A New Challenge

About 4 weeks ago, I assumed Management responsibility for the Optical Coating Engineering department for my employer (Goodrich Aerospace Electro-Optical Systems). I started my career with this company in this department 20 years ago, and have migrated through several other departments and positions since that time, staying firmly on the “technical track” of increasingly complex engineering. Since I ended my Coating-related activities some 12 years ago, the department has gradually lost its ability to innovate, itsfocus, its technical talent, and more disturbingly its basic sense of engineering practice. A string of ineffective managers have been assigned to run the group, and these have focussed exclusively on maintaining production schedules, at the cost of all else.

When the most recent manager was hired, about 3 years ago, there was great excitement that the long night in Coating was ending. The new manager was an industry expert, well respected by the Coating community and our customer base. Unfortunately, he took this job assuming it was his “sunset” position – assuming management of a well-executing department in which he could sail off to retirement at a time of his choosing. This was not at all what he inherited, however. Instead, the department proceeded to fall further into weakness. The new manager’s response was to gradually withdraw, while becoming irrationally defensive with the management surrounding him. I personally took a liking to this individual, as he was as outspoken as I was about some of the foolishness of the upper management activities. What I was missing by not having to work directly with him was the rapid acceleration of his defensive posture, and the great harm that came to the Coating Engineering department through his neglect of fundamental management practices.

The trigger event for the final downfall of this manager, and the chaos that has thrust me into the management track, was itself of little importance, and indeed of questionable validity. Nonetheless, our local Vice-President reacted with a strong arm, first splitting Coating into Coating Engineering and Coating Operations, then removing the managers of both of these sub-groups. This was done (as is typical in this company) without a firm transition plan, and a series of “investigations” were launched into the basis of the Coating illness. I lead one of these investigations, exposing my prior experience with Coating, and apparently my ability to filter information into insight, and plan a recovery.

I have now been challenged to lead this recovery. I looked initiallyat this assignment with about 60% excitement, and 40% terror. Now about 4 weeks later, the terror has subsided into a wistful confused longing for my prior pursuits, and a smaller uneasiness at being thrust so suddenly into management of an unhealthy department without proper managerial preparation. This latter will pass, as I’ll most likely discover that this”preparation” is less difficult to absorb than I originally imagined. The longing may persist, but will be resolved as I throw my engineering talent at Coating-specific problems which I had abandoned some 12 years ago, and have not been addressed by anyone since.

There will follow in this space, mixed in with the many other themes that I have launched here, more exposition on my experiences as I move into this new phase of my career. One thing has become very clear already – to succeed in this challenge will require my deepest commitment to fundamental philosophical tenets. The management surrounding me mouths the prevalent destructive philosophy of blurring Reality and accepting indeterminate truth. I must counter act this contagion with the black and white business ethics of Objectivism.

This is going to be fun!

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