This paper is an edited version of an article by A. Wyrcan, first published in Management Today, March 1975.
Published here July 2010

Editor's Note | Introduction | The Interview | The First Day
From "Chaser" to General Manager | Authority Confused with Management
Labor and Management Confrontation | The Business Must Be a Winner
At the End of Four Months | Conclusion | Issues for Discussion

The First Day

At starting time on the appointed day I presented myself at the Chairman's office. He was there at 9:00 AM and had ready a ruled sheet of foolscap paper on which he had personally penciled the part numbers of those items delaying completion of the specific products. But, there was no priority of urgency, no quantities, no indication of whether the part was made in the factory or bought out.

I asked him none of these questions, for I wanted the opportunity to dig out the information for myself and thus learn how the place functioned. I was glad, too, that no offer was made to delegate some person to initiate me into the intricacies of the organization or even to introduce me to the responsible individuals of the place. At least I did discover that it was known, I knew not by whom, that I was expected to be "chasing" that day. Such was my initiation. If what follows seems trivial and elementary, you will see that, in the circumstances, it could be no other way. So, with certain misgivings as to whether this company could be judged as a representative company in my quest to discover the truth about management and workers, I set to work at 9:10 AM

With my list in hand, I made for the works foreman's office but he had not yet arrived. The works started at 8:00 AM, although his starting time was 9:00 AM. Instead, I went on to the stock control clerk (sort of). She was marshalling stock in the stores to issue to the works for a batch production. A cursory glance at the vital elements of the proposed issue showed that only 23 of the batch could be produced while the batch was for 250. Thus there were shortages of up to 227 on 17 of the 36 items required for the job.

Was it normal to make issues with such shortages? Or were the shortages expected before production would come to a halt at 23? She had no idea - she was just doing as Charlie said. Charlie was the Works Manager. I instructed her not to issue and to prepare a shortage list for me. She did not question my authority, which saved me tramping back to the Chairman (he had gone home, anyway). Together we tried to identify the exact position of the parts on my list: the batch number against which they were being produced; what had been issued; what was manufactured and what was bought out; as well as manufacturing works order numbers, purchasing order numbers, dates and vendors.

After 90 minutes I gave it up and again sought the foreman. He was having his tea. Through the mastication of a cheese sandwich assisted with copious draughts at the mug of tea, I learned that the chairman's list was "a lot of old cock". I folded the list and put it in my pocket. I got from the foreman a list of products that the Chairman and Works Manager had been nagging him for to satisfy complaining customers, thus I had made customer satisfaction my priority.

Having asked him to make a list of parts he needed to satisfy the list of orders given to me, I made for the sales department. The sales manager was not really the sales manager, he informed me; he had only been made sales manager when the Boss had sent him to France to sort out a technical problem. Who was the sales manager? There really wasn't one. Who handled the sales? That was the Boss. How? Because he knew all the customers.

I was finally directed to a typist who kept the customer sale order files. It was not possible to deduce which of the orders had been partly or completely discharged. Some were with the receptionist/typist, who did the invoices, or with the shipping department, or with the filing clerk who did not actually file them; she merely brought them back for filing. I was certainly being given the runaround. This I expected. But their judgment of me was evidently not so critical as mine of them because I had only heard a background murmur: "Christ another one?" I went in search of the office allocated to me. It was sufficient for my needs and I spent my 35-minute lunch break eating my sandwiches and ruminating on my morning experiences.

Interview  The Interview

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