Catch Me If You Can. Prophet Version

    I am not the Prophet you may have thought of. I am that prophet who is not in my own country. I do not play the popular game “catch me if you can”. I do not need to be caught, I am always at hand. I am always busy with business. Not just working, fulfilling duties and following directions, like most, but trying to improve at least something around me.

    Unfortunately, I am a man of the old school. I am sixty years old and I am an intellectual. Now, as in the last hundred years, this word sounds either as a curse word, or - as an excuse for inaction, weakness and infantility. But I have nothing to make excuses for.

    I am one of those people on whom our plant is based. But, as follows from the first sentences of my story, nobody cares about this fact. More precisely, it was not. The other day, a King appeared in our area (he never named his name, and it was very inconvenient to communicate). Yesterday he came to me. We talked for a long time - to be honest, I did not expect this young man to be so educated, interesting and deep person. He explained to me that I am a Prophet.

    At the end of the conversation, the King left me to read Jim Collins's book “From Good to Great,” and recommended that special attention be paid to the chapter on level 5 leaders. To be honest, I am amused by these current trends in inventing various ranks, steps, belts and other markings, but the King managed to interest me, saying that the book was written based on the results of serious research. Thanks to this book, I realized who I should become, but I will never become the head of the enterprise.

    The book simply and lucidly describes, using several foreign companies as an example, how people with destiny, experience and worldviews like mine achieve brilliant success on the basis of enterprise management. A detailed description of the reasons why this happens and why a real leader should grow inside the enterprise, and not be attracted from outside, is given. Only a person who has grown up in a company and has come a long way with her - preferably at the age of 15, understands and feels her, in the literal sense.

    But, as you might imagine, such a fate is not destined for me - at the wrong time we live. Now is the time of “effective” managers. I have been watching this phenomenon for a long time, and I want to share a few thoughts on this subject. And I hope you will see that the time now is exactly the same as it always has been.

    In factories, at positions at all levels, three types of people were always present. The classification is my own, so I apologize if it matches or does not match any of the existing ones, including - with your.

    The first - who came just to work, most of them. Workers, storekeepers, drivers, accountants, economists, procurers, designers, technologists, etc. - almost all specialties. Many mid-level managers appointed after many years of good service are also of this type. Good, nice, honest people. But there is also a minus - by and large, they don’t care about the company they work for. They would not want the company to fall apart, or reduce staff, or begin to introduce any changes, because violation of stability of life awaits them - the most unpleasant event for them.

    The second - those who have come to create, improve and move forward. It is to create, and not to intend to create, to prepare to create, discuss, plan or coordinate the creation of something. Silently, stubbornly, with soul, sparing no effort and time. There are few such people. People of the second type sincerely love their enterprise, but what’s interesting: they don’t improve because they love, but they love because they improve. They have a feedback system, when you start to love what you care about. Also, dog breeders fall in love with each of their pets, because before his purchase there is no love, it appears in the process. People of the second type love their every job, every enterprise, and sincerely want, try and make it better.

    Actually, these are the Prophets that no one wants to notice. He put it wrong - they are noticed, known, appreciated and loved. People of the first type. And why they never take the helm, I think it’s already clear. Because there are people like number three.

    The third type is those who have come to receive. In fact, another word comes from the modern vocabulary, but I will not stoop to their level, and try to express my idea in a civilized Russian language. I hope you understand me.

    People of the third type were always present at the enterprises, but they were called differently. In Soviet times, these were, as a rule, political workers, and the children of other, more senior political workers. There was little harm from them, because they didn’t have to do anything to ... Not important. They had nothing to do. They came to receive - and they received. Just because they are from the caste.

    In leadership positions involving real work, decision making and responsibility, then there were people of either the first or second types. It was simply impossible in another way - the planned economy worked. It is now, with poor management, the company may simply disappear, incl. physically turning into another shopping center. In Soviet times, the plant could disappear only by order - as, for example, during the evacuation of 1941-42. It was a kind of self-defense of the system from inefficient management.

    In the 90s there was a failure - people of the third type almost disappeared from the shops. We can only mention the "brothers" - they also came to receive. But, as a rule, their visits were limited to high offices. Occasionally came to us when there were two raider seizures. But, I repeat, they did not particularly intervene in the matter, only at the level of the plant’s overall operability (during the capture it was absent, for natural reasons).
    People of the third type, which are now in almost all enterprises, you know - these are the same "effective" managers. They come to the factory to receive. But it’s not easy to receive - to receive within the framework of the “theme”. I apologize, I could not find a decent and understandable synonym for this "topic". The word, in itself, is not bad, but the meaning that is embedded in it does not hold water.

    The meaning is simple: to see a popular “topic”, read a couple (at best) books on it, remember the first moves to introduce a “topic” (as Ostap Bender knew the first move of a chess game), and competently “sell yourself”. For each component, there is a ton of information on the Internet, especially on “selling,” as universal, between “thematic” practices.
    “Them” is full. The first, as I recall, the site creators came to us in the late nineties. Then this service simply cost a lot of money, so the director did not go for such investments.
    Then there was automation, on the early versions of the now popular platform. These guys have already managed to get into us, and the need, in general, was, especially in the field of accounting.

    Next came certification according to international standards of the ISO series. Perhaps, nothing more unreasonable, and at the same time ingenious, I have never met in my life. You will immediately understand the foolishness if you think about the purpose of the system of standards: to describe the typical processes of most enterprises. It’s the same as developing a single GOST for all industries.

    In principle, nothing is impossible - if you remove the details of a particular production, you get a universal standard. But what will remain in it if you remove the very details of a particular production? “Work well, try, love your customers, pay bills on time and plan production”? So even in this formulation there are moments that are not relevant for several productions that I personally saw.

    And what is genius? In that, despite the objective unreasonability of the idea, it sold excellently. This standard was implemented by all manufacturing enterprises in Russia. The theme is so strong and the ability of people of the third type to sell it.

    Around the middle of the zero, according to my observations, a radical change occurred that gave rise to these most “effective” managers. You have noticed that until now “topics” came to the plant from outside - these were literally external companies, the contractors with whom we entered into an agreement, worked on something together, and somehow parted. And in the middle of the 2000s, specific people began to budge from the contractors.

    These specific people caught the “topic” - it makes no sense to sit in the contractor company, do the work under the contract, receiving a small piece-rate salary or a percentage of the amount. We must go where the whole amount is waiting - to the factory.

    The first implementers of 1C came. They lived for themselves, all the factories worked, and suddenly it turned out that no one can live without automation, and certainly - at 1C. Out of nowhere, a lot of specialists appeared who perfectly understood business processes, were able to choose the right solutions, but, for some reason, never achieved any result significant for the plant, and at the same time, requiring huge amounts of money for their work. Even now, a decent 1C programmer costs more than a good technologist, designer, often - chief engineer, chief accountant, financial director, etc.

    Then the programmers suddenly, as if by magic, turned into CIOs. While they were sitting at a computer in their development environment, it was still possible to argue about the benefits of their work - but at least they did something with their hands. Having become CIOs, they stopped working at all. To be honest, my personal opinion is that the most “effective” managers are IT directors.

    Following came the specialists in implementing ISO. I myself saw how decent people, engineers who worked at our enterprise, once sensed this “theme”. It was literally like that. The plant decided to get an ISO certificate - it was necessary to get some contacts from representative offices of foreign companies.

    Invited consultant, certified auditor. He came, taught, helped, received his money, but still decided to brag, and told the engineers how much he made. As far as I remember, it was a question of a sum of one thousand euros for the day the chief auditor worked at the field audit. It was about 2005, the euro was worth forty rubles. Imagine what kind of fire caught fire in the eyes of engineers who received, God forbid, fifteen thousand rubles a month.

    And all you need is to get an auditor certificate. Of course, on-site audits do not happen every day, but there is still no end to customers, and there is a shortage of specialists - after all, few people sensed the “topic”. And the engineers followed him. Five people left, two really became auditors - I’m not sure that they were the main ones, but they were definitely at work. True, they are now living somewhere in the QMS or OTC.

    With ISO implementers, a story happened similar to the transformation of 1C programmers into IT directors - a quality director appeared at almost every plant. Or a former auditor, or a former consultant, or a former participant in the implementation of ISO by the customer. In any case, a person who senses a “topic”.

    Any “topics”, in my opinion, are very similar to each other. Their main feature is that no one can really explain why the plant needs them. Without slogans and attempts to sell themselves, but in the language of at least economics or elementary logic. Examples of successful growth of financial or economic indicators, clearly caused by automation or the implementation of the standard - units. And, as a rule, not from Russian practice, but from the founders of these practices, or at least their direct followers.

    Sitting on the "topic" I watched not only among engineers and programmers. One acquaintance professor, at one time, also realized that something had to be changed, and went to consultants. He is a really smart man, and of all the popular topics he chose the Goldratt Systems Theory of Constraints. He studied it thoroughly, according to all sources, studied the whole practice, was deeply imbued and began to "sell" himself.

    At first it went very successfully - the “theme” worked and generated income. But soon the "topic" was gone - and, according to the professor, it does not depend on the success of the application of a particular technique. It’s just that there is a certain mod created by the very “effective” managers. Either they praise the CBT, then they stop and begin to promote something else - easier to understand and learn, more difficult to implement (to stay in the enterprise for a long time), and with more smeared, hidden and incomprehensible results.

    Enterprises react to fashion, and stop ordering the same CBT, and ask for Scrum already. The professor switched to this technique. Again, I studied thoroughly - as befits a serious scientist. And the technique itself, and those on which it is based. Now he had two instruments for sale in his portfolio.

    But, surprisingly, everyone needs only the one that is heard. Literally this: the professor comes to the director, studies the problems, and says - you need CBT. No, the director answers, we need Scrum. The professor explains in detail, in figures, that TOC will bring a real increase in profits in specific areas, due to understandable actions. No, the director says, we want Scrum. Because there and there have already implemented Scrum. The professor does not stand it, and offers to go all-in - to make a project for free, but to get a small share of the profit growth. No, the director answers, only Scrum.

    The professor no longer has a choice - he cannot sell what will help clients. He sells what customers ask, what's in fashion, what is untwisted. Moreover, he perfectly understands that the essence of the same Scrum, as it were, to put it mildly ... Not that it was copied from some source. She completely repeats several techniques that existed in the Soviet Union.

    For example, if anyone remembers, there were such self-supporting teams. Exactly the Scrum team (for example, the autonomous group of journalists described in the book of Jeff Sutherland in the revolution-ridden Egypt). Almost completely autonomous team receives the task - to do so many details. For the issued volume, the team leader will receive money, which he will distribute within the team at his discretion. Team Leader - Elective Position. How management is built from the inside is the team’s own business; no one intervenes from the outside. No techniques, books, seminars, stand-ups, boards and other tinsel - only those methods that help to achieve the result more quickly take root. And it worked, in every factory, without “effective” managers and self-confident young guys from social networks, in bright T-shirts, with a beard all over the face and good knowledge of foreign languages.

    If you are interested, then read a very interesting study by Alexander Petrovich Prokhorov entitled “Russian Management Model”. This is a study - on each page there is at least one link to the source (articles in scientific journals, books, studies, biographies, memoirs). Unfortunately, such books are almost never written. A modern management book, if it contains links, is only to previous books by the same author.

    In general, distinguishing an “effective” manager is very simple. He is like a sales assistant in an electronics store. If this happened to you - come buy, for example, a phone or laptop, take a closer look, a consultant is suitable, offers help. You ask - and which phone has a high-speed hard drive. What is he doing? That's right, begins to read labels with you. Or takes out a phone, opens a website (not the fact that his company), and searches there.

    Compare, for example, with the seller of power tools on the market - the fact that he owns the shop for many years. We have this Sergei Ivanovich, on the radio market. He knows his goods from and to. He will always exchange if something is broken, without checks and receipts. He will always come to the buyer’s home and show how to use the device. He does not know anything about telephones, televisions and computers, and does not pretend that he knows. I chose a path - a power tool, I studied it thoroughly, and it works. How many years the radio market has been operating, how much is the shop of Sergei Ivanovich. Yes, he doesn’t have the same turnover and profit as Leroy Merlin or Castorama. But I want to work with him, and not with a store consultant. Because professionalism is still important, albeit leveled, to a large extent, by the dominance of "effective" managers.

    We had a teacher at the institute who liked to make fun of students. How many years of work, so much, convinces everyone around: you are the most mediocre students, and every year everything is worse. His favorite joke: if you, engineers, are sent to the factory for a bucket of tension - you’ll go! For fun, try asking the consultant in the store - what is the dichotomous majorization of the matrix for this phone? Going to find out what you think? I tried - he went. Because I could not find it on the Internet.

    “Themes” are changing, and there are more and more “effective” managers. I will be like my teacher, and I will say that even “effective” managers used to be better. Every year they are younger and, unfortunately, worthless. They even forgot how to talk and discuss.

    I’m not an old stubborn grunt who argues with everyone in a row, just for the sake of argument. I really want to understand, try to apply, and get results from what they preach. But, alas, they themselves do not understand what they are selling. They are consultant boys from an electronics store.

    I read books about all the techniques that are on the list of “topics”. I introduced some of them in production, and they brought results. For example, Kanban is not the one that suddenly became a software development management technique, but the one that was invented by Taiichi Ono at Toyota plants and served to accelerate the product life cycle by reducing interoperational stocks. What do you think, when the next “effective” manager came to us with the intention to introduce Kanban, what was our conversation about?

    That I have to retire. The fact that Kanban evolved and turned into ... Then the "effective" manager got a little confused, thought, but could not really explain what the good old Kanban had become. Realizing that the conversation had gone the wrong way, the manager switched to aggression. He accused me of hindering progress and pulling the enterprise back into the Stone Age. He stopped talking to me - switched to the director. You know how such strange conversations go - a person answers your question, as it were, but not to you, not mentioning you, and looking at another person. He did not look at me anymore - only occasionally glanced.

    This is a fairly characteristic feature of "effective" managers. Once I met an explanation for this behavior in the film, which my son advised me - “They smoke here.” The meaning is simple: it is a dispute, not a trade. The task is not to convince that he is right, but to convince that I am not right. Moreover, not me, but others. Then the logic is simple: since I am wrong, then he is right. Oddly enough, it works great.

    It is enough to accuse me, or any other employee from the old guard, of inertness, conservatism, obstruction of changes, too close attention to details, as decision makers immediately take the side of an “effective” manager. He understands that we, the people of the old school, are intelligent, and, unfortunately, have already greatly appreciated our place in the company, we simply will not go down to his level and argue, blame, justify, use cunning tricks. We just step aside and wait.

    Because no "effective" manager at a manufacturing enterprise in the real sector of the economy will last long. He himself did not need this - he came to skim the cream and run away until they realized that he was another scammer. We, the prophets, somehow manage to maintain and develop the enterprise between the "effective" managers. Although, what a sin to conceal - sometimes we only manage to lick the wounds.

    Recently, another such took off, CIO. True, that same King hinted that everything is not so simple there. I do not like these secrets of the Madrid court, and therefore did not become interested in more detail. He wants to - he will tell. But no, nothing, and they didn’t wait for such Kings.

    He just brought another "topic." Yes, probably, it is something better than the previous ones. Perhaps it will benefit the enterprise. It is possible that this “theme” will take root. But it’s all the same - just a “theme”. Fashion, migratory bird, plywood over Paris. And all these secrets, nicknames, cunning schemes for introducing the plant, the director’s motivation for change are just attributes that help the King “sell himself”.

    Today I have an appointment with the King and the director. Apparently, there will again be a dispute for three. I'll drink a couple of pills in advance, and try not to engage in meaningless disputes. Health is not that.

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