I left university many years ago with two things to my name: an overdraft that I thought was eye-wateringly large (loose change by today’s standards) and an overinflated ego courtesy of the degree certificate I was flourishing. My inability to secure a graduate job (ah, those were the days) soon bought the ego a one-way ticket to Dignitas and off I trooped back to my holiday job with BMW in their warehouse. The slagging I got from the regulars for ending up back there taught me a lesson in humility I’ve never forgotten.
I loved working there. I started work at 2pm, so I could indulge my love of running in the mornings before work. BMW were also a really good employer. They treated their staff really well, but expected a lot in return. Their big focus was quality. In a warehouse full of the thousands of parts that make up the hundreds of models and variants of BMW cars and bikes that there have been over the years, the ability to get the right parts to the right dealers at the right time was critical. Sounds easy. It is when the parts are the size of a 7-Series bonnet, but when you have parts boxes with thousands of washers and shims, miscounting means omission of the smallest of parts halts a service or repair which means unhappy customers.
For a brand as prestigious as BMW I was surprised to learn that the only measure of quality the management were really interested in was reliability. Speed? Price? Sales? Volumes? Nah. High quality and reliable trumped all.
On our noticeboard was the league table of reliability. Who produced it and from what information I cannot now recall, but I still remember who occupied the important positions.
Dead last Ferrari
Fast forward sixteen years to last term. One of my students was telling me that his mum and dad were driving back from Maranello having collected their new Ferrari from the factory. Soon after I was talking to his mum and she recounted their journey through a torrential rainstorm in northern Italy without the use of the windscreen wipers as the electrical systems in their brand new car had malfunctioned.
When a promoted tweet popped up in my timeline today from Osiris Education advertising Primary Turnaround – A proven process to get to Outstanding in under 2 years. A step-by-step guide to move up an Ofsted grade I couldn’t shake a mental picture of that Ferrari – incredible to look at, great for the ego of the owner but in reality fragile, temperamental and prone to breaking down when the track is anything other than perfectly flat.