Wednesday, February 13, 2013

One of the Original Manufacturing Academies

Candidate Obama talking about Chicago's Austin Polytechnical Academy in 2008.

President Obama today:
President Obama to Announce New Efforts to Support Manufacturing Innovation, Encourage Insourcing

Administration Proposes New National Network to Support Manufacturing, Takes Immediate Action to Create a Pilot Manufacturing Institute

On Friday, President Obama will continue to highlight the successful trend of insourcing – companies from around the world bringing jobs back and making new investments here in the United States – at the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe jet engine disc manufacturing facility in Prince George County, Virginia. The President’s Blueprint for An Economy Built to Last lays out a number of ways we can encourage insourcing, support investment in our manufacturing sector, and create good jobs here in the United States, and today’s announcements build on those efforts.

The President will announce a new proposal for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, to build a network of up to fifteen Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation around the country, serving as regional hubs of manufacturing excellence that will help to make our manufacturers more competitive and encourage investment in the United States. The President’s Budget proposes a $1 billion investment to create this new National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

The President will also announce that the Administration will take immediate steps to launch a pilot institute for manufacturing innovation as part of its We Can’t Wait efforts. The pilot institute will be funded from $45 million of existing resources from the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce and the National Science Foundation, and will be selected from a competitive application process.

Having worked long hours for many years behind the scenes to help make initiatives like these come true, I was handed my walking papers a couple of months after Candidate Obama gave this speech.  I was told that my management regretted the decision -- that I was, in fact, doing a terrific job and that they were freaked out by the prospect of my many projects crashing and burning in my absence due to lack of competent oversight* -- but that I had simply found myself once again paying the steep price price for not being a member of one more  exclusive club.

I learned once again that when the hammer falls, professionalism is often irrelevant and brilliance can suddenly become a terrible liability.

My last day of work was the week of Barack Obama's first inaugural address.

I have not worked full time since.

*(Which is exactly what happened...
A couple of months after I was cut loose, I began getting panicked calls asking for my sub rosa help on some of the projects I had left behind.  They were complicated undertakings with lots of moving parts and  I was told that management had managed to A) lose all the manuals, charts and project notes I had carefully prepared and left behind, and B) had lost track of my hard drive.   
Sigh.  These were projects A)  I really cared about, and B) would completely fuck up the organization if the were allowed to go down in flames.   
After a few hours of free advice to my increasingly-more-hysterical former colleagues [punctuated by many long pauses while they scribbled down every golden word I was saying verbatim] I offered them the opportunity to simply hire me back temporally as a consultant.  Hell, I promised I wouldn't charge them a dime more per-hour than the useless consulting con artists they currently had wandering their halls and soaking up their falling revenue.   
They declined.  I was told that such an arrangement would be "too complicated" to accomplish.  Translation:  Management would have to face me being back in their midst, reminding the entire staff every day that they had chosen to get rid of critical talent while kept useless droids on the payroll. 
So I withdrew my assistance and, about a year later, the projects lay in ruins, costing the organization millions of dollars and a big chunk of their already shaky reputation.   That was the price management was willing to pay to avoid admitting it had made a mistake.)


OBS said...

I wish your story wasn't so fucking common in this country. Americans seem to have a fetish for idiocy and incompetence.

I almost added "in the workplace" to that sentence, but thankfully I caught myself -- we value stupidity everywhere. See also: TV, tea party, libertarians, talk radio, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.


Bukko Canukko said...

If you were a reich-winger, you could blame Obama for your unemployment.

I'll disagree partially with OBS about American pig-headedness re: not admitting mistakes. In my limited experience in Australia and Canada, based mainly on seeing how things worked in the hospital medical systems there, the systems seemed willing to change things if evidence showed an approach had been wrong. But in hospitals, it's a matter of life or death, the ultimate reality. So it's harder to stick to fantasy.

But it's human nature to not want to admit a mistake, and to keep on carrying on a failed approach. Down Under in Melbourne, where they have a good public transport system of street trams in the city and track trains to further suburbs, there was an initiative to change the simple-to-use fare cards that you'd buy from a machine into a complicated electronically-read card system named "myki." All you had to do was wave your myki card at a reader on a tram or at a station and it would debit your card automatically for the cost of the fare. The plan was hatched by a Liberal (i.e. "conservative" in the Aussie political sense of the word) state government, suffered many years of delays and billion-dollar cost overruns, yet continued under a Labor state government, and finally rolled out under a successive Lib govt. After years more of delays and extra billions in overruns. It's now a complex mess where you have to register with a central system to get your myki card, which screws over the tourists and non-English-speakers who come to town, the ones who used to just be able to put coins in a machine and get a fare card right then and there. It's been a disaster, but no one wanted to pull the plug.

Same thing for a costly and perhaps unneeded $billion+ drinking water desalination plant to serve Melbourne, and the privatization of the government-owned passenger rail system in British Columbia, and a half-dozen other major projects I could name except this comment is long and boring enough already. The U.S. might SEEM worse in its head-up-its-assedness, and perhaps it is to a degree. Don't get me started on counter-productive things that lesser-developed countries do, though. However, you're more conscious of American stupidity because you're immersed in it. But take heart! People, businesses and bureaucracies are idiotic everywhere. It's a human disease. And don't get started on the stupid things that dogs, cats and cattle do, either.

OBS said...

I think a dog eating its own shit is actually slightly less stupid than the things the American "right" habitually comes up with.

But otherwise, yeah, I suppose people are stupid everywhere.

Sean Riley said...

I've been contracting since the company I was in my fifth year with decided to lay off about half of it's workforce in late 2008 - What were the criteria for being kept on at said company? You were kept on if you went to the owner's church...

Roger said...

If I ever write the book on managerialism I am always planning this is precisely the sort of evidence I will be looking for.

Last company I worked for full-time the main criteria for being kept on was whether you were either related to or sleeping with a member of the senior management team.

And to add insult to injury they still brought in their student sons and daughters and paid them to pretend to work in the holidays.

And come to think of it I left around the time of Obama's first inaugural and haven't had a proper full time job since either....

starskeptic said...

Bukko - I wish the same were true of American hospitals...