I am sure some day I may connect with the people enough to not complain about them. I am sure I will also stop comparing them to the other Food Manufacturing Consumer Goods Company. However, that day is not today.
My previous employers talked about Business mindset. It is about not just doing your part but owning the whole business. The different food groups (e.g. Milks) always has someone managing Demand (as in Generating Demand) and Supply (as in Planning demand and Ensuring Supply). I was fortunate enough to be on both sides of the business but the pressure was mutually exclusive. As a brand manager I had to make sure that I was on top of managing the activities as well as executing the brand plan and making within the budget. Kind of sucked that it was close to the end of the year, the budget had been almost spent, yet stuff had to be paid, but that is another point.
With that, however, I needed to be on top of my sales v target every day and make sure that supply was available.
On the flip side, as a Demand & Supply Person, I had to make sure that there was continuous supply, but needed to be aware of all the activities that were going on, price increases, whatever was going on with the brand so that there would not be a sudden out of stock because I wasn’t aware of what was happening around me.
So we had the business planning meetings, they were long and boring but necessary. But as well as that, there was basic interaction with my colleagues. In the region it was easier to interact face to face because we were all in one building. So I would go to my guys every morning, ask what is up have a discussion, so when we arrive at the meetings we were singing one tune.
In the country it was a bit difficult as I was in Accra and the factory was in Tema but at least I would call and speak to the Planners just to see what is going on.
Here, nobody speaks to each other. Apart from the formalized meetings, there doesn’t appear to be interaction. It is all so clinical. Any issues are discussed via email, and apart from the canteen, I don’t think that I have once seen anyone from a different function in this office.
My former boss was Gabonese, Mr O, I loved him dearly but he used to say things like “are you stupid” on occasion when he was frustrated. He was a Francophone and I took it that maybe something got lost in translation. To say it out loud though is an insult and ultimately it cost us to lose our working relationship. However, sometimes I think what’s worse, telling someone they are stupid to their face or thinking it. This week as I have been through the induction period, I am wondering how people can be so stupid.
I am not talking about intellectually stupid but just sense. Everybody seems to be in their own little corner and they just don’t really have a clue about their business. My first meeting was with the Brand Managers. Now I have been one if only for 5 minutes. Brand Managers think that they are the centre of the universe. The first lady I spoke to, Vera, she has been given me the evils since I joined and claimed to be very busy so wasn’t really to fussed when she cancelled. I am sure I probably intimidate her but alas, it is something I am getting used to.
Tracy, the other Brand Manager, she was polite enough, but really, after talking to her, I did want to ask her if she was stupid. First of all, she didn’t know what I did, I had to explain the whole concept of demand and supply and category management. She did not know what her targets were. Now one thing about Mr O is that he knew the yearly, monthly and daily targets of each product (SKU) across Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. So if you brand manager didn’t know your monthly and yearly targets, the small SKU’s that you were handling then “are you stupid” were the least of the insults.
I didn’t bother to ask about the Marginal Contribution or Profit Target because it looked like she only referred to her figures when she needed to and had the whole, just get by today attitude.
After that, I had a meeting with Customer Development. These guys, well, hmm, they put themselves on a pedestal even if you won’t. I think it is something about the team. I don’t knock it however, if you don’t love yourself who will. I have to say, the lady I met with was on point. She was the first person to have actually done a presentation as opposed to a 5 minute conversation about what they do. To be honest I don’t have to say anything about her, except that she does love an email. But I am seeing that this is the culture of the company as a whole. So as I was leaving some idiot says he will be bothering me about the supply of soaps. I tell him that I am responsible for home care, and the guy proceeds to tell me my job. So I told him that things have changed and this is a dynamic company so he should trust me that I will not be following up on his soap. He kind of looked at me blankly and I just walked away.
Then there are the starers. As you walk towards them, they just stare. You smile, they just stare. You greet, they just stare. Nothing is said, they just stared. Sometimes I just want to stop them and ask them what the hell they are looking at, but I have just resigned myself to the fact that I must be a vision of beauty, and they just can’t help themselves but to stare.
I am sure I am going to meet many more crazies and stupid during my stay here. Though it does strike me as worrying that I am relying on people that don’t know much, not because they are stupid but they just don’t have the sense to look past their own noses.