Every few years, in my dreams, I relive an incident from my first real job. At age 14, I was eligible for a work permit in 1960's New York City. I obtained my permit and got a Saturday job working at the largest (five floors) hobby store in the city. It was located in one of the posh downtown shopping areas and had, among other things, a functioning model railroad display that had every possible bell and whistle (literally) and occupied a significant part of the model railroading floor of the building.
My job was in the fifth-floor office area. I was responsible for operating the switchboard and doing other office jobs between connecting phone calls. The business was owned by two brothers, one very mellow and one very gruff. They alternated being in the office on Saturdays, and usually the fifth-floor occupants on Saturday were one of them and me. As a young teenager, I found them both intimidating, especially Brother Gruff.
On the first Saturday of this still-vivid memory, it was me and Brother Gruff. For those too young to know, here is how I recall the switchboard working. When a call would come in, one of the outgoing trunk lines would light up. I would plug a cord into that line and answer the call. Once I determined whom the call should be routed to, I plugged another cord into that extension and dialed the extension on a rotary dialer to connect the call.
My problems started when I dialed Brother Gruff's phone while trying to connect a call to a similar, but different, extension. He came out of his office and assertively told me to be more careful because there was no call on his line. I sheepishly apologized and then proceeded during the course of the day to misconnect numerous other calls around the building. I didn't know what I was doing wrong; it was well beyond my first day on the job. When, late in the afternoon, I made a second wrong connection to Brother Gruff, he told me in no uncertain terms that if it happened again, it would be my last day working for him. I went home shaken and afraid to come to work the following Saturday. I didn't know how to correct my mistakes.
The following Saturday, there was a note at the switchboard and a small gift certificate for use in the store. The note was a handwritten apology from Brother Gruff, in which he thanked me for my hard work and explained that the errors continued on Monday with the full-time switchboard operator. It turned out that the rotary dialer was shorting and needed replacement.
The immediate impulse for the boss to yell at me was certainly not the hallmark of an organization using the Baldrige Excellence Framework (which didn't exist then). However, whenever I reflect on those two memorable Saturdays, more Baldrige-based "lessons" come to mind. Here are a few of them:
I could continue, but I hear the phone ringing!
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The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.
Thank you Harry for the experiences and lessons learned from Two Saturdays I Will Never Forget. I was a little kid in those days when brick and mortar hobby shops/businesses were popular so it took me back. I'm glad to hear Brother Gruff had a heart. Also, Love that picture of a young Harry! Very nice!
Harry, It was wonderful reading about your real life experience paralleling the Baldrige Excellence Framework. Very memorable. Many thanks for sharing it.
Good story Harry. Heck, I had to go back and look at that 'young man' in the photo at least twice, to verify my understanding the image was you, years ago. Ha. DF
Thanks for the comments. Yes, I once was a young teenager!