The mysterious case of the disappearing Jack

Wilson’s world

David Wilson is editor of Engineeringtalk and Electronicstalk and associate editor of The Engineer

There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Jack Robinson was one of the most valued members of staff at the Small to Medium Sized engineering company.

Not only was he a very industrious chap, but all his work was meticulous and he often finished well ahead of deadlines set by management.

Sadly, however, almost as a direct consequence of his professional approach to his work, the rest of his colleagues on the engineering team had come to take him for granted.

So when he decided to take a well-deserved two-week vacation, his engineering team-mates paid little attention when he explained to them that he had left a list of telephone numbers, where he could be reached in case any unforeseen emergency arose during his absence, in the top drawer of his desk.

Naturally enough, during the course of his holiday, several such emergencies did occur. Notably, two of the company’s major customers experienced some critical software issues with the machines that they had been shipped by the SME. To make matters worse, Robinson was the only engineer at the company with the knowledge to resolve them.

The manager of the engineering company tried desperately hard to contact Robinson at home but to no avail. And when he asked other members of the staff if they knew the whereabouts of the prized engineer, none of them remembered the conversation that Robinson had had with them prior to his departure regarding the list of telephone numbers.

Upon returning from his holiday, the conscientious Robinson was immediately called into the office of the engineering manager, who demanded to know why Robinson had been uncontactable.

Robinson sat silently as the manager angrily explained the numerous software problems that had arisen at the company’s customers and how Robinson’s lack of availability may have cost the company several lucrative contracts.

After the manager’s rant was over, Robinson returned to his desk, whereupon he removed the contact details and returned to his manager’s office. Placing the list of on the manager’s desk, he explained that he had indeed informed the other members of the team of the whereabouts of the document prior to his departure in case any adverse events arose during his absence.

After receiving a lengthy apology from the red-faced manager, Robinson went back to his desk to work. There, he watched in silent amusement as his colleagues were themselves called — one by one — into the same manager’s office to answer for their incompetence.

David Wilson

The Wilson’s world blog also forms part of the Engineeringtalk, Electronicstalk and Manufacturingtalk newsletters. To subscribe, go here for Engineeringtalk, here for Electronicstalk and here for Manufacturingtalk