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Management Side
Week of 6 September 2021: Management Today

Email Jim at jim.thompson@ipulpmedia.com

This is my 52nd September in the workforce. I think management is tougher than ever. Think about it--when I started even OSHA did not exist. People were glad to have jobs and they put up with all sorts of things at work that simply aren't tolerated today, both from the standpoint of society's mores and from a labor regulatory perspective.

Managers in those days had often had their first supervisory role in Europe or the Pacific in World War II, perhaps as a sergeant or a 2nd lieutenant. Now, in 1970, they were 45 - 55 years old and they took no prisoners. You did what you were told to do, or you hit the streets. The human resource department was there to ring you in and ring you out--they did not hold hands with you the moment a tear appeared in the corner of your eye. These leaders were all about command and control; that had been the way they were taught in the military when their lives were on the line.

I know I work much harder today, internally and externally, to compose my thoughts in order to manage people properly. As compared to the earlier portion of my career, this extra time is a wash or better in terms of overall accomplishments mastered each day because we have so many efficiency tools today. In other words, there is more time to manage to today's standards.

We have had to clean up our language, and I am not talking about those words that would be categorized as swear words or cuss words (sometimes, they seem as prevalent at ever). I am talking about terms that were derogatory to certain classes, genders and so forth. There are words and phrases that just don't fly any more under any circumstances.

It is a given today that "diversity" is a good thing. I largely agree with this, particularly when it comes to creativity and understanding the customer. However, there are some jobs where diversity can be a hindrance. Such jobs need quick action with clarity of purpose. Example--you are a squad leader in your local fire department. You speak one language, everyone on your squad speaks a different language from you and from each other. This is diversity to the extreme. I think your squad is going to have a difficult job putting out a raging house fire. This is a complication that you all can be trained out of (everyone takes classes to learn one language) but it doesn't happen in the "heat of the battle."

I hear lots about different work ethics from generation to generation. I can tell you, when I was young, we were called lazy. Often that was because we did not know what to do--we were hesitant or intimidated with the conditions facing us. Such situations can be interpreted as being lazy and this is still true.

I must admit, one of my favorite management roles over the years was being what we called "mechanical pusher" during mill shutdowns on nightshift. I got to yell a lot. Here was the drill. You were handed a list of pump motors to change out. Perhaps you had two nights to do this, depending on the number of motors to be changed on that outage. You had to pull the old motor, check the new motors for electrical integrity, align and install the new motors and couplings, making sure you did not leave any soft feet. Then reconnect them electrically and check for proper rotation.

A bit of explanation on alignment and soft feet. In those days, motor alignment was done by hand, using trigonometry and a simple calculator (today, there's an app for that). A "soft foot" is when you do not properly shim under one of the four feet of the motor, which leaves the motor casing in an unnatural tension when you properly torque the bolts holding it down. As the mechanical pusher, you were usually assigned two mechanics and an electrician to assist you in doing this job. It's dark (you might be working with a flashlight between your teeth--headband lights had not been invented yet), it might be raining, it is definitely dirty, and you are under a time constraint. To me, that was real management--and fun.

For safety this week, I have described a couple of scenes where safety is at risk. This is why we train and retrain our safety principles.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

________

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