The CEO's fone buzzed; it was time to look over the papers from the engineering staff, then meet them in the engineering department. He pulled them up on his tablet.
Most of the answers to his queries were interesting and original. He noted that every single one of his engineers rated Richardson as the worst engineer in the shop, regardless of their own engineering specialty, and the one they least wanted to be chief.
He decided to promote Ron Kowalski to chief of engineering. His masters degree was in engineering, of course, but his minor as an undergrad had been psychology, and he was well liked by the rest of the staff. For the chief, this was even more important than his expertise at engineering, since he would be good at communicating with the other departments as well. Also, most of the staff wanted him as chief.
He called Human Resources. “Hello, Larry? We're going to need a new engineer like I told you we might. Yes, we'll need an electrical engineer. I want the best, okay? Thanks.” Like Richardson, Kowalski was an electrical engineer.
He called Kowalski to his office, and once Kowalski got there Green said “Good morning, Mister Kowalski, please have a seat. Coffee?”
“Uh, yes sir, as long as it isn't robot coffee. Thank you, sir.” Green's assistant gave Kowalski a cup. The CEO said “Congratulations, Mister Kowalski, I'm making you the new department head.”
Kowalski looked startled. “Me? Sir, I'm no good at all at bureaucrat stuff. I'm an engineer!”
“That makes you perfect for the job,” Green replied. “This organization has way too much bureaucracy as it is, a bureaucrat would add even more. Bad for productivity. That was one of Mister Richardson's worse traits, he was a born bureaucrat, paying too much attention to the book but not able to pay much attention to people at all.
“It's important that your programmers and engineers are developing machines and systems in an area they know and like.”
“Yes, sir,” Kowalski replied, “that was our biggest complaint; Mister Richardson always seemed to give us the jobs we hated and were worst at. I couldn't believe he had Mohamed Nisbah program the pork chef; he's Muslim and they consider eating pork sinful, and what's even worse is that the man hates to cook at all. It was like punishment to him and he didn't do anything at all wrong, not anything against company policy, anyway. Mr. Richardson assigning it to him was just wrong.”
“Well, your first job is to assign someone who loves cooking pork and is proud of his cooking skills to write a pork program.”
“That would be Dave Wilson, he really wanted that assignment and complained so noisily when he didn't get it that Richardson threatened to fire him. He complained even more than Mohamed did, even.”
“Excellent, we'll need a barbecue program as well. Does Mister Wilson like cooking barbecue?”
Kowalski grinned. “He probably knows more about barbecue than any of us other engineers or programmers, and he's really good, even has his own recipe for sauce. He brought some in one day when we had a pot luck, and it was some of the best barbecue I've ever eaten. Mister Richardson has him programming robots to make coffee since you talked to him.”
“He does drink coffee, doesn't he?”
“He practically lives on it, but he won't touch the coffee the robots are making now. He's kind of a coffee snob, we'll have great coffee when it's done.”
“Will it take him long?”
“No, Dave hacks out code faster than anybody else here. Sometimes it's a little bloated, but programs can be trimmed down later, and every coffee drinker here, which is most of us, is sick of wasting their time making coffee when the robots should be able to. Knowing Dave, he'll have it done today or tomorrow.”
The CEO said “I want you to do some reassignments. If anybody hates what they're designing or programming, give them something they like and are good at. Are any of your people less than competent?”
Kowalski grinned. “Not since you fired Mister Richardson.”
“Who programmed the maids?”
“I'm not sure,” Kowalski replied. “They were pro-grammed before I started here. I think it was Mr. Richardson.”
“They seem to have a bad habit of catching fire,” the CEO remarked.
“I'm surprised they all don't catch fire more often, sir. Financial makes us buy the cheapest bot batteries on the market, making it really hard to design around them so they won't catch fire. We have to add safeties and extra insulation, and that makes them more expensive than using good batteries. On top of that they don't last very long, even when they don't catch fire.”
“Well, Mister Kowalski, it looks like you're getting off to a very good start. As You might guess, your biggest headache is going to be financial. Everyone in that department thinks their MBAs and accounting degrees make them able to boss other departments around. From now on I want our robots to all have the highest quality batteries available. If financial gives you any trouble with that or anything else, don't hesitate to shoot Mister Osbourne or me an email.”
“Yes sir. Thank you.”
“I don't just have an MBA, Mr. Kowalski, I hold a Masters degree in electrical engineering myself as well, that's how we started this company. Mr. Osbourne has a mechanical engineering degree, and we bought two beat up old wrecks and made a better ship out of the two of them than anyone else's and then we grew from there. As an engineer I know that between cheap, fast, or good, you can have two if your teams are competent, but never all three. I expect our engineers to be top rate...”
“They are now, Mr. Green.”
“Excellent. Now, I want good. Always, I want quality. When your engineers are designing, I want them to focus on that. We're spending way too much on repairs. Don't let financial talk you into cheap, we need quality. If the decision is between cheap and fast then let them decide unless it has to do with security or safety. Cost doesn't matter when it comes to safety or security. But never, ever skimp on quality for any reason.”
“Yes sir, that's like a breath of fresh air. Nobody enjoys designing or programming crap.”
“And you're going to be getting reports from boat captains, I want you to read them. You'll find them to be useful.
“I hope you and your engineers won't mind, but I'm splitting security into another division that will be headed by someone with military experience. Of course, they'll be working closely with your group. They can decide what weapons and defenses they need, and your shop can design and build them. Of course, if you have suggestions for them, tell them. And of course, cryptology will remain in the engineering department.
“Do you like pork, Mister Kowalski?”
“Not really. It's way too expensive, anyway.”
“Well, if you did like it you could afford it once in a while now. Your new title comes with a new, much larger salary along with your new and harder duties. Oh, and speaking of pork we need to find a way to make up to Mister Nisbah for the horrible assignment Richardson gave him. Ask him what a Muslim needs but our boats don't have and if he'd like to design it.”
“Yes, sir, I'd do that anyway.”
“Okay, now lets go meet your staff.”
“They're all waiting in conference room three,” Kowalski said. “That's where I was when you called me, we were waiting for your visit.”
After they entered the big conference room, the CEO said “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some good news for you all. I have appointed Mister Kowalski as your department head...”
The room burst into cheers and applause, making Green wait a minute to finish.
“I have some even better news than that,” he said after the applause died down. “How many of you are working on projects Mister Richardson gave you that you hate? Those who are, please raise your hand.”
A majority of them raised their hands.
“Well, Mister Kowalski is going to fix that. We're no longer going to have Hindus programming robots to cook beef and Muslims to program pork chefs. When the meeting is over, see Mister Kowalski for assignment changes, let him know what you would like to be working on and what you hate doing.
“Are there any questions? Any suggestions?”