© Ilkin Guliyev | Dreamstime.com
Silhouette of an unknown shadow figure on a door.

What's Haunting Your Operations?

Oct. 25, 2022
Slay inefficiencies and reckon with the monsters that are holding everyone in your plant back.

The wind raged against my windows as I sat in my office well into the evening. A project was keeping me late, and frankly, I had lost track of time. A burst of lightning broke my attention, and I glanced out into the night. The plate-glass windows acted as a mirror against the night, reflecting me and my office with near-perfect accuracy. And then the power failed, leaving me in darkness.

Normally when this happens, the generator kicks in and power is restored. However, my office remained pitch black. From my chair, I looked into the hallway expecting to see light. The lights had been switched off at some point after 8 p.m., so even if the generator was working, it wouldn’t matter.

It occurred to me that perhaps the motion-detecting light switch needed a reminder that I was there, so I began waving my arm in the air, but it was to no avail. That’s when I heard the sound: Out of the dark I heard the distinct, metallic, and loud, click of the door latch that allows entry onto my side of the third floor. Someone, presumably with a security badge, had entered. I waited for them to make their presence known. I realized that I was sitting very still so that the squeak of my chair would not obscure my hearing. But no one appeared.

My mind drifted. Maybe someone hadn’t come in; maybe someone had left. Surely I would have known if one of my colleagues had been in his or her office, wouldn’t I have? An eerie feeling began to drip down my spine like frigid sweat. As slowly as I could, I rose from my chair and made my way over to the door. I could hear the hum of the generator, but the light switches, several feet away, remained in the OFF position. No other office lights were on.

Then I saw it. At the farthest point from the doorway in which I stood, I could see the outline of a figure. Still and large, it appeared to be facing me. I froze. Seconds passed like minutes as this bizarre stalemate played out. To my left, a stairwell leading down and to the outside…should I run for it? Should I call out? How fast can I get to the light switch, and how would this change any outcome? My thoughts began to blend and my breathing became labored. I tried to speak, but could not hear what I was trying to say…and then I woke.

I felt unsettled when I arrived at work the following day, remembering my nightmare as if it had just happened. I settled into my work but became distracted by the experience. Then it hit me: A few evenings before, I had watched a ghost story set in Victorian-era England. This must have played a part.

I have always enjoyed a good scary (not gory) story, and October is the perfect time of year to indulge (or binge). These types of tales often take place in locations that are unsettling to begin with: old houses, cemeteries, asylums, you name it. Seldom do they occur in office buildings. But everyone knows that “Industry” is replete with ghosts, monsters, and the occasional dark magic.

You say you need proof?

Take the story of the Flying Dutchman, for instance. Originating in the 1600s, this legend tells the tale of a crew that tried to make landfall at the Cape of Good Hope during hurricane-force winds. However, the ship was not offered assistance, and all who sailed her perished in the swells. She is now consigned to sail the seas because her crew had, together, committed some atrocious act. It is said that if you spot her and try to make contact, the voices of her crew will call out and plead that you make contact with land. Sightings of the ship, glowing a ghostly light, were reported in the 19th and 20th centuries.

And then there is the legend of the Funeral Train, which reportedly runs from Washington, DC to Springfield, IL carrying the assassinated President Lincoln. They say this occurs around the anniversary of his death…and clocks and watches stop working when it passes.

Still not convinced?

Well, I have firsthand knowledge that our DC operations team had an encounter with the dark side early this year. They discovered zombies in the form of routine reports. Large in number, these zombies moved around ravaging everyone’s time, holding no value whatsoever. Our team bravely stopped them in their tracks, slaying each one in turn.

And then they found ghosts. Oh, the ghosts…policies, procedures, and forms that have been around for so long that no one knows how they originated and why they exist. Accepted, sacred things that became aberrations that refuse to pass to the other side.

Do you have monsters lurking in your operations? Have you ever looked? Surely you’ve felt them. Consider, for instance, those things that happen in the night during the third shift that never see the light of day or inefficiencies that can suck the lifeblood out of your operating expenditure (OPEX). These vampires have been around for a long time and move from process to process in their insatiable desire to be fed.

And we have all faced problems that can have only one, obvious solution. But it's a tough one and will take a ton of toil and heartache, so we try everything short of witchcraft in search of a remedy.

If January is the right time of year to reflect and plan, then All Hallows’ Eve is the perfect time of year to go monster-hunting. But beware, this is not for the faint of heart. You’ll need a lot of resolve, some torches, and maybe a hammer and stake. For monsters of business are legends in their own right, and they can be shifty and hard to see.

Do you ever wonder how those in the future will perceive the work that we are doing today? Are we creating a path for our own ghosts, turning loose monsters that will haunt our operations for decades?

Perhaps 70 years from now, on certain stormy nights, the elevator will mysteriously be called to the third floor here at the office. Someone (something?) will emerge, medium-height, wearing a bow tie. You’ll have to look quickly, for it will quickly disappear as it rapidly walks down the hall, its footfalls echoing into the darkness…

Happy Halloween!

What's Haunting Your Operations? was originally published on Plant Services, NED's sister brand, and an Endeavor Business Media partner site.