|Killing the Goose...|
Chapter 25: Working Smart
The rookie modelers came into the Luxury studio a few weeks after I got there. I waited to know why I hadnt been transferred then but I held my tongue thinking that my transfer was in the works. I couldnt imagine why Don Jones would have set me up to languish in Leightons studio or why Leighton would want to keep me. Before I made my next strategic moved it seemed like a good idea to figure it out.
Don Jones could have entered a negative comment about my violent attitude with respect the incident with Phil Walker that brought me to Luxury. If he was working against me, why didnt he do it? Moreover, he was the guy that Frank Horenkamp the Editor, of the Highlight, went to for final approval of his issues and he knew that I was Franks favorite writer. He also knew that the Highlights popularity went beyond the Design Center and Fords new president Donald Peterson kept a copy of it in his office.
Rod Leighton and I despised each other. He set me up with jobs that were designed to be losers and with Master Modelers who had no respect for what I could do. When I set up a job, he frequently intervened to add something that interfered with my progress or took something away that I needed to do the job right. I had zero chance of doing anything significant with Leighton and little chance of enhancing my status with his favorite Master Modelers, Dave Hackett, Dennis Painter and Sam Borg. Dennis paid no attention to me unless I appeared to be doing something wrong. Dave and Sam went out of their way the help me without ever considering the possibility that I knew what I was doing even though they didnt.
Dave Hackett and Sam Borg were formula modelers. They knew all of the tired and true modeling formulas and when they saw me using a technique they didnt recognize they assumed that I didnt know the right technique. They rarely saw my work from start to finish because I rarely got the opportunity to start a job the way I wanted to or to finish it.
When I was on loan to the studio the first assignment that Leighton gave me should have put me on solid ground with him and all of his Master Modelers. Instead, it took me backward. I was supposed to prepare a grille for a Thunderbird by digging a big hole in the surface of the clay. The Wood Shop was supposed to make the grille, which would be painted or foiled and set into the hole. That the grille was going to have to match a cut line of the hood and the cut line for the headlights, so I started to develop the surface of the clay where the front of the grille would end up. That way, I would know how deep to make the hole so that the back of the grille would butt up against the back and the front would end up where it was designed to end up.
Sam Borg watched me with increasing impatience as I modeled the clay surface that everyone knew was going go away. He thought that I was making too much of the task and kept hinting that I should stop fooling around with the surface. Knowing the consequences if I started cutting into the clay before I had the surface clearly defined, I resisted. I told him what I was doing and why but his answer was always the same.
That surface is nothing. It doesnt exist. The Wood Shop is going to make the grille.
I know, Sam, but they wont know how to cut the sections unless they know how deep the hole is gong to be.
A hole is a hole, he told me. Just dig the hole and well make it fit.
But they dont have the information they need to do it.
Yes they do. They already have the drawings.
The drawings are wrong. The hood has changed three times since those drawings were made.
It hasnt changed that much.
How do you know?
Good grief. Just do it! Were running out of time
I was thinking about the time as well as the quality of the finished product. Thats why I was approaching the job they way I was so that the Wood Shop would get the right drawings and the grille would slip into place the first time without the need to modify it.
I hadnt done everything I wanted to do but I was much closer to where I needed to be than I would have been if I had started digging when I was told to do it. The issue now wasnt whether I knew what I was doing but whether I could follow instructions. I started digging.
The way I started digging was the next thing that got me in trouble with Sam Borg. I used a depth cutter to back off the surface uniformly in carefully controlled strips. Once the surface was gone the uniform depth would tell me where the face of the Wood Shops grille would end up. All we had to do then was cut a few vertical and horizontal templates off the surface of the hole and draw parallel lines the depth of the grille bars for the Wood Shop to make an accurate drawing. Sam couldnt see that. All he saw was red. He got so angry that Dave Hackett, who wasnt responsible for the grille, took it upon himself to step in.
Hackett patently explained to me what I was doing wrong and why. He said the same things that Sam said only he did it in a softer tone. I went around with him for a little while in the same patient tone. Dave gave up.
Sam grabbed a big hogging tool and started digging out the hole himself at a furious pace. He dug past my surface to make sure the hole was deep enough growing calmer as he worked. When he had gotten rid of everything Id done he relaxed and apologized for losing his temper. Then he explained again in Hacketts patient tone why he wanted me to do the job his way.
What you dont understand, he said, pointing to the cavern he created and intentionally left lumpy and ragged to make his point, is this is just a hole. Its going to be painted flat black. Nobody is going to see it.
What Sam didnt understand was that I may have dug in as many grille openings in my short time at American Motors as he had done at Ford in his entire 30-year career. He didnt understand that I knew what he was talking about because Id done it his way before I leaned the more thoughtful, accurate, timesaving and quality enhancing way I was trying to do it. He didnt understand that I was a seasoned professional, an innovator and a man with experience and unqualified success in the task. He didnt understand that my approach to that task was a demonstration of my ability that would have dazzled him if he had left me alone.
I couldnt win. My Master Modeler had given me explicit directions. I had not followed them. I had been in his situation as a leader in the Army so I knew how maddening it was to tell a subordinate one thing and have him do something else because he thought he had a better way to do it. Sam was my boss. The job was mine but the responsibility for seeing that it was done on time and done right was his. He was working to a plan and he could be sure of that plan only to the extent that he understood it and could be sure it would be carried out.
It never entered Sam Borgs mind that I understood his plan and I was carrying it out because it never entered his mind that I had the technical knowledge and experience to do it. He didnt know me. He knew only what he saw and what he saw didnt match what he knew about modeling. Sam Borg was a truly outstanding modeler. Hed been a Master Modeler longer than I had been a modeler so I understood his reaction to my apparent insubordination. I also understood that if I had come into the studio with the reputation of being an outstanding modeler he would have been intrigued rather than upset with my approach. There would have been no question of insubordination because he would have told me what to do without worrying about how I did it.
All I could do now was play the part of the attentive student eager to learn from the master and hope that he would see the light when the grille came back from the Wood Shop.
I watched Sam working with the designer and the guys from the Wood Shop to try to update the drawings to the changes in the hood. I watched the hands on the clock moving toward the end of the day with the show time rapidly approaching. I watched them trying to solve problems that wouldn’t have existed if they weren’t working in the dark. And I watched the consternation on everyone’s faces when the grille came back from the Wood Shop and didn’t match the cut line of the hood or the side view contour of the design intent.
I watched Dave Hackett come to Sams aid as he struggled to modify the wooden grille so that it matched the surrounding clay in all views. They worked frantically on overtime to change the plan view curvature of the clay surface, to cut new wooden pieces for the grille and to glue them in place. They pulled out every trick they knew to make the grille fit the way it was designed to and I could see that they loved every minute of it. They were stars. They were showing why they were stars by taking a horrible cluster of problems and turning them into acceptable solutions in an impossible amount of time. It was quite a display.
You see, said Sam as he and Dave made the final adjustments, I told you we would make it work. If you want to be a good modeler you have to learn how to make it work no matter what problems you run into.
Dave nodded his agreement. its not perfect he said stating the obvious, but we got it done.
What could I say? Could I tell them that all the scuffing they did would have been unnecessary if they had used my surface to make the drawing for the Wood Shop? No way. They should have seen that. If they couldnt see it, I couldnt tell them. They had already decided that they had to scuffle the way they did because I wasted so much time on one surface that was going to go away and another that was just a hole. They were being kind and diplomatic in not bringing that up. They were on my side. They expected me to appreciate it .
Another time when I was on loan to Luxury from Large Car, Dave Hackett and Dennis Painter were working out a Thunderbird body side that the designers wanted to sell to upper management. I got the losing side the side that was designed to make the winning side look better. I had a bad sketch and a formless mass of clay, which was perfect for the purpose. The worse my side looked, the better for the Studio Exec. Thats one reason Rod Leighton assigned me to it. He thought that I was one of the worse modelers in the studio.
At one point I thought that I was in a deeper hole than I could get myself out of. Too many things were happening with the surface that werent compatible. To make things worse, Frank Baylow wandered into the studio that morning, saw what I was doing and said in his characteristic fashion the very words I was thinking, Youre in big trouble.
I didnt want to leave the job for any reason. I didnt take a coffee break. I didnt even go to the toilet when my bladder was aching for relief because I didnt want anyone to accuse me of being away from the job too much. If I didnt leave at all, no one could do that.
Fortunately, I had cut my fingers the day before in an accident at home and it was not only painful for me to spline the surface but the cut opened up when Baylow left and I was bleeding all over the clay. The bleeding cut was fortunate because it forced me away from the job to bandage it. When I got back, I saw what I had to do to bring the dissonant elements of the body side together. I found the key that unlocked the surface.
Later that afternoon when I had the body side under control, Frank Baylow came into the studio again. This time, instead of glancing at what I was doing and saying what the thought in passing, he stopped. He watched me for a long time and said, Youve got the touch. Then he walked away.
Dennis Painters face turned beat red. Dave Hackett looked as though some one had stuck him in the ass with a hatpin. The last time they saw my body side it was a mess. I know that they were dying to come around to my side of the model to see what Baylow was talking about but they couldnt do it right away without looking tacky. Eventually they had to look because the lead designers interest in my side grew to the point that they had to change their side to match it. I dont think that it upgraded their opinion of my ability significantly. Subsequent events told me that they just assumed I got lucky with a new design.
Now that I was assigned to the studio, as opposed to working there on loan, I had a chance to correct some of the old impressions that Painter, Hackett and Borg had of me. To a small extent I succeeded. All things considered I didnt have that far to go.
Dennis Painters wife and I went to the same high school. I saw him with her at the Chadsey High 20th reunion. We sat at the same table and had a good time. Although 90% of the people there were black, Dennis showed none of the discomfort I was used to seeing with some white people in social situations where they were greatly outnumbered by blacks. At work, he treated my racial minority status the same way. He ignored it. Dave Hackett considered himself a liberal so he went out of his way to defend me when he thought that I might have been racially discriminated against. On a scale of one to five he rated me a three but even at that, he concluded that I was grossly underpaid.
Sam Borg grew to appreciate my talents in some areas and wanted me to improve them in others. He never caught on to the fact that I was way ahead of where he thought I was. Like Hackett, he never caught on to the fact that if he helped me less I could show him more. He never caught on to the fact that he was treating me like a know-it-all rookie who didnt really know the basics and that I was a far cry from being a rookie.
I feared that Sam and I would have a replay of the grille incident when he wanted to stop me from putting in a clay strip running the length of a Lincoln Continental body side. He let me go as far as he could stand to watch me, but when he saw me polishing the strip and putting foil on it to check the highlights he lost it. He gave me the old Its too early for that routine and started pulling off sections of my clay strip. He reached down into the bucket of hot clay I was using and started smearing it around to get more clay on the model. I didnt get upset. I saw an opportunity to use his attitude and behavior to my advantage and I seized it. Instead of arguing, I let him work of his anger without saying a word.
The minute Sam walked to the front of the model where he was working, I took off the clay that he put on and repaired my strip. I knew that it would infuriate him. I also knew that instead of trying to help me he would give up on that notion let me hang myself by doing it my way. No risk was involved on my part. The strip was the key to unlocking the surface. Once I had it right everything else would fall into place because there was no way for everything else not to fall into place. Thats why I put so much thought into modeling the strip.
An hour later the body side was done. The designer loved it and Sam couldnt find anything wrong with it. There was nothing wrong to find. It was not a tricky surface. The instant I saw the key I knew that the weeks Sam expected it would take to satisfy the designer and the engineer would not be necessary. He couldnt bring himself tell me that he was wrong. At the same time he couldnt argue with a result that spoke for itself. His anger had nowhere to go and evaporated. He said, Sometimes the surfaces go right in.
Sam Borg never interfered with me again.
Too bad the same wasnt true of Rod Leighton. Time after time he would bypass his Masters to set me up in ways that insured I would struggle and produce an inferior product. It wasnt sabotage, in that he didnt set me up to look bad. It was more like the trouble I had working for Ray Campau only worse because Leighton wasnt nearly as competent as Campau was and, as my Supervisor, he had more power over me. The killing part about having to do things the way he told me to was how it made me look in the eyes of Master Modelers like Dennis Painter who never noticed what I was doing unless it looked shockingly inept.
My projects usually looked bad at first because of the steps I took up front to hit or to clear crucial points and to see what I had to do next to bring the model home in the fewest number of iterations. Modelers like Dennis Painter always went straight to the best looking model they could make in the least amount of time. No matter how many times they had to do it over to accommodate crucial information they didnt take into account they never saw that as a problem. Some crucial information was usually missing when we started and some of it changed as we went along. Eventually they would get everything they needed. This could go on for years. Meanwhile everything they did looked great.
The essence of my modeling approach was to gather every bit of information I knew I would eventually need no mater how many times the model changed and to do the best I could with it. I didnt hide built-in flaws with flawless modeling. I sought them out and spotlighted them. Some of Leightons Master Modelers caught on to what I was doing and appreciated it because they saw how much easier it made things for them in the end when they left me alone and how much faster I got to the finish line. No one could argue with my results when I wasnt interfered with. That happened rarely. As a rule Leighton literally had a hand in what I did, which prevented me from doing what I could do. The man was an albatross around my neck and a liability to the company.
I wasnt alone in my feeling about Rod Leighton. He had a serious drinking problem that led him to do things no one could tolerate. On day he returned to work from a liquid lunch and decided to run all of the studios 30" wooden sweeps through a ban-saw. For reasons known only to him, he made it his mission to keep a good, hard-working and dependable modeler named Bob Leich under surveillance. He assigned Leich jobs where he had a clear view of him from his office even though it sometimes made it impossible for others to do their work.
Leightons obsession with keeping track of Bob Liech got so ridiculous that it turned into a running joke. One time the natural flow of things landed Leich on the far side of a clay model car blacking Leightons view of him. A modeler tied the string of a helium balloon with the name BOB on it to the back of Leichs belt buckle. The balloon floated above the model as Liech worked, marking his every move.
Rod Leighton was the only person in the studio who didnt think the BOB balloon was hilarious. He didnt even get the joke. When the rest of us had laughed ourselves dry and Liech pulled the balloon down, Leighton ordered Dave Hackett, the Master Modeler, to turn the entire model around in the bridge. That little stunt rendered the indexing system of the rail of the bridge useless because it no longer matched the indexing system used in any other part of the studio, the company or the planet. Everybody knew that he did it to keep Liech in his sight. Some of us understood that he also did it to punish Dave Hackett for putting Liech on the wrong side of the model.
Turning the model around in the bridge was an extreme example of Leightons indirect and covertly aggressive management style for keeping his people in line. Other things he did were merely petty.
Sam Borg was a few months away from retiring. Everyone knew that he was spending most of his time in a utility room working on a larger than life bust of a harlequin. The studio workload was light so it didnt hurt anyone for him do it. If they needed him they knew where they could find him. He wasnt hiding. It therefore made no practical sense for Rod Leighton to approach me and request that if I happened to see Sam to tell him that he wanted to speak with him. Sam was no more than ten steps and an unlocked door away from him. I couldnt say, Hes in the utility room so I went to get him.
Why did he want to talk to Sam? Sam said it was to tell him to tell one of his modelers to make a template. Bullshit. This was Leightons way sending Borg a message about leadership. It was his way of telling Sam that he could find his subordinate when he couldnt find him. If Leighton wanted a modeler to make a template he could have told me to do it or any other modeler who had nothing to do. Sam Borg had earned a little slack. Rod Leighton wanted him to know without telling him directly that he wasnt going to get it and his final Performance Review which would affect his retirement income would be in jeopardy if he didnt shape up.
Leightons machinations didnt stop with the modelers. My old friend Sam Mayers came into the studio for a short time to design a Continental. Leighton did everything he could to undermine his efforts. I didnt get to work with Sam Myers but I saw him struggling just as I had to get anything done. He told me that the modelers Leighton assigned to him were incompetent. He said that they worked backward, modeling secondary elements of the design before he could establish the primary elements. It was hard for him to take my word for it that the Master Modeler he complained about most was very good. He had just been in Leightons studio a long time and modeled the way Leighton expected him to, putting on clay arbitrarily and working it down until he was told to do something else.
Often Leighton would take it upon himself to change something that Sam Mayes did or tried to do. Sam Mayers, one of the best designers in history, made so little progress that the Studio Exec eventually removed him from the job.
Leighton couldnt stand to see modelers doing nothing whether or not he had anything constructive for them to do. I played his stupid game as well as I could but some stupid things I just couldnt do.
He gave me the job of modeling the cut line in the thick cladding over the rocker panel of a clay model. It was a much trickier assignment than it seemed. The way the door swung on its hinges required a precise side view line on the cladding and a particular contour inside the cut from the outside of the cladding to the surface just in front and just behind the door cut. I did not want to repeat what I did in Taurus when I put a door pocket in the wrong place and didnt realize it until Bud Magualdi tried to tape on a door cut. So, before I started I wanted to plot in the door cut which had already been SLRed but wasnt on this particular clay model.
There was no drawing of the door cut in the studio. I had to track it down to a computer in the basement. It would take about ten minutes to pull it out of the computer to run off a paper copy that I could use. The way Leighton was watching me I decided that I couldnt afford to wait that long. I figured that I should make an appearance in the studio, try to look busy for a while and then dash back down to the basement and pick up the drawing.
I was away from the studio for less than five minutes. When I got back Dave Hackett and another Master Modeler named Rick Netter were putting the cladding on. I asked them why they were doing it. Hackett shrugged as if to say, who knows? Netter told me that Leighton ordered them to do it.
Now, I had no choice but to plot in the cladding cut without the door cut beneath it. I then sliced off two small sections of the cladding, one on the door and one on the surface behind it, and used the drawings I got from the draftsman for the cut line and the inside surface to do the rest of it. It took the rest of the day for me to finish it. The designer was happy with the way it looked. The engineer was thrilled that it worked so well. Dave Hackett marveled at how I did it so neatly. Rod Leighton was moved to complemented me on how good it looked and how diligently I worked on it. He was pleased that I did it so quickly. His only criticism was the "excessive" time it took me to get to it.
It would have been wonderful if I could have accepted any compliment from Rod Leighton or even his uncharacteristically direct criticism. I couldnt accept the complement or the criticism because the job wasnt complete until I put the door cut in. I had no idea how that would turn out. It was a complicated chore for the draftsman and for me. Too many things could have gone wrong, all of which would have been identified immediately if I had the door cut to match against the cladding cut.
With my Supervisors concerns satisfied I could now plot the door cut. I had to do something anyway to look busy. When I reached the cladding I saw that the door cut was at least an inch away from the cladding cut. When I couldnt find anything wrong with my information or how I applied it I took the cladding drawings to the Studio Engineer. I would have taken it to the draftsman but I didnt know who he was.
The resulting furor nearly cost the draftsman his job because the mismatch in the door cut had already gone into the system for final production and it was technically his fault. Yes, he made a mistake. But the million-dollar problems and the embarrassment for the engineer caused by that mistake was not the draftsman's fault. It was Rod Leightons fault. The draftsman had picked up the wrong vertical indexing line to make his calculations, which threw everything off the mark. This sort of error is easy to make and hard to see unless you have something to check it against as you go along. If he had the door cut in his drawing he would have seen it instantly and corrected it. If I had the door cut for the model I would have seen it when I put in the first point.
Leighton learned nothing from that fiasco. He was content to blame it on engineering and to see me busy doing the job over.
Rod Leighton loved his new modeler Larry Paluschak who stayed busy, followed orders, got along well with his superiors and moved a lot of clay. Like Chuck Narrow, the other blonde-haired, blue-eyed star of Fords 85 clay modeling school, Paluschak was a politician. He conversed with all the Master Modelers but said nothing to me even when we worked side-by-side until the day Jack Telnack walked in and said hello to me by name. The next thing I knew, Paluschak was hauling out his wallet, showing me pictures of his boat and his girlfriend and talking to me like he we were buddies from way back. I didnt work with him long because Joe Seibold, who was now modeling the Probe for Ford in Japan, needed help and somehow Larry Paluschak got the call.
After Paluschak went to Japan in 87 with only two years on the job, so many modelers with ten years of experience or more complained so loudly that some of them were asked to go on foreign assignment. Not everyone wanted to go but everyone wanted to be asked because of what it meant not to be asked. A foreign assignment was usually a big plus on your record. You werent asked to go unless you were considered an exceptional modeler. No one ever asked me to go.
By this time aspiring modelers from Fords second in-house clay modeling class were making their way to various studios. When I still didnt my transfer out of Luxury I brought it to Rod Leightons attention. He acted surprised. Maybe he was. He told me that he had heard nothing about me leaving his studio. He told me that I was doing a good job and that he wanted to keep me.
What on earth would make him say a thing like that? Had he changed his mind about me? I doubted it. Then why didnt he want me to leave?
I got my answer when the merit increases were passed out. I got nothing, zero, zip, a big fat goose egg. He said, You are an Excellent modeler. But I have Excellent Plus and Outstanding modelers I have to take care of. Looking around at other modelers in my position the method in his madness became clear. The new Pay for Performance system demanded x-number of people he didnt care about to give little or nothing to in order to give x-number of people he did care about the highest increases possible. Of course he wanted to keep me for ballast.
I thought about various ways to get away from Rod Leighton. The only sure-fire way was to do a war dance on his desk. I wouldnt have been the first one to go to his office ranting and raving as though I was going to kill him. But when I verbally unloaded on him I was probably the first one he believed might actually do it.
Ironically, Leighton had nothing to fear from me. At that point I wasnt even angry with him. I only wanted him to think I was. My ire was reserved for the Personnel man Don Jones and whoever was pulling his strings. Sticking me in that studio had been a setup all the way.
A few days lather I was back with Harry Strickler. He had no respect for Leighton as a man or a Supervisor. He knew his devious little tricks. He knew that I was better than Leighton gave me credit for being.
Things went smoothly for me in Stricks studio. Several designers and Master Modelers asked me to work on their jobs. One of the younger designers who thought I was a Master Modeler was shocked to learn that I wasnt. Jim Biando couldnt believe that my salary was below the midpoint of Sculptor. When I showed him my pay stub he still didnt believe it. He said that I must have been getting six or seven hundred dollars taken out by the company to put in an investment program.
When I convinced Biondo that what he saw on my pay stub was all there was he told me that it had to be a mistake. He called it an obvious mistake and told me that the company had a remedy for it. He told me to see Mike Eason, Don Jones boss in Personnel, and ask for a pay adjustment. He said that he knew I could make a good case and if Easton had any questions he and Strick would back me up.
That afternoon I made an appointment to see Mike Easton. I knew hed remember me from the Taurus studio because he came there looking form someone to help his young daughter make a Trojan horse for a school project. As a favor to Jim McBain I made the damn thing. But I left the girl something to do on her own, which Easton thanked me for. She got an A on the project.
That night I put together my presentation. The next day I had my meeting with Mike Easton, the head Personnel representative for North American Auto Operations (NAAO). He greeted me with a firm handshake and a smile and listed attentively to my presentation. He told me that he was impressed with what I showed him, what I said to him and how well I said it. He told me that he knew the problem I had with Rod Leighton was Leightons fault not mine. He said that Harry Strickler shared my opinion of Leighton and that he was going to make sure that I got a decent raise.
The warning lights in my head started flashing. I knew I was going to get a decent raise from Strick. That wasnt what I came to see him about. I came to see him about a pay adjustment before I got the raise.
According to Easton there was no such thing as a pay adjustment for GSR employees. According to him the merit increases system would eventually bring me up to where I should be. He didnt see a problem with that. He showed me a written chart on his wall with three division lines between each PR rating and a wide overlap in pay increases for each rating and each division between each rating. He told me that a high E could make as much as a low O. He said that he had spoken to Strick and that I had nothing to worry about.
Mike Easton said enough to tell me that I had plenty to worry about.
 A sweep was a standardized industry measure of constant curvature indexed from ½ to 60. If you completed the curvature you would get a perfect circle; the larger the number the tighter the curvature. A ½ sweep was nearly straight.