Maybe It's Just Me

In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray finds himself living February 2 over and over again.

In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray finds himself living February 2 over and over again. He is visiting Punxsutawney, Penn., to report on the annual groundhog prediction. If the groundhog sees his own shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring comes early.

Mr. Murray’s character, a reporter named Phil Connors, gets trapped in a time loop that only he is aware of. None of the townspeople or Phil’s colleagues realize February 2 is repeating. As the plot unfolds, Phil becomes bored knowing that every day begins the same.
 
Soon, he begins trying to take advantage of his foreknowledge by learning secrets from the townspeople, stealing money, and even driving drunk all the while knowing there are no consequences because each day is a do-over. At his wits end, Phil kidnaps the groundhog and, after a high speed police chase, drives his car off a cliff, ostensibly killing himself and the groundhog. However, the next morning, he wakes up and it’s still February 2, he’s alive and the groundhog is in its nest.
 
Finally, he explains what is going on to his colleague Rita, played by Andie MacDowell. She suggests he use this unique situation to do good. Inspired, Phil begins to use his now vast knowledge of the day to help people around the town. He also uses the time to improve himself, as he learns to play jazz piano, picks up ice sculpting and even learns French.
 
Eventually, Phil manages to befriend almost everyone in town and uses his extensive knowledge of the day to save lives and help the townsfolk. In the end, Rita falls for the new and improved Phil. Their romance breaks the Groundhog Day cycle, leading Phil and Rita to decide to settle down and live happily ever after in Punxsutawney.
 
I like this movie because it is a metaphor for how many of us sometimes feel about our lives, jobs and routines. Moreover, I think it’s a metaphor for the pummeling we have taken as an industry in this recession. Like Phil, we sense ourselves trapped in a loop of endless repetition of bad news day after day. Also, similar to what Phil experiences, it is a loop that was and is pretty much out of our control.
 
Of course, the point of the movie is how Phil deals with his time loop. At first, he rebels and fights the situation. His reaction is an egocentric one that does himself and everyone he encounters absolutely no good. Eventually, however, he begins to understand that the time loop is actually a gift in that it enables him to understand that his knowledge of a single day can be used to better himself and help others. His glass goes from half empty to half full.
 
As manufacturing slowly climbs out of what has been more than a year-long time loop of bad news followed by more bad news, perhaps we should consider Phil’s epiphany and use this time to better ourselves and our businesses. We need to change the manufacturing loop from one that looks backwards to one that is forward looking. As in the movie, this loop will eventually end, and when it does, will we be collectively better as an industry than when it started?
 
Phil was able to change himself by virtue of his Groundhog Day experience. It took time: He made mistakes, but in the end, he was able to come through better off.
We, too, should consolidate the lessons learned in the last year or so and be as prepared as possible to weather the next challenge. There is no doubt that we will face new and difficult challenges in 2010 and moving forward. It’s the nature of business.
 
It’s now February, and Groundhog Day is upon us. I think we, in manufacturing, have a central role to play in economic recovery in this New Year and new decade. It’s up to us to define that role as individuals, companies and as an industry. The time is now as we hear more encouraging activity from Washington such as the recent release of “A Framework for Revitalizing American Manufacturing” and the naming of Ron Bloom as senior counselor on manufacturing policy.
 
So when that little critter comes out to see his shadow, let’s hope this economic winter ends as soon as possible.