Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2014

Outlaw Management: My Anger and Disappointment With the Sons of Anarchy, Jax Teller, and Kurt Sutter

     I have always enjoyed quality drama in books, television, and movies.  It is so admirable the creative ways that authors use to conjure believable characters out of nothing but pure inspiration.  The use of the word “conjure” is pivotal in its importance with this article since fictional characters are created, not born and raised from birth.  All too often, people fall into the “Star Trek Character Trap” (I just made that up) where they over analyze the consistency and depth of fictional scripts.  Back in 1986, a memorable skit on SNL, starring Bill Shatner at a Star Trek convention poked fun at the fans for over-analyzing the show into minutia.  Shatner’s stabbing lines including “Get a Life!”, and “ . . .move out of your parent’s basement . .” coupled with the players’ characters reactions (Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, and Kevin Nealon) were priceless.  Forget all of the controversy and upset fans, the truth is that the show, like so many other iconic creations was 100% conjur

Self-Esteem can be destroyed as easily as pulling petals off of a bouquet of roses.

As a middle manager, we are often the target of the frustration from our direct reports.  This is particularly intense if you are in a manufacturing environment where you may have dozens of hourly employees as well as salaried supervisors reporting to you.  In a previous post back in February 2011, I wrote about the importance of communication ( ) when relaying news, both good and bad.  The ultimate squeeze play is when we are the bearers of bad news and are forced to deal with the negative response of those in our charge. In many situations, I have correctly and politely communicated to my superiors of the probable response that a new directive or program will illicit from the workforce. This is mainly an informative exchange, and not a refusal to relay the information.  Sometimes I am not so polite, in fact, my responses have been recently characterized as frank, succinct, and colorful.  It is important

There Would Not Be Labor Day, Without the American Laborer

As Labor Day approaches, I again have been contemplating what it takes to be a valuable middle manager.  I grew up in the Detroit area and have worked in Michigan for half of my adult life.  As an engineer I was attracted to heavy industry.  The first third of my career was spent at a large integrated steel mill with 3500+ employees organized by the United Steel Workers of America.  As a 28 year old general foreman, nothing prepared me for the daily confrontations of an organized environment.  My father, taught me important lessons relating to why companies become organized by unions, and how it has been usually the fault of poor management.  Poor management directly correlates with the poor treatment of the workforce.  During the middle third of my career, I joined a newer steelmaker that was a vibrant and growing leader in the steel industry.  The management of the company were also its owners, and fully understood the integral part that the workforce played in the success of the c

The Strength of Manufacturing, Today and Tomorrow

During a recent staff meeting, I grabbed a can of soda from the mini-fridge in the conference room.  There was one lonely can of Vernors Ginger Ale amongst the plethora of cans of Pepsi, and Diet Pepsi.  Normally, I don't drink regular soda because of the sugar, but a spicy Vernors sure did sound good.  If you aren't familiar with Vernors, it's a long-time Detroit favorite.  A once regional product, it has become a nationwide staple.  Different from Canada Dry or Schwepps ginger ale, Vernors has a unique darker color and spiciness that makes it an acquired taste. The logo of Vernors has always been an old style wooden stave barrel with riveted wrought iron bands.  Even this particular can was dressed up like an old barrel.  While holding the can in my hand, my mind was flooded of thoughts and memories about my connection with Detroit, and my grandfather, great uncle, and great grandfather that were in the barrel and crate business.  The business later transformed, just

Blogger Meets The Lawnmower Man

Back in 1982, while I was in the 8th grade at Birney Middle School, I had my first computer class. The school had just received about twenty new Apple II+ machines and we were learning to program using AppleBasic.  I took to the Apple very quickly, and my friends and I soon developed game copying rings and programming clubs. Back in 1982, I wanted nothing else. Steven Jobs's concept of putting the computers in school classrooms at cost was genius.  Their placement was a perfect ploy to entice parents to buy them at home since their student children were already strong users from school experience.  This marketing approach was further expanded when the first Mac computers were introduced in 1984.  By the time I started college in 1986, the dorm computer centers were full of them.  The Mac was a huge step in user interface quality, being young and eager drove me to integrate the technology and to become proficient in their operation.  While in college at The University of Michi

Self Centeredness - A Tale of Two Books

    One of my favorite books is  Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.  I read it on my own while in middle school, a second time by assignment in High School, and a third time while I was a student in college.  Mr. Salinger succinctly illustrates a timeless picture of teenage angst and a young man's realization of his self-centered behavior.  Some of the language or descriptions slightly date the book.  However, unlike so many classics read in High School, it allows an opportunity for any young man, and young women to take a look inside themselves to see even just a sliver of self-realization.      One of the least favorite books (mainly because of the main character) is Rabbit Run  by John Updike.  I read this book about two years ago. I was travelling back from Florida with my son Alek.  We were both listening to a program on NPR (on the day of the author's birthday) which included several past interviews with John Updike by Terry Gross.  During one of the interviews both