Monday, February 27, 2012

What is work?

A scene from the movie THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT (SPOTSWOOD). 

Mr. Wallace, a middle aged character played by Anthony Hopkins, comes into the office of Mr. Ball, the 75 year old owner of the Ball Moccasin Factory.  Mr. Ball is played by Alwyn Kurts.  Mr. Ball had hired Mr. Wallace to help him find ways to modernize his company as a way to improve productivity in order to keep the factory operating and his workers employed.  After spending several weeks at the factory, Mr. Wallace has instead concluded that it would be more efficient for Mr. Ball to lay off most of his workers, and outsource his manufacturing operations to Asia. 

Mr. Wallace’s conclusion is based on his observations of the workers who spend more time on breaks sharing stories, working out strategy for the upcoming model slot car race that Mr. Wallace sponsors them in, or pursuing romance with their coworkers; then they do trying to incorporate Mr. Ball’s suggested updates to the manufacturing processes or making moccasins.  In addition, the market for moccasins has passed its peak. 

In the scene, Mr. Ball is seated behind his large wooden desk.  In front of him lies an old baseball, his stack of tobacco pipes, and Mr. Wallace’s report contained in a file folder.  Behind him a brass telescope sits pointing out the window.  Mr. Wallace sits on the other side of the desk and they discuss Wallace’s findings. 

Mr. Ball:  “Robert, Gordon, they’d have to go too.  I’d be losing 60% of my people”

Mr. Wallace:  “The Asians can do it for half the price. Importing is the future.  You simply cannot afford to be in manufacturing.”

Mr. Ball:  “But we must, people need to make things.  We can’t just import everything.”

Mr. Wallace:  “You have been a very kind employer Mr. Ball, but I am afraid your people have let you down.  They haven’t paid you back in kind. 

Mr. Ball:  “No, you’re wrong.  You don’t understand, you never could - with respect Mr. Wallace.  They paid me back double, triple. If you had been here when the place was busy, you’d have seen them working day and night, no over time.  They did it because they believed in the place, and they trusted me.  It’s not their fault, and I won’t have that.”

Mr. Wallace:  “No, it’s your fault.  You haven’t helped these people letting them live in the fool’s paradise.  And what did you think was going to happen in eighteen months’ time when, when you run out of money? "

Mr. Ball:  “You can’t see past the dollars and cents can you?  Work isn’t just about money Mr. Wallace - it’s about dignity.  It’s about treating people with respect.”

Mr. Wallace.  “Mr. Ball, if you want to save any part of this operation, I’d advise you to act immediately.  I’m very sorry.” 

Mr. Ball: “I might wait for a week or so.” 
In the end, Mr. Wallace comes to understand what the Ball Moccasin Factory is really about.  He understands that it is indeed the people that work in the factory that are more important to Mr. Ball than his profits.  It is the relationships, the trust, and the ability to create that makes work a place that people want to come to and spend their day.

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