Friday, February 3, 2012

Batting average: an ode to Frank van Ekeren and Rod Davis

Working for a company that sold $200m of plastic packaging to the food industry (in the 1990s) needed a cool head. Many a time my colleague would had knives thrown at (his feet) by impassioned business owners, my phone could easily ring at 5am with a production manager screaming at me because his 300 workers were idle and he blamed me.

The customer's stock in trade was to threaten their $2m of business if a particular pet project of theirs wasn't delivered, if I couldn't convince our production planners to shunt Unilever or Murray Goulburn for me.

Daily mistakes, lies or accidents, mostly out of my control. These guys had cool heads, "if you can keep your head when all around are losing theirs and blaming it on you".

(From Rudyard Kipling's "If")

And then sometimes I'd make a mistake. Sometimes it cost us a lot of money. Sometimes it cost the customer a lot of money. Sometimes it embarrassed the crap out of my boss. And that boss, with his cool head, would just glide over the top of it. Other times we might scream at each other.

But Frank van Ekeren was an old print production planner who worked in the Fawkner plant. He had to marshall the half formed ideas of his sales reps, their customers, and his art department into something that could run on a flexographic printing press. He helped me understand.

"it's batting average, mate. You score as many runs as you can when you're at the crease. You'll get out, because that's what the game is. Bradman would get out, Border gets out, but it's important to score as many runs as you can before you get out."

I thank God, now, for doing my apprenticeship in operations with such a cool bunch of guys. Show me the person who never gets out and I'll show you the person who never stands at the crease. Show me the person who never makes an expensive or embarrassing mistake and I will show you the person who never does anything.

But is nice to be surrounded by cool heads when one has the misfortune to get out.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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