Tag Archives: employees


patienceIn 1966, a freshman at a college in Maine attended a speech given by Floyd McKissick, newly appointed head of the Congress of Racial Equality, better known as CORE.   In the packed auditorium there were no more than a half-dozen African Americans come to hear the “radical” new leader whose mission was to raise awareness of gross racial inequality.  Mr. McKissick’s animated and passionate litany clearly affected the mostly white, middle class audience who sat wide-eyed and still as he detailed the shameful history of persecution to which most of society had turned a blind eye.

A half-century later, it’s hard to articulate the social turmoil of that decade to someone born later.  The marches and mobilizations (such as Mr. McKissick hoped to foment at an unlikely Maine college), the assassinations of leaders of the movement, the lynchings and murders of their followers and advocates, the riots and destruction of property in all our major cities, are now material for history books, dulled by time.   What seemed to many back then to be an impending collapse of society was for persons like Mr. McKissick a major overhaul to an unfair and counterproductive system, a step change for everyone towards the ideals we more fortunate students took for granted.

Near the end of his presentation, Floyd McKissick raised his fist to the audience in a show of emotion and used this analogy to make his case:

“The Man is standing on my neck. I am on the ground and he is choking me.  And he says to me ‘You need to be patient because I need acceptance time for these kind of changes.’”

These words hit their intended target.  Patience is not a virtue when it is an excuse by those in power to forestall positive change.   Further, sometimes testy, impatient mavericks like Mr. McKissock are the advance guard, forging the trail for the rest of us who are trying to create change.

Decades later, working to make improvements in my factory, I was reminded of Mr. McKissick’s remarks when my teacher said to me “Bruce, you should be very patient with the workers but not patient with the managers.”

A belated thanks to Floyd McKissick and other trailblazers.   Happy MLK day.


BTW – My next free webinar will be on Tuesday, Feburary 11, from 3:00-3:45 p.m. EST.  The topic is “Tips for Manager Gemba WalksHope you can join me.  Click here to register.

And you can learn about all of GBMP’s public lean training events here  – from benchmarking Plant Tours to Lean Accounting Workshops, Six Sigma Green Belt Certificate programs and more.

Labor Dazed


A century after the first Labor Day celebration, during a factory re-organization, I discovered firsthand the meaning of “territorial imperative.” Removing organizational boundaries within the shop is one thing, but when you venture into the ‘professional’ parts of the company that’s challenging the natural order!  One office manager, call him Tom, adamantly opposed the idea of moving his department to the floor, next to his internal customer.  Tom had been a good manager and dependable ally during early improvements to the factory floor, but now that his department was directly impacted, he acted as though they were being sucked into a vortex of lesser status.   In a move to provide better internal communication and customer service, factory overhead departments had all been relocated the factory floor. The privacy and seclusion of offices was replaced by open spaces, desks with no cubicles, departments with no walls, and a company receptionist positioned on a raised platform, high enough that she could tell at a glance if someone what at his desk or bench to take an incoming call.  We told our customers “When you call our factory, you’re really calling the factory!”    

While both the internal customer (the factory) and our external customers appreciated the improved service derived from this open concept, Tom had a nagging concern:  “Both my parents worked in a factory their entire lives in order to send me to college and get my masters degree so I wouldn’t have to work in a factory.  This just feels wrong to me.”  I recall getting a bit defensive and suggesting to Tom, “Well I’m sure there are still plenty of companies around who’ll be looking for a persons in three-piece suits.”  I should have been more respectful.  Problem was (and still is) that somewhere along the way from 1894 to 1994, making things had become unimportant – trivialized by visionaries who predicted three-day workweeks.     

So much has changed since the first official Labor Day in 1894 when nearly everybody in the work force would have been classified direct labor.  Today the ratio between direct and indirect labor is somewhere in the 1:4 range.  To be sure, technological changes have effected a good deal of this change if not all for the better.  Still, the trivialization of the frontline worker – the one for whom this holiday was established – continues unabated, increasingly isolating them from those indirect, supposed support services.  In many cases the Gemba is no longer even onshore.   

I have a lighthearted modest proposal for future Labor Days: Let’s make them only for non-exempt employees.  They can have the barbeques; the rest of us professionals can go to work.  

Happy Labor Day! 



A couple reminders: 
My next free webinar, “Tea Time with the Toast Dude”, entitled Managing Up (click to sign up) is coming up Tuesday, September 10 at 3:00 p.m.  I’ve had many requests to weigh in on this subject.  And one lucky participant will win a free registration to our Northeast Region Shingo Conference in Hyannis, MA, September 24-25.  Time is drawing near for our conference.  Don’t miss it!