Without motivated, competent, enthusiastic and happy employees there is little chance of great organizational performance. The beginning of the year sales event held in San Antonio by Mentor Graphics had the theme “common purpose, ucommon passion” emphasizing dedication and quality teamwork setting us apart from the competition in EDA.
In the Motor City, unless you have been avoiding TV, avoiding newspapers and avoiding the Internet, living in your basement and only coming out at night for fresh air, and then not talking to your neighbours you will know that there are a lot of barriers to doing well in business at the moment. Purpose and passion might be under threat.
http://www.slate.com/id/2216238/ is a Slate Magazine animated map representation of job losses by USA county up to March 2009. Interesting viewing it makes too. Everybody knows about Michigan’s ailments. One of the curious things about the auto industry is that practically everyone who owns or drives a car believes this qualifies them to have a considered opinion about the industry. I’m a bit more cautious, although I wash my clothes in detergent I shrink from offering opinions about the soap business.
In the early 1990′s during a tough time economically in Britain, the company I worked for sent instructions to all staff which became known unofficially amongst some recipients as “the take your own sandwiches on business trips” memo. For all of us still holding down a job in the Metro Detroit area in 2009 we are generally seeing cost reduction initiatives, a shrinking market. Mentor Graphics is no exception and has been looking for savings in their business overhead but I’m pleased to say there has been no repeat of an instruction to take my own sandwiches on business trips. Yet. Prudent and necessary cost reductions are being sensitively handled.
As I visit and interact with customers, most of which are hurting financially and experiencing startling onstriction of their market opportunities, I find it encouraging to see how amongst all the layoffs people are still engaged, still motivated and still care deeply about their professional lives.
I don’t ask my customer contacts, because, well, I’m there to do something else. But I would be interested to know “why do you like your job?” “why are you so enthusiastic?” There’s enough gloominess to affect anyone.
A couple of nights ago I was following some links on the web and read this article which was thought provoking: http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0128/p13s03-wmgn.html?page=1
Job statisfaction comes not so much at all be because you are glad to have the paycheck when others do not. Being thankful you have a job doesn’t last long. And gratitude even refreshed repeatedly doesn’t make you one of the top 10% performers in your field – you have to convert the feeling to happiness and optimism over an extended time to have an effect on your productivity.
Contribution to your job satisfaction – polls and studies and articles and research backs this up - is made when you feel intellectual fulfillment from a diversity of challenges, responsibility with control over outcomes, fair remuneration for market conditions. The younger you are, the more ambitous, the more likely it is that an element of job statisfaction in having a defined career path. Feeling appreciated, knowing you are doing a good job helps greatly and doesn’t have an age limit. Personal, internalized reasons.
Social aspects your working life play a strong part in job statisfaction. The most fortunate people get to work with friends, not just people you get on with, but people you meet after work to play sport, to attend family barbecues. If your team and your boss are telling you you are doing well, and there’s a collaborative, supportive spirit in your workgroup. Extenal, personalized reasons contribute to job statisfaction.
What I see around the CHS customer base particularly in Michigan is the attrition of impersonal-external influences on the jobs of the professionals. The bottom has fallen out of the auto market. Practically all over the world too. Those employed have their families, their friends and their neighbours coping with job losses and the uncertainty of whether you might be next and not knowing where the economy will bottom out. Mentor Graphics’ customers here, the companies and the individuals are going through tough times. Worrying times.
My involvement with customers has a change theme. I help them when they are reaching for process improvements, problem solve and advise as they are deploying new specialist tools, adopting new ways of working, de-coupling from previous ways of doing business and initiating new ways. At the best of times this can be challenging. When the order book is full for one of my customers, there’s never enough staffing or resource to go around. I’d trade for that situation now. This is a time of great dislocation in the auto industry but not the end of the line. Definitely not. The above-par performers in the automotive supply base next year and the year after and the year after that will be the ones who are positioning and re-engineering their businesses now in times of stress. Protecting a status quo which is dire and doing nothing are evidently not two smart options.
I am impressed to be seeing even now in Detroit, when times are tough, really tough, professionals (sorry I can’t name names of car maker and supplier companies and individuals) who get the point that now is not the time to get depressed and dissatisfied, now is the time to show how good you really are in adversity. Change is necessary, desirable, inevitable.
And for Electrical Engineers designing wiring harnesses paradoxically change has always been a constant in their working lives. All that expreience has been toughening and conditioning for now. One of the companies who was a relatively early adopter of CapH who I have worked with off and on for 10 years and still deal with, told me last year of the thousands of changes to designs of harness parts that they have been engineering every year. Thousands of controlled instances of implementation, tracking and reporting of released change instructions for a complex electro-mechanical parts. Parts which must be perfect. And then managing the implementation of a changed data set being applied to existing data. Thousands of times.
Good job. Well done. They’re holding their own in this market. Making inroads against bigger competitors.
I re-read a paper recently given by a key customer’s senior manager in 2005: Challenges to improvements in EDS process to be faced – changes coming late in the cycle, lack of performance metrics before milestones for input and output data, concurrency and teamwork challenges. Four years ago, in relatively good times, this senior figure, well known and well respected in the wiring engineering community in Detroit was predicting an increasing significance for data processing Engineering tools – a leading role in exchanging data (bridging) between functions, disciplines, and advocating improvements in their scope in terms of comparisons and reporting.
Probably still more our customers and ourselves can do four years later. It is an interesting journey.
Seismic upheaval in market conditions is of course not exactly like the logistical and data handling challenges which a good tool like CHS can help with. However I take some comfort that the people in the automotive industry are no strangers to change, they are experts in it.
Preparing for the upturn.
And I confidently assert that having CHS and using it to the full value is going to make a huge difference compared to competing organizations without CHS when the US economy picks up again. The groundwork of implementing best practices now will have a lengthy payoff in the future.
Here are some nice pictures of change you can be confident in: