Need some peer advice

Emmyd

Involved In Discussions
So, I've been in Quality many, many years - have worked in multiple positions including Quality Engineer and Quality Manager (currently). Background for context: I've been Manager at this company for over a year now, company has had a history of churning through Quality Managers, including multiple periods of time without one. The Quality department is quite removed from all the other departments physically and communication is challenging. The Plant Manager has been here for 9 years and is totally antagonistic toward our Corporate headquarters. That is a completely dysfunctional process that is a separate issue, but does play into this. We are an ISO 9001 registered company, with a wide range of customers, including automotive.

So my need for advice is a gut check - my training has always been to maintain a customer focus and act as a bridge between the customer and my organization. Customer specific requirements related to PPAP, customer feedback, customer complaints, quality decisions that are made on the production floor and how they will affect the customer and my organization all work together and it's my job to manage all these elements to keep the customer happy and the business profitable. It's a balancing act that I thought I had always understood and had been quite successful with.

So, my Plant Manager is known to be quite bombastic and will backtrack frequently. Last week, he called me out in a meeting with the Operations Manager and 2 of my QE's that the customers did not run our business and had no say in what PPAP documents we would or would not supply to them. I was chastised for even bringing up what the customer wanted. In a private meeting later on, he was quite clear that he would be the one to tell me what we would or would not provide to the customer, that I didn't work for the customer, that I worked for the Plant Manager. We have a new customer who has requested a PPAP from us, the Plant Manager said that he had personally spoken with the owner of the new customer's company and that the owner of that company said that no PPAP would be required. I asked for some type of documentation to cover the demands of corporate and others at the new customer, nothing was documented and he would not reply to an email request for a summary of that conversation. Then, he said he'd be fine with a level 3 PPAP.

So, have I been doing this all wrong for 20+ years? I've always focused on doing what my company needs were, but always being a voice of the customer in the process. I've worked with customers to understand their needs and maintain an excellent working relationship with them and my company, which I believe has led to more opportunities for my companies in the past. But, this plant manager has made me question most of my beliefs and knowledge in my job.

Please let me know what you think....
 
Been there. Was told that the company pays me my paycheck, not the customer. CYA is the name of the game. Working for a better place now, at least the reply to my emails and I can assign a "superior override", for when it comes back, which it always does.
On the plus side, the employees here really want to make good product as they hate doing things twice, (or three times), so the job is easy and even rewarding in that respect, but shop managers and up like to change the rules as they go, and shortcut "time wasting steps" which are really essential to get things done right, and once.
 

ScottK

Not out of the crisis
Leader
Super Moderator
I've been there a couple of times and unless the company has some redeeming points that outweigh the headache and stress that this joker is causing you it's time to bail.
The market is really good.
Get out.
And be sure to document all this in the exit interview
 

Tagin

Trusted Information Resource
it's my job to manage all these elements to keep the customer happy and the business profitable.

I don't see it that way. To me, its your job to ensure that there is a functioning quality system in place to manage all these elements to meet/exceed customer requirements and other quality goals/objectives. Profitability is, in my mind, not quality's role, although quality can contribute to it.

This way, its not about personalities, its about the quality system performing or not performing up to par.

So, have I been doing this all wrong for 20+ years? I've always focused on doing what my company needs were, but always being a voice of the customer in the process.

In my mind, ideally everyone in the company is a customer advocate to one degree or another. But advocacy has to work within the structure of the quality system.

In a private meeting later on, he was quite clear that he would be the one to tell me what we would or would not provide to the customer, that I didn't work for the customer, that I worked for the Plant Manager.

It seems that the Plant Mgr is undermining the current structure of the quality system and due to his authority, he is likely also fostering that undermining in others. You can fight it, but it seems unwinnable unless corporate has the gumption and desire to step in.

Instead, maybe you restructure the QMS flows so that the plant mgr does indeed have authority and responsibility to determine customer requirements. Then, you are no longer investing yourself in a role (VoC) that shouldn't really be on you in the first place. (Where is Sales/Customer Relations team in all this, btw?) Your role is to keep a functioning quality system, which by definition will be serving the customer. As QM, you will have customer complaints and feedback, and audit results, to monitor the effectiveness (or lack thereof).

This may just be a workaround to a dysfunctional work environment, and the well is too poisoned to keep drinking from, in which case you would ideally find another company with a fertile, responsive culture.
 

BradM

Leader
Admin
Hello there!!
Welp... I totally get your position.
I guess it kind of drops to that "do you want to stay or go?" question. If you are thinking of leaving, just stay under the radar until you land a new job.

If you wish to stay....
You could.... kind of reframe things. You could show up to work everyday, and first, count the positives for that position (there has to be some).
Then, approach it as "I work for the plant manager. My job is to make him/her happy." So whatever they want, just comply and move on.

When you see something that doesn't look right, document, document, document. For example, while you may not have been granted documented minutes of the meeting the plant manager had with the customer, I would just send an email to your manager saying "Hey... regarding the XXX customer conversation we had on yy/yy/yyyy....." and let it go.
But I would still be putting out feelers. ;)
 

ScottK

Not out of the crisis
Leader
Super Moderator
Hello there!!
Welp... I totally get your position.
I guess it kind of drops to that "do you want to stay or go?" question. If you are thinking of leaving, just stay under the radar until you land a new job.

good advice there... I tend go in the other direction when I'm dissatisfied with some painful consequences once or twice.
 

optomist1

A Sea of Statistics
Super Moderator
Hi Emmyd,
Parroting
Need some peer advice
much of the above...I too share your pain, been in a similar situation whilst in the Aerospace & Defense fields, your first paragraph is very telling...i.e. distant, once removed communication...and a less than integral part of the larger team...an uphill battle indeed. This type of situation really draws upon one's interpersonal skills...what I found most valuable, was ventruing outside the QA/QC workspace, I was approached by folks in engineering and test and seized the opportunity. This rounds out one's technical skills and horizons, it was a challenge at first but paid off many many times over. Broadening one's professional skill set and perspective is crucial or at least it was for me. Hope this helps...
Cheers Optomist1
 

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Zero_yield

"You can observe a lot by just watching."
There's an easy, one-word description for a company that doesn't provide the product the customers want: Kaput.

Maybe there are enough customers that want the product the plant manager wants to make that the business will survive or thrive for some amount of time. Maybe. More likely, customers' needs will shift, the plant manager will dig in their feet, and they'll hemorrhage customers until they start providing a quality product again.
 
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