The big kid glared menacingly at you and taunted, "So what are you going to do about it?"

The kid had caused you a problem; you knew it and had told him about it. He then challenged you to do something about it. The challenge wasnít easy to answer because the kid was big and tough. Odds are, if you were like me, you didnít do anything more significant than muttering something under your breadth after the bully turned his back. With that response, the problem most likely repeated itself some time later.

The same thing happens to foundries daily, but the bully is a little subtler now. Instead of a big kid standing in front of you taunting, itís a simple line on a report showing that once again inclusions are your biggest cause of defects; itís once again a customer on the telephone berating you and your operation because his shipments are late again; or, itís production being limited because not enough people showed up for work. Each of these and many, many more are problems that are just like the bully standing there asking, "So what are you going to do about it?" Just like the bully in my youth, you can bet if you donít do something about it, the problem will come back.

Early in my career, I believed once a problem was identified it was well on the way to being solved. I spent a great deal of time developing systems for determining what problems were effecting foundriesí performances. Those systems pointed out problems and frequently even quantified their effect on the operation. I would then sit back and wait for management to develop plans for solving the problem and get frustrated when it didnít happen. Of course, the problem would keep coming back.

Experience has taught me that was very naÔve thinking. In many of those cases, management knew the problem was there. They may not have known the exact magnitude, but they knew it was a problem. So my proving how big the problem was not that helpful in developing a plan to solve the problem. In fact, it may have just added to their frustration, because they werenít sure what to do about the problem.

In fairness to my past managers, I must add that sometimes the reason plans werenít developed to address the problem I brought forth that was the problem wasnít really that important in the grand scheme of things. There were bigger, more important problems that needed their attention at the time. You see, I suffered from a common engineersí delusion that just because we find what we perceive to be a problem it deserves to be addressed.

Also, in fairness, I could have done a lot more suggesting of plans instead of waiting for management to do all the work. Iím confident if I had done that, there would have been corrective actions taken and some of those bullies wouldnít have kept on clobbering us.

With this in mind, there are some recommendations that I think may help you with your bullies.

If youíre a young foundryman who has discovered a problem in your sphere of authority, my advice is to make a plan on how to solve it and then implement it. You donít have to wait for "management" to solve every problem. In fact, in most cases, thereís nothing more that management loves to hear about is a problem that has already been solved.

If you donít feel that the problem is something that would be right for you to act directly upon, take it to management with a well thought out plan. The next best to thing to a solved problem for management is a problem with a plan of how to address it. Donít be surprised if the plan is modified. Unfortunately, there will be those times when the response to your plan will be, "We tried that, and it didnít work." and not be shown anything to be able to learn why it didnít work. Even worse, there might be times when you will submit the problem with a plan and then hear nothing. Things are not always done perfectly in the real world.

If youíre the "management" and learn of a problem, the first thing that you should think about doing is deciding how big a problem it is for your operation. If it really isnít that big a deal, admit it and move on. If the problem was presented to you by a young foundryman, take the opportunity to show him why the problem isnít that important. Showing the logic behind your decision will give him insight into what you do consider important and, hopefully, show what type of thing he should be working on in the future.

If management finds a significant problem, it will fall into one of two categories. The first is the type of problem that is deemed really important, and something is done about it. A plan is made, and action is taken. The second category is the one that is seen far too often; itís the true big bully problem - the one that we donít think we can do anything about, so we just accept it.

If youíre facing a problem like that, I encourage you to remember that the problem will not go away and, in all likelihood, will get worse. If you tried all the things that you can think of and they didnít work, get some other people involved. The people from your operation may know whatís causing the problem, if you listen to them. (Listening to employees is one of the ways we consultants make our money.) If nothing comes from that, get some suggestions from your suppliers. They may know of someone that solved the same thing thatís bugging you. Of course, if that too fails to come up with something, there are always consultants. We do bring more to the table than just listening to your employees.

But whatever you do the next time that bully is asking you, "So what are you going to do it about it?" whether itís on a report, the phone, or however, remember, itís not going to get any better unless something is done about it.

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