The current austere environment that most companies are facing does have an upside to it: gone are the mandatory weeklong classes and seminars that covered the flavor of the moment in corporate theology.
I first experienced this with Monsanto. Living and working in South Carolina, many of my co-workers and I were sent to St. Louis to be exposed to the teachings of Edward Deming, an American who, in the 1950’s, taught the Japanese quality and production methods that the United States snubbed their noses at until the 1980’s. By then people were buying Japanese automobiles, myself included, due to the poor quality of American autos.
Sometime in the mid-80’s it became the ‘in’ thing and so companies spent the money to send employees to classes where we became entrenched in Deming’s teachings. Back home at the plant, nothing had changed or would change. The plant would shut down in another ten years.
Monsanto also brought me a time management course that I really wish newer employees could take. I’ve always been a planner, to the extreme sometimes, and it drives me absolutely nuts when people don’t take time to plan ahead. I’ve worked with folks who love stating they are too busy, when in fact if they would take an hour or so to think about what they had to do, when they had to do it and how they were going to do it, their lives, and mine because I have to listen to them, would be so much easier.
The Condea Vista Company I worked with for a few years was into Stephen Covey and his ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. So off I flew to Houston headquarters for my indoctrination into this ‘new’ world of how to live. It took a little less than five days to learn the seven habits. I think some of them were shortened to fit in the time allotted. This is the class in which everyone learned the word ‘synergize’ and then came to hate it. Not the concept, just the new buzzword.
The aerospace industry has yet to send me on such a journey. Lean+ is a big concept now, but evidently it’s not a company-wide training opportunity as only a chosen few have been exposed to the teachings. Lean+ is taken from the principles of the Toyota Production System, who probably developed in from Mr. Deming. Ah the circle of technical life.
I’m sure there are other industry-required training classes I attended in the past that dealt with the management of the moment mantra and thankfully I have forgotten those. I’m all for learning how to do things better, faster, smarter, but if the entire company isn’t on board, it seems a waste of money.
Give me technical training so that I may do a better job. How about more time management? How to build a decent Power Point presentation? How to speak in public, or at least in front of co-workers and management? How to build a decent wardrobe for work (there is the classic ‘Dress for Success’ but no one seems to read it any more)?
One thing is for sure about these corporate ‘movements’: if the entire company, from CEO on down to the lowest engineer, isn’t on board with it, it’s not going to be taken seriously. There is room for improvement in any company, just ask Kodak, who recently filed for bankruptcy, or any of the American automakers.
The best one can do in a corporate structure is do everything possible to sharpen your saw, the seventh habit if you want to look it up. Be the best engineer, scientist, mathematician you can be. Ask for feedback, take online training, or get a mentor. Self-improvement pays dividends, it may not show itself for a few years, but it will amaze you.