When DGL International, a manufacturer of refinery equipment, brought in John Terrill to manage its Technical Services division, Company executives informed him of the urgent situation. Technical Services, with 20 engineers, was the highest paid, best-educated, and least-productive division in the company. The instructions to Terrill: Turn it around. Terrill called a meeting of the engineers. He showed great concern for their personal welfare and asked point blank: “What’s the problem? Why can’t we produce? Why does this division have such turnover?”
Without hesitation, employees launched a hail of complaints. “I was hired as an engineer, not a pencil pusher.” “We spend over half our time writing asinine reports in triplicate for top management, and no one reads the reports.” After a two-hour discussion, Terrill concluded he had to get top management off the engineers’ backs. He promised the engineers, “My job is to stay out of your way so you can do your work, and I’ll try to keep top management off your backs too.” He called for the day’s reports and issued an order effective immediately that the originals be turned in daily to his office rather than mailed to headquarters. For three weeks, technical reports piled up on his desk. By month’s end, the stack was nearly three feet high. During that time no one called for the reports. When other managers entered his office and saw the stack, they usually asked, ‘what’s all this?’ Terrill answered, “Technical reports.” No one asked to read them.
Finally, at month’s end, a secretary from finance called and asked for the monthly travel and expense report. Terrill responded, “Meet me in the president’s office tomorrow morning.”
The next morning the engineers cheered as Terrill walked through the department pushing a cart loaded with the enormous stack of reports. They knew the showdown had come.
Terrill entered the president’s office and