I felt like a little girl in a wonderland when I showed up for my first day at work. I had gone to one of the most sophisticated and modern colleges in the country. Most classes were held off-site, but when you did visit what you saw was a hyper-modern campus. There were grass-covered buildings, curving glass walls and wide-open internal ‘teamwork’ spaces. Any new fad or design concept was completely integrated into the learning experience.
I loved learning there, but I didn’t want to work in that sort of place.
No, since childhood I’d had my eyes on another company: the Legacy Tooling Corporation.
I know it sounds weird, working for a tooling company. My parents thought I was nuts. But I was an engineer – basically from birth – and making things to help others make things always seemed tremendously exciting to me. Plus, Legacy Tooling wasn’t quite like other companies. They basically lived off a single large customer: Globus Inc. Now, before you get visions of some faceless multinational corporation, consider this: Globus makes pretty much everything. No, scratch that, Globus makes everything.
And Legacy makes their tooling.
Incredibly, Legacy’s founders somehow got an exclusive deal with Globus. Other people could supply other things, but their tooling would come from us.
There I go with the us. Even on that first day, I thought of Legacy as my company. I didn’t just work there, I was an integral part of the place and it was a part of me.
Now Legacy wasn’t located in some new building a new neighborhood. No, they’d built their headquarters, generations before, in one of the oldest neighborhoods there was. The building had legacy written all over it. It was grand, it was Ivy covered. It practically screamed for respect. Go new-fangled all you want, but the dressing on that edifice said something even my university couldn’t: this place has got some history.
And when I got inside, I continued to be bedazzled. The place was a buzz of activity. And the engineers around me were working on some of the coolest things I’d ever seen. I walked through lab after lab and was just blown away by what they were putting together. Everything reinforced my belief that I’d made the right choice. Not that it was really a choice.
I got put on a team designing a doohickey. I’ll call it that, because I can barely even describe what it was. It was just a doohickey. Well, to be completely honest and to put it technically: it was a really amazing doohickey.
My group was awesome. At our daily standups, we’d update everybody on our progress and then we’d end it with a circle of appreciations and a group clap. We were so excited about what we were doing. And we were good at it. And we loved each other.
And then, during one planning meeting, I turned to the group (awesome engineers all, I can tell you) and asked: “How’s Globus gonna use this thing?”
They just stared back at me. And then they got back to work. It was weird… I took a gander at the requirements and I realized that they basically consisted of “make something really cool, and it’ll be cool.” Globus wasn’t even mentioned.
I didn’t ask the question again. I didn’t want to make waves. I didn’t want to lose my job. I loved the place. But the question kept asking me; if you know what I mean. I’d look around at project after product and wonder “How is Globus gonna use that doohickey?”
And I never had an answer. It was like our engineering and manufacturing groups had incredible people turning out incredible stuff – but they had no connection to the actual customer.
And then I began to notice the first cracks in the business. They started literally. I mean, the subbasement in that old place had concrete that was beginning to serious deteriorate. I looked into it and learned that while the building had been Legacy’s old headquarters, they’d had some very lean times and Globus had only recently repurchased their building for them.
Legacy wasn’t taking care of the building through. I thought it was because nobody was paying attention to that. But it turned out everybody was paying attention to it. The problem was that it was a very particular building. Globus had built it (of course) and only Globus had the tools necessary to fix it.
And for some reason, Globus was letting it crumble.
This stunned me.
I kept snooping around – both physically and via the IT network – and I learned more and more. And the scariest thing I learned was the Globus wasn’t using what we were making.
We were just making cool stuff. But it was stuff that didn’t serve our customer.
So, I was like “what the heck is going on here?” I looked into the sales group, wondering whether they were just dropping the ball. I thought about printing myself another badge and physically sneaking around the place. But I learned something downright weird. Everybody in sales was a guy. A badge wouldn’t have done me much good.
But I could learn things anyway. Computer networks are fun. Anyway, the sales group had an enormous number of sales meetings. They had pretty much everything weekend reserved for some get together or another. But they also met during the week… wait for it… several times a day. And they didn’t meet at the office; they had meals at local watering holes and restaurants and function halls all the time.
So, I took lunch one day, headed out and took a seat next to one of the sales meetings. It was even weirder than the engineering group was. The sales guys (all guys, remember) were sitting there, jabbering away. They were praising Globus and begging and pleading for revenue. They weren’t even talking about our products. It was like the products were irrelevant to the conversation.
And the Globus reps? The Globus reps just looked like – well, you know when you’re at a party and somebody starts talking to you and they won’t shut up and they ignore pretty much every cue you send at them and you can’t get away?? Yeah, the Globus reps looked like that. Occasionally, they tried to get a word in edgewise, but our sales guys were so busy talking they barely heard them. One time, they listened – but then they took the Globus guy’s words and totally reinterpreted them. They made them reinforce the annoying speech they’d been given before. They turned them into praise for their approach to sales. You’ve had that happen before, right? You say “go away” to the guy at the party and he thinks you’re just encouraging him to do more of what he’s already doing because it is so clearly working. Right?
I have to say, seeing that, that I was kind of freaking out. I mean, who hires these people. Yeah, so I looked into that too and I worked out that almost all my co-workers were lifers. They were smart, don’t get me wrong, but they had spent their whole lives with the company. And I mean that. Almost all of them had parents who worked there. Lifers+. Can you imagine that, in this day and age?
I began to get scared then. But if Globus stopped paying us whatever Globus was paying us, Legacy would get shellacked. And there’d be carnage. Our employees wouldn’t be able to find work anywhere. They’d never done anything useful.
Legacy had sales and production and good people in both – but the darned things weren’t connected. It was like the company itself had no identity. It had no life. Just a building and great people (well, except for those sales guys – but I was sure even they could learn).
And so, I decided to do something about it.
Problem was, I didn’t know what. People thought I was weird when I asked production about the customer. I couldn’t imagine what sales would think when I asked them about production. They had no connection. It was like one group wouldn’t even acknowledge the other group existed.
But I had to do something, right? So, I put together this evaluation matrix (I am a production engineer, after all) and on it I marked off whenever a production guy (or gal) actually had the customer in mind when they designed something. And I marked off whenever a sales guy (never mind the gal bit) actually helped production know what the customer wanted. And I marked off whenever a sales guy actually talked to production. I mean, our customer was a manufacturer. You wanna get to know them, start in-house. So, I made a little list – a really little list – but in my book it was a list of honor. These were the guys (and gals) who were doing it right.
Legacy needed them. I mean, we were living off of old contracts. We were living pretty well, but from what I’d seen, Globus could pull most of those contracts at any moment and things were cracking anyway. Wowsers that would’ve been scary.
I told a few people about my list and I got a few more people involved in keeping it up. But it was still pretty much secret. I was scared. I mean, who was I? I was surrounded by lifer’s+ and I was trying to tell them how to run their company? And don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of that. The old guard – in any part of the company – was darned good at circling their wagons and totally excluding somebody who poked holes in what they were doing. I mean, they were awesome at it. When they turned their guns on you it was like getting excommunicated.
But I kept quiet. I didn’t get excommunicated. I just kept my little list.
But then, inevitably, more cracks began to appear. The roof was literally leaking (not good when dealing with some pretty touchy materials). We tried to patch it up, but the job was imperfect. And then people started worrying. I mean, they’d only moved back in a little while ago. They’d had some really lean times. And now, not long into things, the situation is getting pretty tough again. And they remembered, like really remembered, when things were horrifyingly terrible. I don’t think I can find adjectives to describe what the things they told me about.
So they began to worry. And all sorts of people began to suggest ideas of how to fix things. Not just the building, but the business. Sales people wanted all of production to join them in begging Globus for more revenue. Production guys wanted to fire everybody in sales and just start making as much stuff as they could.
And I just sat there, flabbergasted.
And I was scared, really scared. I figured they might beat me up or kick me out – but I knew that if Legacy fell apart, so did I. I was a part of them. Lifer or not, there was no escaping it. And so, I decided to do a Queen Esther and put myself out there.
It was simple. I began to share my list. And my little cohort of friends began to heap honor on the people who were on it. We didn’t argue idea behind the list, we just praised the production people who had the customer in mind and the sales guys who brought production and the customer together. We made it an honor to serve the customer, in every part of the organization. It was that simple. And, amazingly, it worked. Sure, there was some fierce resistance. I mean a whole lot of our engineers just wanted to make cool stuff and a whole lot of our sales guys just wanted long weekends with the customer.
But soon most people began to realize it was working.
Production folks discovered they liked making stuff that got used. It validated them. It gave them, not to be too hokey about it, meaning. And the sales people discovered they liked actually having a customer who was interested in what they had to offer. And they liked helping the production people give the customer what they wanted. The sales guys (and even a few gals then) began to realize that production was why they were there. It helped them relate to the customer who was, after all, a manufacturer. And the production guys began to realize that sales was why they were there.
They weren’t just there to make stuff. They were there to make stuff so the sales guy’s could get it to the customer.
The new method swept through the whole organization. Everything got calibrated around Globus. No longer was Globus some unheard of and unmentioned entity in production – now it was core to everything. And production was honored in the sales group – who had up until that point, done everything they could to ignore it. I mean, they’d treated it like some necessary evil – not something that was really cool in its own right.
And, of course, I got promoted. No, scratch that, I got PROMOTED. I was made like Chief Muckymuck of the whole company. And I gotta say, that was cool.
And then the revenues started pouring in. Globus fixed up the building.
Things were awesome. And they are still awesome.
It turns out we’re really good at selling to Globus. Before, even though Globus built literally everything, not everybody knew about them. But our success opened up a whole lot of eyes. And so, lots of other companies began to come to us. And we began tying them into our sales channels. We began to help them connect with Globus.
I mean, it was awesome.
I take that back. It is awesome.
And all of it was so simple that even a little geek of a girl who went to some fancy new-age university could understood what had to happen.
Okay, so I hit this one over the head a bit harder than usual. This story is not about Globus and Legacy. It is about Hashem and the Jewish people. The woman at the center of the story, is, naturally, a ger (convert).
If you talk about the nation of Israel, our customer is Hashem. But we do a terrible job of selling to Him. We have our old headquarters back, but we’re pretty dysfunctional. Our roof has holes (rockets) and our ground (with dry ground and tunnels) is cracking.
And we all propose different solutions without realizing that we just have to put our solutions together.
It is that simple. Our sales people have to understand G-d is the Creator. They don’t have to create themselves, they just need to appreciate and honor the act of creation while helping those who do create apply their creation to our relationship with the customer. They don’t need revenue (parnassah), they need creation and holiness (the use of creation for the timeless relationship). They need to bring our national product to G-d. On the other hand, our production guys, who are creators, need to actually create for a purpose – connection to G-d.
All of this is in the Torah: G-d is the Creator and we connect to him through Offerings (Korbanot) which are literally ‘closenesses’. What can we bring as korbanot? Only things we had a part in making. No wild animals or fruit. Just our crops and domesticated flocks. The Kohanim don’t make anything, but they facilitate the transaction. They exist to connect production with the customer. They actually obviate themselves as individuals in the process. They are simply middlemen.
This is the Torah reality. We are supposed to be the world’s example of creation with a purpose. We are supposed to waste as little potential as possible (Tumah). But for now, despite having our old headquarters back, we lack a national identity build around serving the customer. Everything is disconnected. As I put it in a recent dvar Torah:
As a nation, we engage in the cycle of creation and rest with the divine – but we don’t do it with intent. Instead, some resent creation and cherish holiness while others resent holiness and cherish creation.
Rosh Hashana is a great time to think about fixing this. If we serve our national customer – if we find it an honor to serve Him (or Her, depending on context) – then He (or She) will reward us.
That’s our highest goal this Rosh Hashana.
Think about it.
And then come back to me.
Maybe we can start putting together a list 😉
Image: mariusz kluzniak, flickr