Sunday, January 27, 2013

Learning as a Lifelong Pursuit

The biggest compliment you can give any company or organization is that they are a true learning organization. We strive to become experts of our processes, our products, our customers, and our supply chain. Companies with people who learn together and teach, then learn together and teach are tough to beat.

It is also easier said than done. it is too easy to get complacent and merely ship orders. Structured opportunities for people to learn together can be difficult to sustain. Reading, learning and growing is hard work that takes conditioning just like working out physically. The more often you do it, the better you get at it. It takes poking, prodding, coaching and encouragement. In my company, everyone met for one hour per week, learning lean tools and The Toyota Production System, how Disney does customer service, how to be more innovative, and how to create a culture of ownership This activity led to the development of our company University, which eventually grew to include our customers. I believe this is the single biggest reason our company was voted one of the best companies to work in Connecticut four times. This would be impossible if everyone continued thinking in silos. So many of the process improvements that directly impacted our customers came from the collective thinking that resulted from that organizational learning.  In the beginning, people come kicking and scratching. But stay with it. It is worth it. People learning and thinking together is ALWAYS a good thing.

For inspiration, please meet Bob Riestenberg of Perham, MN. Bob served in the US Army near the end of World War II. He played in the Army Band for the occupation troops in Japan. He came home and became a farmer and part time musician (playing in local clubs every weekend for almost 50 yrs). His first farm was Dairy, and after most of his kids went to college he sold all the cows and switched to grain. In later years he promoted the Lupin bean as a high protein food source not only in the US but Africa and other parts of the world where protein sources were low.  At 80 he took a writing class at a local adult education center, and he has continued developing his writing skills for the past ten years. His first book took about 4 years to put together the last one about 2 years.  I have read both of Bob's books, and they are a fun read. He was determined to capture the history of families, businesses, and landmark events that happened in his community during his lifetime. This from someone who never wrote more than a half dozen letters in his whole life. (He was afraid that his spelling was not good enough). Bob will be 90 on January 30th.

It is NEVER to late. Start with a small group of volunteers today. Meet regularly and leave your titles at the door.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."-Charles Darwin

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