Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Generosity of Teaching in a LEAN Company


It is said that the ultimate compliment one can give any corporation is that it is a learning organization. A place where people learn and teach every day. The curriculum is your product line,  your custom, your service organizations (how you take care of all of your customers), your suppliers and of course your market place. The end game is an organization with great depth at every position, a "workforce" very good at learning (from mistakes and problems) and teaching (sharing with their peers), And a culture of ownership vs. employeeism (I just work here). This is a very scary competitive advantage, because you will not throw bodies at demand or problems. A3 thinking is the primary way to build this culture.

Another very good but fairly difficult task is to standardize this learning by building your own internal corporate University. When I say build, I mean build, piece by piece. To start, all you need is one willing student and one willing teacher. From there, the primary task is to convince everyone in the company that it is worth their effort to participate. "Will I get a raise if I participate?" "Will I be promoted?" "If I take the Accounting 101 class, could I work in accounting?". The answer needs to be maybe, it is up to you and what you want to do with YOUR life, but that isn't why we want to do it. We need to be smarter and stronger at every position to beat our competition. My experience (in my own company) is that once you build it, they will come, and all of these questions go by the wayside. People will learn because it is fun and interesting. And all you need is a willing teacher and a willing student to start. 

Meet Jeff Smith at Dymax Corporation (Torrington, CT). Dymax established their University last year (see one of my previous posts), and got a terrific kickoff with willing teachers from the Accounting group (Accounting 101). Dymax is very good at formulating structural adhesives to solve a huge range of customer problems in medical, automotive and electronics marketplaces. They are also world class at developing the dispensing and curing systems to dispense and cure (by UV & visible light) these adhesives. Jeff agreed to teach a class called Equipment 101. It runs for 1 hour per week at lunch time. 42 people come have their lunch and learn all about the genesis, development and application of Dymax equipment. Theory and practice. 

Jeff has been with Dymax for 21 years, working as everything from Production Supervisor to Global Technical Support, in the U.S. and Asia. Jeff, Herman Reiss and Gary Zubricky can be thought of the "dream team" world-wide with regard to expertise of Dymax dispensing and curing systems. Jeff has trained salespeople, customers as far away as China, and University MBA programs. 

And yet, there he is. Giving 42 people at Dymax everything single thing he has week in and week out for 10 weeks in Equipment 101. If you are willing to show up and eat your lunch with him, he will work very hard to make the class interesting and fulfilling. If you have to miss the class, he devotes time to giving you the class 1 on 1 in a make-up session. he teaches and gives quizes to make sure he taught you well ("if the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught"). THINK about the generosity displayed in this scenario.

All it takes is one generous, willing teacher and one willing, open-minded student. Build it and they will come. 

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