Author: Gene Dixon, ASEM President
May 2015 Pres. Release
I’ll call this one, The Taming of the Skew. Yes, it’s a parody of one of Shakespeare’s plays made famous by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Last week I had the distinct pleasure of working with The US Navy’s Senior Leadership Development Program (SLDP). I was providing training for civilian leaders working in the Navy’s system of warfighter support. These SLDP participants are good, intelligent managers who know the Navy’s needs and know how to support the women and men on the front lines protecting freedoms. These are managers who want more tools to support their work for their country.
It was one of the better classes, I’ve had with the SLDP. This was a group who wanted to learn. They wanted to know how to better lead their organizations. The biggest gap for me; they were all IT. I don’t speak IT. I do however – with pride – speak engineering management. The behavioral side of EM.
As I worked with them for three days of training, the message continued to be that one approach is not universal. Context may dictate whether to think in terms of Situational Leadership, Ginnett’s Team Leadership Model, the concept of leader-follower-purpose or any one of the many tools we EM’ers have at our disposal. The message was also, practice. Keep trying. If team effectiveness is needed, if work place effectiveness is needed, if motivation is required, practice until you get it right. Dynamic leaders of all ilk need to practice their craft to provide the systems and structures needed to get the work done. In the end, it is all about people. Don Tippett taught me that many years ago. Thanks, Don.
So today, home alone, I went to the shop behind the house to learn to use a skew (google it) on my lathe. Everyone says the skew is not something you learn, it is something you practice. I’ve read the books. I’ve watched the videos. I’ve made a lot of splinters. Today, I just went to the shop, put a piece of pine in the lathe and started making splinters. Then scrapings. And finally, shavings. I practiced until today, I made shavings. The woodturner’s nirvana is shavings. I practiced and practiced until I finally hit the sweet spot of the skew. Beads, coves, and roughing. All by making shavings. I also learned a little about sharpening the skew. Today I tamed the skew. For now. Today and from now on, I have to practice.
The skew, when used properly, minimizes the need for sandpaper. Sandpaper is what you use to get rid of the rough edges. A smooth finish with the skew means less money for sandpaper and a quicker path to finishing.
And then the epiphany. EM has many tools of effectiveness and efficiency. EM is the mark of productivity tools for managing knowledge workers. Using our tools effectively is more than training. It takes practice. We sharpen our tools with research. We use our tools in practice. We improve ourselves as engineering managers when we listen, think and work with...our people. We improve with practice.
Like doctors “practicing” medicine. You and I, we practice engineering management. Something we do. Something we share at the IAC. Tools that we can teach to others. Tools we learn to demonstrate by being part of ASEM.
What tools do you use in practicing engineering management? What tools can you share at the 2015 ASEM IAC?
What tools would you like to learn? Chances are, in ASEM, someone is practicing what you need.
Today, I tamed the skew. Where can ASEM help you?
Image credit: http://woodwiz.org/Woodturning/woodturning.html