Putting the Performance in the Performance Tools Workshop

It is 1997.

I am in a staff meeting of the education department at FileNet Corp. in Costa Mesa. Department Manager Barbara Hubert is presenting us with our role in the upcoming user conference at the Disneyland Hotel. We will have a conference room and my supervisor, Peg Schwink, is going to do a workshop based on our performance tools course. Barb shows us posters with pictures of hammers, screwdrivers and saws. The she holds up the canvas tool belt those supporting the workshop will wear, printed with FileNet Education.

I think ‘If you’re going to do a performance tools workshop, why not go all the way and do a riff on ‘Home Improvement’ and their show-within-a-show, ‘Tool Time’. I scan the room, searching for a likely Al, the Tool Man’s pal.

Meeting over, I walk out into the hallway where I find Dale Niksch, a slightly stout and bearded course developer waiting.

“Tim?” he says.

Dale has a little theatrical background. I’m a 20-pound ham in a 10-pound can.

We race to Barbara’s office. We tell her we have an idea to enhance the performance tools workshop. She invites us to sit down.

“Before you say anything I want you to know that I already know what you’re going to say,” she tells us.

“You do?” I ask.

“You want to do ‘Tool Time’.”

“As an introduction,” I say, looking at Dale. We are making this up as we go. “Maybe do a little humorous bit to set it up.”

“Spend whatever you need to get costumes. Do you have tools?”

We haven’t gotten that far. She offers to bring a crescent wrench.

Barb’s husband, a former firefighter, has refurbished an ancient steam-powered pumper drawn by horses. The crescent wrench is huge and weighs 50 pounds. I couldn’t have asked for a better prop.

“But how did you know what we were going to say?” I ask as we get up to leave.

“Well,” she says with a big smile. “When you interviewed here, Peg came to me afterwards and said ‘Doesn’t he look just like Tim Allen?’”

I am dumbfounded.

“You must get that a lot.”

I’ve never heard that in my life.