What, me worry…?

By Mark Diorio

Why are so many upper echelon managers in our industry reluctant to admit what everyone else seems to know: that they have problems in their businesses? Their employees and factory workers, their suppliers and even their competitors know that they have problems. These managers simply won't accept, admit or solve the problems at hand. Some of these managers even think that they can solve the problems all by themselves before their bosses (or, worse yet, their customers) discover their dilemmas. Let's break it down:

Managers Who Deny the Problem

These managers, if left in charge, pose the greatest danger for a company. Defensive in nature, they see themselves as continually delivering the Holy Grail and often set blame on other “less-competent” managers, departments and suppliers. Eventually, when it comes to light that the problem is the manager, this person is usually off to another company in an equal or higher job capacity.

Sometimes managers independently acknowledge their problems and go off and work on them, quietly hoping their shortcomings will never be exposed. At times, I think that we all feel that we can solve problems ourselves before they get worse. But in advanced packaging, this is not only a difficult task but an extremely dangerous approach. I say this about advanced packaging (the key word being advanced) because much of what once worked with more mature and standard-type package families and their derivatives does not apply to many of our future challenges. What worked yesterday for packaging small silicon in leaded packages where cost was of concern has little resemblance to the large silicon on substrate packages where electrical performance and reliability is paramount.

Managers Who Can't Identify the Problem

Sometimes referred to as the managers who know there's a problem but don't know what to do about it, these managers are completely lost in the pursuit of a solution. Many of these managers either lack the appropriate process fundamentals or have become complacent in applying them. For instance, you just can't cheat physics. But, oh so many managers try! They fail to recognize the scientific factors that engineers have painstakingly evaluated during the past 20 years or more, and because someone says they have a fix for this problem, foolish managers easily embrace it – not truly understanding whether it is indeed a fix or just a bandage.

Truth be known, we have, as a group, easily come to accept the bandage approach. How many times do we encounter a reliability problem, for instance, where someone says, “Hey, why don't we try this new underfill material?” and everyone around the table looks at each other and says, “Yeah, why not?” Even worse, because our segment of the industry has historically emphasized manufacturing skills to development skills, we have often applied the wrong engineering skillset to the problem at hand. Today we have line engineers with little (and, in some cases, no) material science backgrounds who make decisions on new materials for new packages and processes. This is more than a bit risky.

Most of these managers depend largely on their staffs or their suppliers to provide them the right information and the appropriate solution. In many cases, this does indeed solve the immediate problem, but can create other problems slightly farther down the road.

Managers Who Hope the Problem Will Go Away

This is the old bury your head in the sand trick . . . let's avoid the problem and hope it goes away. Not much can be said for this group. The theory here is that the longer you avoid a problem, the more likely it is that a new problem will take its place in priority and maybe the chances of solving that new problem will be more within their realm. Another factor that plays into these managers' minds is to let some other company solve the problem and then they can follow along. These managers are usually the folks asking the question, “So, what is Company X doing to solve that problem?”

Who Are the Best Managers?

The best managers acknowledge to both themselves and their teams that problems exist. They guide their teams in analyzing problems for the possible fault nodes. They use the skillsets of their employees to address the appropriate issues within their grasp and seek further resources to aid them in addressing those issues beyond the team's capability. They do this without any disrespect to their teams or themselves. It is sometimes difficult for them to admit (especially to the boss) that help is needed in finding an appropriate solution that is not just a quick fix and does not create later stage problems. And the best manager knows that the best solution is rarely the easiest solution.


Mark DiOrio, chief executive officer, can be contacted at MTBSolutions Inc., 1630 Oakland Road, Suite A102, San Jose, CA 95131-2450; 408-441-2173; Fax: 408-441-9700; E-mail: [email protected].


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