I happened to catch an interview with author David Zwieg about his new book, The Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Workers (www.davidzwieg.com/writing) right after visiting one of my old employers. Zwieg’s appreciation for “the little people” who keep most organizations humming along matches my own. Chatting recently with some former co-workers about the daily challenges of keeping machines running, sorting out problems with customer drawings, and finding new customers made me miss the old routine.
Not that I want to go back to commuting through Chicago traffic, mind you. But there is something comfortable about dealing with issues you understand well and are confident you can resolve without upsetting work flow. For his book Mr. Zwieg interviewed people with important jobs that go unnoticed — unless there is a big mistake. Consider structural engineers: whoever hears about a structural engineer — unless a building or bridge collapses?
Most gear shops have at least a handful of go-to guys and gals who keep the parts flowing smoothly. They, too, go unnoticed unless the momentum stops or a question remains unanswered too long. Most of them prefer to stay out of the spotlight and live in fear of letting the team down. Or, as songwriter Mac McAnally so nicely phrased it in his 1970 ballad, “It’s My Job”:
“It’s my job to be cleaning up this mess
and that’s enough reason to go for me.
It’s my job to be better than the rest
and that makes the day for me.”
So let me thank the dozens of “invisibles” who have kept the places I worked running. Great things can happen when competent people put their skills together and don’t worry about being individual stars.
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