Dead Fish in a Box

The chronicles of a suburban fishpimp trying to keep it rural.

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Location: United States

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

In one ear…

One thing we pride ourselves on here at the House of Fish is our on-going training program. We have bi-weekly product training, and quarterly sales training. One of the major focuses at the quarterly session this past Saturday was on decision-making; particularly on how to evaluate information. The transportation manager led the discussion. We talked at length about what is observational and what is inferential data, about the differences between discussions, arguments, and quarrels, and about what the role of leadership should be.

The point of all this was to help us approach our day-to-day struggles from a rational point of view, and abandon our usual emotional & argumentative approach. It’s a great idea, and one that we would be smart to embrace. We love to yell at each other around here; find someone to blame instead of finding a solution – it’s easy and makes us feel good – but it aggravates people on the receiving end and does little to foster teamwork or raise morale.

I thought the program was very well done, and would go a long way to improve our inter-departmental relations. In fact, I did a mini-poll outside after the class, and everyone thought it was very helpful, even the most hardened skeptics. I was excited by the reaction of my teammates who normally view new ideas like this with scorn & contempt. Instead of the usual “That sh*t won’t work here, this isn’t IBM, it’s the goddamn fish business!” I heard “Wow, I blown away by that presentation, I learned a lot!” I was having visions of an enlightened workplace where people sought our multiple viewpoints before choosing a course of action, working together, streamlining systems, increasing moral and efficiency, swapping shouting with solutions. I thought about how much improved our system would be if we truly took these ideals to heart, and that it would be noticeable to everyone inside and outside our building. Halcyon days ahead thought I.

How wrong I was.

It turns out that at the exact time we were all learning about informed decision-making and avoiding emotional decisions a driver who overslept made a conscious decision to completely ignore his routing, causing him to be 5 hours late to the largest independent foodservice property in the city. They had a banquet that evening and needed the fish by 9 AM, it arrived at 2 PM. The salesman for the account told me that night that they had fired us, and that he had no idea where he’d make up the revenue shortfall from losing that account. The worst part, he told me, was that the driver had made similar errors just two weeks earlier – why hadn’t he been fired then? Why was he still on such a sensitive route?

Come Monday morning both the salesman and the foodservice manager were breathing fire. They called for the head of the transportation manager. They were so furious. The epithets spewed so rapidly and vigorously that I had to leave the room. They were the very embodiment of all the negatives we identified in class just 48 hours earlier.

The irony is that all the outrage was unnecessary. The person who supposedly fired us was the 3rd in charge. He was reprimanded by the executive chef, and we didn’t lose much, if any business. The transportation manager fired the driver on the spot for the second violation, showing the company’s resolve to both the customer and the sales department. If we had just kept our cool and “peeled back the onion” we would have been able to avoid all that consternation and stress. But we apparently are slow learners. We apparently are not students of history, and as the proverb says, we are doomed to repeat it.


Asi es la vida, asi el la Fishhouse.


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