A young engineer I know broke new ground on Face Book today by posting photos of his most recent project on the shipping dock. Anyone who has taken a concept from a plain sheet of paper to a working machine understands why someone would celebrate such an occasion in a space normally devoted to baby or pet photos. Those who are not engineers, designers, machinists, or fabricators might consider it a bit strange though.
Back in the 20th Century we suffered through new management theories every year or so. There was Management by Objectives, Management by Exceptions, and several others whose names I have long forgotten. My favorite was Management by Walking Around; it may have had a more scientific name, but the thing I latched on to was touring the shop several times a day to observe what was going on and to be available for questions from co-workers.
It was a habit that served me — and my waistline — well over the years. Very quickly I developed an appreciation for the shipping dock. A full shipping dock was usually a sign of a happy shop and full order books. An empty shipping dock at the start of the month wasn’t a big concern, but at week three it could be an indication of impending disaster. Product that stalled on the shipping dock could be a sign of botched paperwork or — worse — credit trouble.
The shipping dock was never my responsibility, but sharing my observations with others in the company helped me learn about operations, sales, and accounting. For colleagues who tended to avoid the shop floor, my casual questions often served as early warnings; as the saying goes, People want to know that you care before they care about how much you know.
My young friend has certainly demonstrated to his co-workers that he cares about seeing projects through to the very end. That is a life-skill that always pays dividends.