Sunday, March 23, 2008

Situation Update #2: The Thrilling Conclusion

Let us now pick up the thread of my intense week of anxiety-filled Career Crisis.

WARNING: Christian content ahead!


I escaped the plant to grab a $5 "Meal Deal" at the local SubWay sandwich shop. On the way over I had the Anne Graham Lotz audio tape "My Heart's Cry" in the tape deck. (Since I have two hours' worth of commute every day, I've been listening to tapes from my church library.)

I stopped at the SubWay and got my "usual" SubWay Club, medium drink and a bag of Doritos. While I was eating, I remembered that I needed to get an Easter card, so I decided to go to the card shop at the other end of the plaza.

It was a windy day, so I returned to my car so as to drive to the other end of the parking lot. When I started up the engine, the tape picked up where I had left off.

Anne was relating how she had visited the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. They were all displayed, she said, on black velvet. The velvet was there, she noted, to show off the character and sparkle of the various grapefruit-sized diamonds.

She then related that one day, soon after her trip, her son called to tell her that he had been diagnosed with cancer. Well, what mother ever wants to hear that?

Once she regained her composure, she told her son that this was his black velvet. Regardless of what happened, it would serve as the background against which the Holy Spirit could be displayed and glorified. He could have cancer, undergo chemo and die and still let the character of the Holy Spirit be displayed. He could have an operation, his cancer could go into remission and this could be the backdrop for letting God shine through. The adversity, the situation, would provide the setting against which people could be shown WWJD!

I switched off the car.

I prayed that my situation would be used to allow the Holy Spirit to shine through; that the character of Jesus would be displayed.

At that moment, I felt as if the glowing embers of my panic and anxiety were extinguished. I pictured a big, warm, wet blanket smothering the flames of fear and panic that had been ruling my life for the past week. I felt a measure of peace that had eluded me since the previous Wednesday.

I said a quick prayer of heartfelt thanks, bought my card and returned to the plant.

For the rest of the day, I worked with my inspector and the VP of Quality to tick off as many "to do" items as could possibly be ticked off. I went home and managed to fall asleep and stay asleep.



I took care of a few last-minute tweaks prior to the auditor's arrival.

At 9:15am, the customer's Quality Engineer arrived. We held an opening meeting attended by the Plant Manager, VP of Quality, the visiting VP of Operations and the Branch Manager. The "big guns" then excused themselves and the PM, VP of Q and I stayed on.

Turns out the quality systems audit was the red herring, or Hitchcock called it, the "McGuffin" part of his visit.

Yes, we would review issues associated with certain parts of the audit agenda. Yes, we would give this fellow a plant tour so he could see how the quality system was being used on the shop floor.

The primary agenda had to do with reviewing a half-dozen problems they were having with our product. These bullet points would be reviewed in the afternoon. In the mean time...

The VP of Quality gave an overview of how the quality system was structured and some other corporate-related issues. We started into the audit and I was able to reference the relevant selection from our two 6" thick binders of Quality System documents.

We had lunch.

We did the plant tour.

The PM dropped out at 2:45 for his daily production meeting and we ran down the list of "real" issues the auditor brought with him.

By 3:15 he was gone.

The VP of Quality, Plant Manager and I had a quick review wrap-up meeting to summarize what was needed to answer the half-dozen issues the customer brought to the table and we broke for the day.


There were a few pressing items that I had to take care of before I left for my three-day Easter weekend. I went about signing in some raw material shipments, pulling up reports and interfacing with the second shift inspectors.

I had survived the day. Rather than be left to twist in the wind, I ended up getting help from upper Management and also my coworkers. In fact, I received "atta boys" from the VP of Quality, the Branch Manager and amazingly the Plant Manager! This was the first bit of praise I have heard this fellow give anybody in the four months I have been there. Perhaps he subscribes to the "criticize in public / praise in private" school of thought? Who knows.


Well, my prayers were answered. I have come through that career crisis and now have only the rest of my life to worry about.

Since my department is now officially short-staffed, I will be spreading some of the work I used to do among the inspectors. (It will be mostly filing and clerical stuff.) I have an idea or two on how to streamline some functions that should get us more bang-for-the-buck. And, oh yeah, there's another important audit coming up in April.


I cannot handle everything myself. Help will quite often come from the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times.

The most important time is now. This moment. Sure, plans need to be in place for the future, but NOW is when the future starts. The past is over and can only be of use in learning from it. The future isn't here yet, so all we ever have is NOW.

The Holy Spirit is real and can be counted on, even if I doubt myself. The bad times, the conflicts of life and the adversities can be a backdrop against which the Holy Spirit can be displayed and life can be lived to its fullest.

I appreciate everyone's support, prayers and comments this past week. Much other stuff happened and other people were involved; this has been the "Readers Digest" version, believe it or not.

It looks like I am going to be very busy. I hope I can still visit everyone's blogs. I hope I can get back to writing about funny stuff soon.

Lord willing...

P.S. Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Situation Update #1

Here is the wrap-up for the very uncertain and stress-filled week that just ended.


The weekend saw a gradual increase in over-all anxiety about my job. The second Quality Manager firing in four months has made me apprehensive about my shelf-life with the company. The fact that I was told they weren't going to replace the QM and that I was expected to pick up his duties (in addition to my own!) is also weighing heavily on my mind. The additional treat of having a P.O.'d customer audit scheduled for the up-coming Thursday really kicks the nerves into the next level of jangling.

By this point, a good night's sleep is nothing but a distant memory.


One consolation is discovered when I arrive at work: the Divisional VP of Quality has returned from his week-long business trip. There was some thought that he had scheduled the week as vacation time and that he would not be around for the audit.

Unfortunately, many other issues are swirling around work: new shift patterns, ramping up production with new-hires, etc. Getting ready for the Thursday audit is not a major priority for anyone but me, at this point.

Did I mention that I am now the De Facto supervisor for six Quality Inspectors? Here comes another sleepless night.


At about 10:00am I decided to get a soda from the cafeteria. A quick pat of my back pocket revealed that the wallet is not there. A quick call home reveals that, yes, it was sitting on my dresser. Bringing it to me would entail a two-hour round-trip for my wife and daughter, so I told them not to bother. I had brought my lunch so I didn't need the money.

I was starting to feel like Gary Cooper in High Noon. Every request I made for help was seemingly either rebuffed or ignored. One of my inspectors had been taken away to run production equipment, leaving my area even more short-handed.

Driving home, late, that night my mind was roiling. How will I do it? Am I being set-up? Will I be left to twist in the wind by myself at this audit? Will they show the customer that their "pro-active" response to their quality problems is to fire that jerk they hired four months ago? Will I get unemployment? Will I end up selling my wife and daughter to the gypsies?

I was snapped from my reverie by, you guessed it, the sight of the State Trooper's flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I was so wrapped up in my spiral of career-panic that I didn't notice I was doing 69 MPH in a 55 MPH zone.

The trooper was pretty decent about my utter lack of ID, driver's license and registration. He very well might have let me off with a warning if I had my wallet, but his hand was forced and I ended up with a $150 speeding ticket.

I finally limped home for another sleepless night.


The VP of Operations had been in town all week, by the way. At about 9:00am I am pulled into a conference call with him, the Plant Manager, the Branch Manager and the VP of Quality.

A non-problem with our customer had been conflated to the point that the home office had been contacted and the "big boys" needed a briefing. This related to the trip the PM and I took last week. We met with the customer's Quality Engineer and, after measuring some of our product's parameters, he reviewed some associated drawings and admitted we were not the cause of their problems. It was a disconnect at a different level. Unfortunately, the customer didn't get the message and gigged us for the problem, anyway. Despite my nerves and sleep-deprivation I managed to be an asset to the meeting.

The VP of Quality and I finally had a chance to compare notes about the events of the previous week. We also reviewed what might be needed to get ready for the audit the next day. He suggested I press one of the inspectors into service in checking some things on the shop floor. He also was able to dig up some material for the previous audit. This went a long way toward setting the script of our responses this time around.

I met with my inspector and outlined what I needed her to do. She sprang into action and I got about my business, as well.

With my wallet now safely in my pocket, I went out to lunch...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Status Report: SNAFU

I've been at my "new" job about four months, now.

A quick summary:

I left my last job on good terms.

I started the new job, as Quality Engineer at a manufacturing plant, on 11/12/08.

On 11/16/08 they fired the Quality Manager.

On 11/19/08, the new Quality Manager started. He and I, it appeared, were to be the "new white hope(s)" who were going to really fix things and "change the culture."

This past Wednesday, they fired the "new" Quality Manager! It happened while I was out of the office, visiting one of our customers with the Plant Manager.

Upon my return, I was sent to the new Branch Manager's office and told of the firing.

Their plan? They're not going to hire anyone else. I will be picking up the Quality Manager's duties, apparently in addition my own, current, duties. No promotion, no pay increase, no choice.

Now, before coming on board, I had been praying fervently for a better-paying job with full benefits. My paychecks are now twice what they were at my previous job and as of a month ago, the medical plan kicked in for me and my family. So I thank God for providing me this blessing.

But I have been really blind-sided by this turn of events.

I'm getting the feeling that this place likes to make the Quality Manager the "fall guy" and that the standard corrective action for problems is now "fire the Quality Guy!" I am feeling waves of anxiety that I haven't experienced since 1997.

On one hand, I know I have talents and abilities that I can bring to the party and I feel I could truly help improve the administration of their quality system. But, on the other hand, I've been running into managerial roadblocks that seem to be thwarting my best efforts.

And now I've just had a whole Middle Management yoke clamped around my neck.

I don't see how I can do both jobs, even under the best of circumstances.

My short term plan?

Do my very best.

And keep praying.

I can only believe that I am where I am right now for a reason...