Tough Love: Ford’s Engineering Cops

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While I enjoyed working at Ford, there were some challenges. Here is one episode that still has me shaking my head, and this happened 16 years ago! I was an engineering supervisor. I had 10 engineers reporting to me, all working on developing transmission calibrations (“tunes”) for a certain transmission family.

About this time there was a big story in the Detroit area media about Ford hiring thousands of engineers to ensure that our products were the best they could possibly be. I didn’t get any more engineers, but I did soon find out where the new ones went.

Ford created an entire new organization who’s responsibility it was to make sure that those of us really doing the work were really doing the work. They didn’t engineer anything, they kept tabs on those of use that were working and regularly reported to upper management. I called them the Engineering Cops.

In my job I wasn’t responsible for testing, just for developing calibrations. Another supervisor in the same department was responsible for all testing. One day one of the Engineering Cops called me and told me that from now on I had to report my testing status monthly. I pointed out that I didn’t do ANY testing and that he needed to speak to the other supervisor.

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We went around and around as he kept insisting he needed my testing status, not the other supervisor’s status. He even pointed out that my counterpart in engine development was reporting his testing status. I pointed out that in engine division they didn’t have a separate supervisor to run the testing and that the calibration supervisor did it, unlike transmission’s organization.

He finally insisted and sent me a copy of what my engine counterpart was reporting. I stuck it in my desk. Each month he would call and ask for my status. I’d pull out the engine chart and report that my status was right where the chart projected I would be. This kept him happy for several months.

Then one month he changed the game. He wanted me to list the test procedures that I had run and completed. I told him that was impossible. He didn’t understand why that was so difficult and brought his supervisor on the call. I told the supervisor that I had told his minion at the start that I didn’t do any testing and that I had made up each status.

Did he also want me to make up non-existent test procedures and report those? He decided to drop the requirement for the test procedures, and told me to just keep reporting my status.

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The next month he happened to call for my status report at a very bad time. I was having an awful day and I didn’t want to play this game any longer. He asked me what he should tell upper management when my status report wasn’t included.

I told him to tell them I’m not doing my job and I hung up on him! He never called me again, and I never suffered any repercussions for not reporting my non-testing status.

Click here to read: An “Unbelievably Freaking Cold” Ford Transmission Development Tale

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