a99kitten's Musings

I blog about a WHOLE LOT of stuff :)

Blurb about John Thain, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch, from “Too Big To Fail”…

“In his junior year at MIT, when he interned at Proctor and Gamble, he made a simple but highly significant observation of an assembly line he was supervising. The workers were making Ivory soap, and whenever technical problems forced the line to come to a halt, they would wait for it to start up again before getting back to work. The college boy persuaded the workers that there was no reason to stop – they could keep making soap and stack the boxes on the side until the line came back on. That way their bonuses, which were based on production, would not be affected.”

Ok. So…after re-reading this and having a “fist of fury” moment (as my husband calls them as I really do shake my fist in the air in fury) at the pure unbelievableness of it, I asked myself so it took this boy genius from MIT to convince these workers, whose bonuses were based ON PRODUCTION, to keep making soap and simply stack the boxes to the side until the assembly line was working again so they could load them up? Really? THIS is what the heck people do when left to their own devices? And there was clearly no better supervisor previously to instill this little nugget of wisdom.

This is the type of thing that infuriates me. Mind-boggles me. And makes me NOT sympathetic to the (typically but not always) union worker bee who feels entitled to corporate profits, lifetime pensions and health benefits and whatever else they can get. I guess businesses really do need those highly paid MBA types…that way work can still get done, and workers can make their bonuses, when the assembly line stalls.

Filing under #unfrackingbelievable


  1. WOW! I have to read that too. We currently have a nation-wide postal strike going on in Canada.

    It started out as “rolling” day strikes in certain cities but we were told that they were close to an agreement. So much for that – now weeks into it – it’s gone nation-wide.

    The general public – does not support the strike.

  2. I saw that they are still on strike but then the article asked “Do the Canadian citizens really care if they don’t have postal workers?” Oops – bad strike plan guys! Going on strike during bad economic times is so ridiculous and gross, it’s unreal. Grrr.

  3. squozed
    11:14 am on July 13th, 2011

    The “plight of the downtrodden worker” mindset will never change.

    I think it was more of a correction of a manufacturing process deficiency – Thain is/was an operations genius (however self-serving). Next to Den of Thieves and Barbarians at the Gate, it has become my favorite business book though it hits way too close to home. :)

  4. The downtrodden worker can kiss my arse!

    Oh – I think he clearly did/notice something that was smart/helpful. I think the fact that it took him to do it and the entire set of workers and supervisors there to not do it is telling of the downtrodden worker.