I was stood on the factory floor when I heard the clocks strike thirteen…
In some ways, it was inevitable.
The company had been in a bit of a financial crisis.
It was in the red.
Something had to give.
The over time rates for shop floor staff were slashed, to howls of protest on the factory floor.
It turns out the office staff were given their customary yearly raise, but were told to keep very quiet about it.
Who says the class system is dead?
This wasn’t enough, though.
The company needed a new business strategy.
Men arrived with whiteboards and projectors.
A new phrase was bandied about, as if it had always been there.
You might be familiar with the term, you might not.
Basically, it is about being efficient.
If managers did their job properly then we wouldn’t need a team of high paid Lean Management trainers to come into the workplace, but just like the majority of managers throughout the UK, our management team are under qualified and are almost totally untrained for the job.
In some cases, the only qualification you need is to be able to shove your tongue further up the arse of the bloke above you than your work mates can.
Mallett is one of the print supervisors.
He has a fetish for welding.
Can’t seem to get enough of that metal fabrication, can’t Mallett.
Turns him right on.
He was swept under the inky black cloak of the Lean Management team early on.
They shone lights in his eyes.
They played music to him.
They showed him baffling charts and graphs in rainbow colours.
He was under their spell.
Bright yellow protrusions appeared all over the printing machines.
I saw Bilbo near one, so I asked him.
“Bilbo. What the fuck is that thing?”
“It’s Lean Management, Lucifer.”
“No it’s not. Its a metal plate painted yellow with some rods sticking out of it. What’s it for?”
“It’s a tape tidy.”
A tape tidy. It looks like the sort of thing you knocked up in metal work at school. Did Mallett make it?”
“Yes! Good, isn’t it? It’s Lean Management!”
“Like I said, no it is not.” I pointed to another metal monstrosity. “What’s that thing?”
“That’s a tool tidy, Lucifer. You keep your tools there. With the tape tidies and the tool tidies, you have everything to hand. It means you’re efficient! Less walking about. It’s Lean Management!”
“Hmm. So you say. Seems like Lean Management is going to lead to fat workers. You don’t have to move your arse very far anymore, with everything dangling on a nice yellow tidy. How long did it take Mallett to make them?”
“Ooh, ages! He was very careful. Wanted to do a good job of them.”
“Priceless. A supervisor taking ages to make tape tidies so his staff are a bit more efficient. Makes sense.”
“Yeah. The only thing is, I keep banging my hip on the them. I’m black and blue, Lucifer. They’re a bit vicious, are those tape tidies.”
“I thought I saw you limping, Bilbo. Bet you can’t move very fast with your hips all bruised.”
“Dead right, Lucifer. We’ve got no choice though. It’s Lean Management! We need to work more efficient!”
“Yes. More efficient. Bye Bilbo. Hope your hip feels better.”
A big metal notice board appeared.
Mallett had made it.
I went for a nosey.
It was six and a half feet high.
It was covered in graphs.
All the colours of the rainbow.
Ever see a party invitation that’s been designed by creatively frustrated mummy who has just got to grips with a computer?
They go totally overboard, dropping clip art in all over the place and using every colour in the pallet.
That’s what these graphs were like.
They didn’t make the least bit of sense, but I could tell they were supposed to show how efficient things had become, and how shit things were before.
There were pictures of messy work stations.
Tut tut. Naught boys.
Pictures of tidy work stations.
Well done. Pat on the head.
Patronising crap like that.
It was so amateurish, it made me smirk.
Bart had shimmered up to me. He was a supervisor, and I’d always got on with him.
“Hi Bart. Seen this? What a load of shit.”
Bart didn’t say anything, although he did smirk slightly too.
“Yes, yes, Lucifer. A word of warning, though. You’re allowing too much of what you are thinking to show on your face.”
“What? Is my facial expression saying, ‘This is a load of garbled crap that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on’? I’m not going to say this is good when it’s not, Bart, and neither is my face.”
Bart shrugged. “We all know it’s bullshit, Lucifer. We just can’t say it’s bullshit, and I’d advise you not to look like you think it’s bullshit, either. There is a lot of people who have bought into this Lean Management concept, big time. I’m just warning you to be very, very careful.”
He shimmered away again.
I wanted to call him back and ask him what my facial expression was saying right then, because what I felt was total fucking outrage.
Some people had been given a little bit of knowledge, shown a few charts, and been groomed in some meetings, so now they thought they were experts.
A man with a welding torch and a cheap colour printer were forming a scary new regime and my face wasn’t even allowed an opinion.
A while later, I heard somebody use the word, Kaizen.
This morning, an email circulated containing the phrase, ‘I want to use all the brains’.
I don’t know if they want to turn us into zombies, or are actually zombies themselves.
What do they want to ‘use all the brains’ for?