The Secret Engineer
Amalgamated Products Limited, where I reside as “design engineer of this parish” has been undergoing a gradual change over the past 4 years or so. That there was need for change is undeniable. A long established and noble company, it has to be said that “staid” and “unadventurous” could have possibly been applied to a sizeable percentage of the staff. Our Widgets and Superwidgets, of which we have long been justifiably proud, were still peerless but were we to move forwards then it was obvious that “something had to be done.”
Therefore the Grand Poobah of APL decreed that we would remould ourselves as a bright and shiny company staffed by bright and shiny people all the better to produce bright and shiny Widgets. To be fair, not only do I think this was entirely the right approach but also that on the whole it has been rather successful.
However there is, I feel, something of a negative side that is starting to tarnish the whole experience. We all acknowledge the need to work hard to maintain our place in the world. Long gone are boozy lunches down the pub and playing cricket in the corridor, although I freely admit these may only have existed as stereotyped fables of years gone by.
Just how sustainable is the level of work being asked of us though and is there a detrimental aspect? Our customers won’t see any problems, we shall make sure of that, but the extra stress is affecting us and how we work. Fuses are becoming short and camaraderie strained. If the super-tight timescale project were a “one off” then you would battle through and re-energise yourself afterwards but it is becoming increasingly clear that this has now been accepted by those higher up the food chain as the new “norm.”
I would suggest that the key questions are: “are the new expectations reasonable” and “are they advantageous?” I suspect there’s a 10,000+ word essay in arguing about it from a “hippy quality of life” versus “hard nosed capitalist” point of view but I shall just limit myself to the following observation - working hard and showing commitment are a given in today’s world but should we temper that with our specific national areas of expertise as well? Other countries have the cheap-yet-skilled-work-until-you-drop workforce market sewn up.
Surely our advantage lies within the novel and ingenious, activities that require time and experimentation? Rather than looking to play other people’s games should we not pursue our own instead?