody more than ten feet away could hear their conversation.

“Thank-you for agreeing to take me in when I needed a place to stay” Snodgrass led. His mama raised him to say “Thank-you” when he couldn’t think of anything else to say. The habit had served him well.

“I asked for you” Paula said, brushing off his thanks.

“But there is one thing we need to be crystal-clear about right from the get-go. In case you don’t recognize it, I am giving you an official ass-chewing” Paula said.

“You will never, never leave me in the position you left Lonnie Cross”

Snodgrass started to say something but she cut him off.

“I don’t care about extenuating circumstances. I don’t care that he never made it back to the office the night before. I don’t care if he is sloppy about reading his emails.” It was clear that Paula Stevens had a very solid information network.

“You will not contact management two levels above me unless you are absolutely sure you got me in the loop first.”

“Call me. Text me. Find me….I am on the factory floor twelve hours a day. I am not hard to find.”

“We are going to argue. I only recruit passionate people. We will argue and you will win some and lose some. We do not undercut the team by running to top-management or going behind people’s back.

“If you cannot agree to that condition, I have no use for you and we are done here.” Paula said.

Yup. The kind of lady who got down to brass-tacks.

“What if I cannot agree with the team?” Snodgrass asked.

“It depends on how much you disagree. I never get 100% of what I want but I have learned to be very happy to get 70% of what I want.”

“If you cannot do that, or if the team goes in a direction is something you absolutely cannot support then resign.” Paula said.

Snodgrass thought for a few seconds. Nobody had ever come right out and talked so plainly about commitment and loyalty.

“I can and I will abide by those conditions” Snodgrass said without reservation.

Paula Stevens extended her hand and said “Welcome aboard, Mr Snodgrass.”

Next Installment


  1. I like it Joe. Reminds of The Goal by Eliyahu Godratt. Best introduction by way of fiction to a business principal I ever read.

    Very early in my burgeoing career, I made the mistake of going to HR when the new director said "If you have any concerns, come and see me". It was, as you indicate, going four levels above my then management stream. The thing got changed - ultra low salaries for our pay grade - but I never, ever made the mistake of skipping management again (my supervisor knew we were going, but no one farther up).