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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Backstory Introduction

During that four years in Alaska, I experienced more than several sightings, encounters, confrontations, happenings, run-ins, arguments, disagreements, quarrels, rows, conflicts, clashes, and skirmishes with moose – many more with moose than any other animal in Alaska. An animal that takes up as much room as your run-of-the-mill Bull Moose and weighs in at as much as twelve to fourteen hundred pounds demands attention and most of the time, the right-of-way. In the far, far woods, as my son would come to call the area adjacent to our quarters, I would frequently find myself during the deepest part of the winter playing tag with a bull or cow moose in and around Ship Creek which passed just one hundred yards or so behind the home the US Army was so grateful to allow us to utilize during our stay.. These encounters would routinely make my wife mad as you might imagine – at me, not the moose. Tapping a moose on the nose and dodging behind a tree was akin to the same game we would play with a bull or mean white-eyed momma cow back in Texas during my recent teen years.
The encounters might involve a run-in with a moose in the morning formation just outside the Battalion’s barracks area. Or maybe the incident might take the moose through the glass doors into the building itself. Once observing a confrontation between a moose and a VW Bug on the highway to Anchorage gave me a real healthy appreciation for these antlered obstructions. We even experienced a hungry bull that had crawled on his knees under our back porch in order to get to the only grass available that winter just outside the dryer vent coming from the basement of our quarters.
Quite often these encounters would turn out to be a sorta learning experience that I would periodically site during the years to come while trying to make a coaching point to my associates, subordinates and supervisors. Finding myself at a particular point-in-time where an appropriate story would fit, these stories would become very useful in future management positions. As a result, whether the story involved a moose or not, collectively, they all began to be shuffled into a genre that those working for and with me called “moose stories”.
Well, not everything revolves around a moose experience, it’s the people who work with and for you that step into, instigate, or cause a problem that makes up a manager’s day. During the thirty-seven years I spent in the management, supervision and consultation of operations, both in manufacturing and the military; I continually found myself in the study of these people who cause the situations to happen to and around me. While a good deal of the stories are somewhat military in nature, largely due to the fact that I spent time at more than sixty posts, camps and stations; they are primarily just stories of people, the situations they find themselves in, what got them there and how we//they sometimes resolved the dilemma(s) that we found ourselves in.
Over the last twenty-five years while working in numerous manufacturing assignments; I found opportunities to use what I had learned from the people and situations I had previously been associated with. These adventures with people resulted in a much more basic understanding of those people and their thought processes. While most of those I was associated with in the manufacturing arena had little if any military experience they all related to the characters and the predicaments in the stories. The people lessons that I took away from these stories helped in making both me and those around me understand better what we could do to improve our lot in life. People, their actions and the results of their actions are the major ‘time consumers’ that take up the majority of most management and supervision time; both good and bad people are the real players in the continuing story of our daily ventures.
Usually after working with an organization for some time and recognizing the need to relate one of these adventures, I might start in and then be interrupted by one of those that had been there for some time asking: “Is this gonna be another moose story Howard?”
Eventually I realized that often I had to watch out for was this guy specifically knowing that I enjoyed telling the stories maybe even more than they enjoyed listening and learning from them. “Tell us another moose story Howard.” was sure to lengthen the meeting’s duration, not always the right solution.
A little background might be appropriate at this juncture. I have two Master’s degrees in addition to my Marketing Degree from Texas A&M University that I previously mentioned. The first Masters is from Central Michigan University and concentrated in Management and Supervision and the second Masters is from the United States Army Command and General Staff College and concentrated in Command and Logistics. During my civilian career, I held positions as varied as stockroom manager, warehousing manager, production and inventory control manager, manufacturing systems manager, purchasing manager, materials manager, both director of materials and manufacturing and finally as vice president of manufacturing.
The industries I experienced also varied from automobile engine re-manufacturing to capital end items to computer to school furniture manufacturing. But the entire time I spent in management positions, the one constant factor was people. You deal with people and their problems everyday. There is no way around this fact. People and their actions take up the majority of any manager’s time. Those managers and supervisors that become sufficiently skilled in their career of choice have mastered only half of the realm of their required expertise – people are the other half. I was lucky enough to figure this out early in my career; more by being forced to do so by those reporting to me than a burning desire to do so because of some external motivation. I fully believe the experiences that I took away from my people adventures is the very reason that I was as successful in my career as I turned out to be, if I say so myself.
The adventures that follow are all true. I know that for a fact. I was there when they took place and often was the one that they took place to. Usually they all had reasonable endings; some more reasonable than others. The situations I will relate to you taught me more than I could have ever learned in a management or supervision class tucked away somewhere on a college campus or a one-two-three day seminar taught by the very successful presenters of that type material. Just like many of you out there; the lessons of life are much more real than the case studies that professors will ever cause you to study. You all have been involved in just as many as I have and through this volume of work I will endeavor to spur just the slightest amount of memory and realization that you may know more about what leadership, management and supervision is all about than you previously thought you did.
I hope you find the information that follows to be enlightening, helpful, sometime even humorous, and at least interesting – the original cast and their actions were just that. Some of the names have been changed, but please remain assured that the stories are true and the dubious names may be factious only to save embarrassment; a point the reader will subsequently understand. This is what I took away from some very interesting, sometimes stressful or physical demanding but always memorable people experiences.

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