A BP Moment
Board: Macro Economics
Today I was at a small relay station. Not really a Central Office, not really a Remote Terminal Hut. A fiber optic repeater station. It is unmanned. The power tech that was assigned to it retired. I think he retired in place and then just went home after a couple of years.
The best I can tell, the alarms have not worked in this station for a couple of years. The co-worker and I were talking about his attitude. It is foreign to us. However, after I mentioned that the upper management is giving my supervisor a hard time about my numbers.
My co-worker asked, "I wonder if I would have the same don't care attitude if I had already made my retirement, and the company kept hitting me for numbers instead of quality work?"
I said "I don't know, but I do know that the company is heading toward a BP moment."
We keep pushing for more efficiency, this is a necessary thing as the culture has incentive built in for inefficiency. I.E. One first line manager for no less than 8 people, one Second level manager for 8 to 12 first line managers and so on. If a manager loses too many people he loses his job. So the incentive for the lower level managers is to keep the craftsmen as busy as they can on things that turn the blocks green on the executives spreadsheets. The only downside to this is that craftsmen become discouraged and actual work does not get done.
Further, failures tend to be buried.
In this case, the alarms either did not work because of a fiber optic rearrange and the previous power tech found it expedient to pencil whip the alarm tests, or a false alarm came in and the power tech found it expedient to snip a wire rather than find and correct the problem.
In either case, it worked out for him. He retired, I get to find and repair the problem. The numbers worked out for his boss, as they looked good and nothing bad happened.
The problem is, bad things will happen. Bad things have happened. We have lost an entire central office on a sunny day. Most of the power alarms were not working and the one redundant alarm was ignored. (Why not, it must be a false alarm, no alarms came in.) No one was fired. It was a small insignificant office.
However, the numbers guys keep tightening up. Just like the bean counters at BP did. One day there will be a BP moment. For guy like me, it is a lot like trying to out run a lion. I know I cannot get away, but I can only try to run faster than everyone else so someone else gets eaten. I don't know if it will be my company or another, or if it is my company if it will be in my market area, all I can do is make sure it isn't in one of my central offices.
This seems to be the accepted operating procedure for all of corporate America, and the U.S. Government. As we worked we wondered out loud if 911, Bengazi, the mine explosion, BP and the flash crashes were not related to the same spread sheet fixation.