Our plant had a group return last week from a week long trip to Austria. The group’s focus was to understand the ins and outs of a new oven for our plant expansion. They brought back stories of beer in the workplace cafeteria, cigarrettes on the factory floor, and quick excursions to abandoned castles on their way to and from work.
The stories that really caught perked my ears up were the stories of safety protocols…or lack thereof. I was told of employees using makeshift tools that would never make it past today’s US OSHA standards.
The stories made me think of our good friend the OSHA cowboy. This picture is a classic in safety and pokes fun at OSHA’s perceived overkill to drive the safety industry.
I look at our risk-reduced cowboy here and find myself grateful for the job OSHA is doing. There is no such thing as too safe. Risk will never be obliterated. Keeping the US workplace as safe as possible, well that would require such silly things as hearing protection, safety glasses, and the like.
Not all employees in the world are guarded by the spirit of safety like the American worker. I have heard first-hand accounts of some foreign production facilities that have extra employees in the wings waiting for an industrial accident so they can work.
So here’s to you OSHA cowboy. I am glad you are around.
I came into work recently and immediately got caught up in the rumor mill. Earlier that day an employee caught his finger in a cog of a machine. There was blood, screaming, and a fingertip found on the floor as the drama unfolded. It was a horrific experience for this unfortunate worker.
The reason I bring this up however is because the news that spread around the plant was more about the line’s reaction to the incident than this poor employee losing his fingertip.
The incident went like this:
- The employee stuck his finger in a hole of his machine
- His fingertip pinched off.
- He screamed bloody murder.
- No one looked up.
The most surprising, and talked about, part of the whole ordeal was the employee who held up a cookie a second later, still not looking up, and said, “blood!” Truly not one soul bothered to look up and see the emergency unfolding less than 10 feet away. Many of the line workers didn’t know it happened until the cleaning crew started sanitizing the line.
Now how could this happen? Was it because the workers on the line could care less? In this case no. Was it because of noise or distance from the scene? Nope; Line workers talk to each other the entire day. The issue here is simply over stimulation….that is to say, crying wolf.
In Aesop’s Fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” a boy assigned to watch the town flock of sheep. He gets bored and decides to have some fun with the townsfolk by repeatedly crying, “Wolf!” to the startled townspeople. After a few false alarms a wolf does come and attack the flock. The boy sounded the alarm, but the townspeople weren’t going to be startled again. His false alarms had overstimulated them and they simply shut him down. They paid no attention to him.
Such it is with the wolf criers of today. Those who feed off of the attention they get startling others at work will find themselves alone when their jokes become sincere pleas for help.
This highlightes a major safety factor, that of believability. In our finger incident described above, this employees believablility was shot months previous because of his loud and boisterous antics on the line. As believability decreases a safety gap increases.
As one becomes less believable to their peers, a major safety risk grows.
So what can be done about the crying wolf syndrome? Well, one manager I know has banned speaking on the line at all. Not an extremely popular move from the employees’ point of view, but increadibly effective from a safety standpoint.
Short of banning communication (bold and absolute), education is really the only solution. A ”Crying Wolf” campaign with announcements, posters, memos, daily monitoring by administration and assigned workers, whatever suites the need of the facility.
Fortunately for our unfortunate employee, his fingertip was reattatched. He has another gory story to get attention with. Once back on the line, he has learned a harsh lessson. Howl at the moon on your own time, but at work never, ever, EVER cry wolf.
Thank you Amazon Fire! Amazon sent the Android tablet market into a frenzy last week when they launched the Amazon Kindle Fire, an Android tablet customized for a seamless Amazon experience, for a whopping $199.
…and $199 is retail by the way, not just a black Friday gimmick.
In just over a week, Amazon has changed the game of Android Tablets. Here are some examples of how the Android market is trying to keep up with Amazon’s pricing brevity:
Barnes & Nobel dropped the Nook Color (the traditional rival of anything “Kindle”) from $249 to $198 and launched the Nook Tablet, a remarkably similar device with additional memory, priced at $249.
Walmart dropped their already inexpensive Vizio 8″ tablet from $250 to $198.
Latest to jump on board is the BlackBerry Playbook made by RIM. This fledgeling tablet has been given new life by a lower price point. For a limited time the price is being dropped from $499 to $199, just to compete with the falling price brought on by the Kindle Fire. This tactic is working as well. A Best Buy representative said that the Playbook is selling out across the country.
Why Would Amazon do This?
Amazon took the lesson from the HP Touchpad firesale earlier this year. The computer giant, HP, liquidated all Touchpads and discontinued the product. HP slashed the price from $399 to $99, and perhaps influenced the direction of Android tablets forever. Touchpads sold out immediately, an android port (CyanogenMod 7 Alpha) was developed to replace the lack-luster windows-based OS , and the Touchpads had an immediate underground following. As a matter of fact, the upcoming Android upgrade, entitled Ice Cream Sandwich, will increase the usefulness of the Touchpad. Incidentally, the HP’s now discontinued Touchpad was the biggest selling Android tablet of 2011.
So, the lesson in all of this? Field of Dreams says it all. If you build it [and sell it for the right price] people will come. The $200 line has been crossed and the Android world is reeling to figure out new price points. People will buy a cheap 7″ with limited bells and whistles over a fancier 10″ tablet that is triple the price.
The next year in the world of the Android operating system will be an education to watch. Perhaps we will see a redefining split between competing middle-class and business-class Android tablets. Perhaps we will see the industry push the price back up and take the hit in customers. Perhaps, on the other hand, Android will be able to do what Apple cannot…hold their prices lower than the competition.
Again, thank you Amazon Fire! The sky is falling. You have changed the tablet pricing rules. The race for consumers is on and this consumer will be actively looking on to see who comes out first!
I remember the Jetsons cartoon. I still catch myself humming the theme song sometimes when thinking about my Oregon childhood (Meet George Jetson!). For those of you who are unaware of such a staple of my cartoon diet, or those who want to take a quick jaunt down your own memory lane, enjoy:
Now that you too have the theme song playing over and over in your heads, I’ll get to the point of this post: We live a (relatively) Jetsons life.
There is an episode I remember as a kid when a neighbor calls the Jetson’s home early in the morning. Jane (the mom) was still getting ready for the day; her hair in rollers. In the Jetsons world, when someone called, a television screen came popping down from the ceiling. People spoke face to face. You looked at the person calling.
Jane, of course, couldn’t bear to let herself be seen by the neighbor, so she donned a mask of herself before answering the television. During the conversation, the neighbor sneezed and her own mask flew off of her face. The conversation ended quickly!
It was all science fiction of course, but to the six-year-old Todd Hamann it was awesome! To look at the person on the phone. Wow!
Fast forward 30 (-ish) years to an older Todd Hamann staring down an iPad Touch running facetime. It was awesome! To look at the person on the phone. Wow!
Do you ever get that “AHAA!” moment when taking a broad look at today’s technology? The ‘next big thing’ changes too fast sometimes to even become a big thing at all. Products evolve so fast that consumers become numb to the technological leaps of each phase.
…anyway, I digress.
Tablet computing has Jetson-ized us even more and I think it would be a good time for that “AHAA!” moment again. A computer measured in millimeters thick, and fractions of a pound. We can call our neighbors with these little TVs anytime, from anywhere. Society calls it video conferencing, but to this grown-up boy it’s still called awesome.
I took a quick google search and found some professional video conferencing services. I list them at the end of this post. Video Conferencing is turning into quite an industry. It’s cleared the $2 Billion annual revenue mark according to Tandberg.com . Companies are catching on to this evolution in communication.
List of Popular Video Conferencing services.
http://www.oovoo.com – free video conferencing for up to six people at a time. $9.95/month gets you up to 12 people at a time. Currently a free download, but they will soon release a cloud interface.
http://www.skype.com – free one-on-one conferencing.
http://www.webex.com – $19/month
http://www.netmeeting.com – $49.00/month for up to 15 attendees
In his book, Touch Points, Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbells Soup, stresses the importance of creating your own leadership models. I have been studying up on my own leadership model and have reached a conclusion:
Empower, Uplift, and Share the Wealth
In my own leadership experience, I have discovered that these three actions above all will motivate all involved to a synergistic level. People do not work merely for money, even though they might say they do. If money was the only driving principle there would be a mass exodus from the public sector to entrepreneurship and business schools would be bursting at the seams with aspiring MBAs. No, my experience is rather that people work for the pride of their work. I absolutely know that public employees work for that very reason. I was in management with the Driver License Division in Utah for long enough to know that.
Pepperidge Farm has also taught me the same thing. Recently I was walking down a hall and bumped into a Line Lead. ”No one signs the extra work list anymore,” he said with some frustration. ”We need people to stay after, and no one is signing up.” Clearly, we work for the pride of our jobs. We work for the recognition of our coworkers and families. We need the money, but believe it or not money is not the driving force behind why we go to work.
I have listed some popular leadership models below. It may be a good idea to see where you think you fit into this list as a leader. As for myself I probably align myself with the Quiet Leadership approach or the Level 5 Leadership model. How is your workplace governed?
Popular Leadership Models
Transactional Leadership: Rules..eh, Rule. Best used in mature establishments, such as Pepperidge Farm. Rewards are based on achievement, and punishment is dished out for breaking the rules. There is a clear chain of command. The clear advantage is organization, the disadvantage is that organizations that improperly use this organization can focus more on punishments than rewards…rules trump all.
Transformational Leadership: Energy and Vision. For this leadership model there must be one charasmatic leader. People are motivated by a ‘higher cause.’ They are motivated by the idea that they can accomplish anything. Inspiration comes through words and action, not through rules.
Participative Leadership: Democracy…pure and simple. All levels of the company have a say in policy, procedure, etc.. The idea is that with greater participation comes greater comradery.
Situational Leadership: Mold to the Occasion. Leadership models adapt with the situation governing them.
Charismatic Leadership: Transformational Leadership….on steriods! Leadership hinges on a charismatic leader who motivates with words and reason. Ironically, having one overwhelmingly charismatic leader can smother creativity and imagination in the work force. Things improve only on the scale the leader sets.
Quiet Leadership: In this model, the leader motivates from behind the scenes. Credit is not taken by the leadership, rather it is attributed to the workforce. Ego and aggression are not worshipped as in some other leadership models because they are not needed. Giving the group credit is meant to raise the standard of excellence without leaving a team member behind. Ironically, Quiet Leadership is usually facilitated by management no less driven than the charismatic leader.
Servant Leadership: My Responsibility. In this model, the leader is made to feel they have complete responsibility for the outcome of the line. The good of the line outweighs the good of the leader. The leader tends to be self-sacrificial. success belongs to the team, failure belongs to the leader.
Level 5 Leadership: Quiet/Servant Leadership. This is a mash-up of Quiet and Servant Leadership models. The Company image is more important than the leaders, who merely facilitate the company’s vision. Leaders in this model are not intimidated to hire those who have more experience or education. They are humble, but driven.