I have to ‘fess up to a lie or what I would prefer to call an obfuscation. All TI staff had a personnel grade, I believe mine was initially to be a 28, and at that level you had to have a degree, I didn’t (see later, I did one in my late sixties). Avoiding this issue for some weeks Dallas eventually caught up with me and asked me what degree I had. I carefully explained I had studied for an HND in Electrical Engineering, I never said I achieved it, and definitely did not mention that I had left after the first year. The HR member asked me what an HND was and I fibbed to suggest it was a rather more technical and practical version of a degree. She had what she needed and that box on my personnel file was ticked and we all moved on.
Living by the foil
Those trips to Euro-HQ had all sorts of lessons for someone who had not before worked for an American corporate. We lived by the ‘foil’, TI’s name for an overhead transparency. It soon became apparent to me that some of the middle management only ever produced foils and did little to push the notions expressed in them any further. I would later appoint an assistant who I tasked with producing the foils, so I could actually get some work done.
These foils had a whole folklore, you should have a set number per minute of presentation, there should only be a limited number of lines and quantity of text, anything underlined in red indicated a problem… There was a dictionary-full of mnemonics that were used constantly. At one stage in a mini-rebellion I invented one, ‘NME’, that I used before explaining it meant ‘enemy’ or competition, yes, it was a tumbleweed moment – Texas?
But I was delighted to attend the all-time-best foil presentation at Villeneuve. TI had an electronic watch production line in Rieti in Italy. The guy in charge of that plant was coming to explain why his factory had missed production targets by over a million watch units!
The presentation was to a senior manager, Maurice Chang, who had flown in from Dallas. Maurice was known for dissecting foil presentations and getting to the pith quickly and incisively. All presenters had no more than five minutes to show their good or bad news. We all sat waiting with bated breath for the Italian factory boss.
The guy walked out in front of us and threw his hands wide. He had good English but in perfect music-hall Italian said, ‘So we have-a da problem’. He then rapidly went through the densest set of foils I had ever seen, and so quickly that it was impossible to focus on what any of it actually meant. He sat down without any questions raised!