Anecdotes of Would-be Experts

by
Arthur O.R. Thormann

Specfab Industries Ltd. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Thormann, Arthur O. R. (Arthur Otto Rudolf), 1934Anecdotes of would-be experts / Arthur O.R. Thormann ISBN 0-9685198-3-0 I. Title PS8589.H54945A74 2004 C813’.54 C2004-904925-9

Copyright © Arthur O.R. Thormann, 2005

Publisher:

Specfab Industries Ltd. 13559 - 123A Avenue Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5L 2Z1 Telephone: 780-454-6396

2nd Printing:

PageMaster Publication Services Inc. 10180 - 105 Street Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5J 1E1 Telephone: 780-425-9303

Cover Design:

Arthur O.R. Thormann

This is a work of fiction. All names of individuals, companies and places of action were chosen by the author. Therefore, any imaginary or alleged resemblance to actual events is merely coincidental. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotes, any use or reproduction requires the written consent of the publisher or the author.

For Garett, Megan, Samantha, and Jordan

Contents
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 Phil’s Folly ....................................................................1 Phil’s Auction Loss .......................................................8 Phil Wants an Opinion ................................................13 Phil Likes Bad Designs ...............................................19 Phil Hates a Supplier ...................................................27 Phil Trusts a Politician ................................................31 Phil Stops a Walkout ...................................................39 Phil is in a Firing Mood...............................................45 Phil Wants an Elevated Project ...................................52 Phil Qualifies a Tender................................................61 Phil Outsources the Payroll .........................................67 Phil Hates Bid Peddling ..............................................73 Phil Likes a Claim .......................................................78 Phil Prepares a Five-Year Budget ...............................84 Phil Refuses to Supply Replacements .........................91 Cliff Wants an Assessment .........................................96 Phil Studies a Learning Curve...................................104 Phil Recommends a Project Agreement ....................109 Phil Suspects a Saudi Deal ........................................115 Phil Likes a Bahamian Project ..................................125 Phil Offers Sound Advice .........................................131 Cliff’s Involvement in a Claim..................................135 Phil Wants More Unearned Revenue ........................141 Phil Supports a Bonus Scheme..................................147 Phil Okays an Info Trip.............................................153 Phil Accelerates the Revenue ....................................162 Phil Gets Desperate ...................................................169 Phil Insists on Double-Dipping .................................175 Phil Hates Unit-Price Contracts ................................180 Phil Defends Our Low Profit ....................................185 Phil Shifts His Focus .................................................193

Main Characters: Cliff Jensen – is the President and CEO of Belvue Industrial Constructors, a multinational construction company. He also chairs a Board Committee that determines the value and advisability of any proposed endeavors of Belvue’s division heads. Phil Potter – is one of Belvue’s regional Vice Presidents. He is located in the same offices with Les Payne and is Les’s immediate superior. Les Payne – is one of Belvue’s Operational Managers. He is in charge of all operations of Belvue’s Midwest Division.

1 Phil’s Folly
Phil told me to close the door as I walked into his office Monday morning. “How’s your estimate coming?” he asked as I sat down. “Which estimate? We’re working on five right now.” “The one for the PetroHi-G upgrader,” he said. “Okay, I think, but it’s slow-going – the engineering is lousy!” “That could be an advantage later,” he said, “lots of extras to pay for shortcomings, you know.” Phil’s sales background left a substantial gap in his understanding of production losses that usually occur due to disruptions by extras caused to the remainder of unfinished work. We’ve had these discussions before to no avail. “It could also be detrimental,” I pointed out, “causing us plenty of unwanted disruptions and delays nobody’s willing to pay for.” He looked at me for a few seconds and then said, “It’ll be part of a claim, Les, a legitimate claim! It’ll be up to our lawyers to collect on it. Not our fault if they don’t.” It was my turn to look at him for a few seconds. Everything in construction was simple for Phil, mainly because he didn’t understand it, or didn’t want to understand it. He just refused to acknowledge the complexities. His sales background, I guessed. “You know damn well we need this project to meet our budget forecast,” he added. I didn’t say anything – what’s the use? Then I asked, “Is there anything else, Phil?” “There is,” he said. “You’ve prepared a revised completion 1

forecast for head office on the transit project.” I nodded. “Your revised forecast lowered our estimated profit to zero.” I nodded again. “This makes things very awkward for me,” he said. “Can’t be helped, Phil, the estimate was short in several areas. Even at zero percent profit, my forecast is optimistic.” “Couldn’t you have postponed the bad news for a month, until after the year end?” he asked in an accusing tone. “You know darn well that head office won’t tolerate such a delay, Phil. They’ll accuse me of withholding vital information. I hope you’ll remember Cliff’s warning at our last meeting.” Cliff is the president of the company, but instead of talking to Phil, his vice president for this region, he preferred to give me, his operations manager, a hard time. Probably, he excused Phil’s sales background. “For Christ’s sake, Les,” he yelled, “how would they possibly know when you discovered the discrepancy?” I looked at him again for a while, although I knew he meant every word of what he was saying. He was my immediate superior, but head office still blamed me for tardy information, not him, and they had uncanny ways of finding out the truth. Besides, it was against my upbringing to deceive people. “Are you ordering me to withhold this information from head office, Phil?” I immediately regretted this question. It implied that I would follow his orders even knowing that they were wrong and that head office would strongly disapprove. “You know I’m not!” he yelled again, “I’m only suggesting you delay it for a while!” “But I would have to turn in a deceiving, falsified forecast,” I said. “Our purchase records wouldn’t even support it, Phil.” He gave me another long, suspicious look, like the one you give a suspected traitor. I finally asked, “Is that all, Phil?” “That’s all,” he said quietly, giving me a sad look. I closed the door on my way out. 2

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