Tag Archives: jobs

Manufacturing Skills Gap or Management Skills Gap?

I stumble across articles discussing the problem of manufacturers having difficulty finding workers with the skills they need (in the USA largely, but elsewhere too) somewhat regularly. While it is true that companies have this problem, I think looking at the problem in that way might not be the most insightful view. Is the problem just that potential workers don’t having the right skills or the result of a long term management skills gap?

To me, the current manufacturing skills gap results directly from short term thinking and disrespect for workers practiced by those with management skills shortages over the last few decades. Those leading the manufacturing firms have shown they will flee the USA with the latest change in the wind, chasing short term bonuses and faulty spreadsheet thinking. Expecting people to spend lots of time and money to develop skills that would be valuable for the long term at manufacturing firms given this management skills shortage feels like putting the blame in the wrong place to me.

Why should workers tie their futures to short term thinking managers practicing disrespect for people? Especially when those managers seem to just find ways to blame everyone else for their problems. As once again they do in blaming potential workers for their hiring problem. The actions taken based on the collective management skill shortage in the manufacturing industry over the last few decades has contributed greatly to the current state.

If managers had all been managing like Toyota managers for the last 30 years I don’t think the manufacturing skill gap would be significant. The management skill gap is more important than the manufacturing skill gap in my opinion. To some extent the manufacturing skill gap could still exist, market are in a constant state of flux, so gaps appear. But if their wasn’t such a large management skill gap it would be a minor issue, I believe.

That still leaves companies today having to deal with the current marketplace to try and find skilled workers. But I think instead of seeing the problem as solely a supplier issue (our suppliers can’t provide us what we need) manufacturing firms would be better served to look at their past, and current, management skills gap and fix that problem. They have control over that problem. And fixing that will provide a much more solid long term management base to cope and prosper in the marketplace.

Another management issue may well be the hiring process itself. As I have written about many times, the recruitment process is highly inefficient and ineffective. When you see workers as long term partners the exact skills they have today are much less significant than their ability to meet the organizations needs over the long term. In general, information technology recruiting has the worst case of focusing on silly skills that are really not important to hiring the right people, but this also can affect manufacturing hiring.

Related: IT Talent Shortage, or Management Failure?Dee Hock on HiringManufacturing Jobs Increasing for First Time Since 1998 in the USA (Sept 2010)Building a Great Workforcemanufacturing jobs have been declining globally (including China) for 2 decadesImproving the Recruitment Process

Networking is Valuable But Difficult to Quantify

Networking works incredibly well. Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as peddling your bike where you want to go. The benefits of networking are unpredictable and not easy to control (to specifically target – you can do this, it just has fairly uncertain results). So networking can seem like you put in all this effort peddling up hill day after day, month after month, year after year, and yet you never get to see the beautiful rainbow or end up at a wonderful ocean beach.

However it is well worth it, especially for those that have valuable skills and experience. To some extent it might work just to get opportunities anyone with a decent attitude could get. But networking is most effective, I think, when you have special skills that those in the community can share with those that have opportunities and give you a decent shot at a job. A big reason this works is that the job market is very inefficient – thus networking can greatly increase your odds (if it were efficient this would matter much much less).

I have been able to get jobs and consulting as a result of networking. It didn’t give me jobs, I couldn’t have gotten otherwise, but it allowed to know of opportunities, to be sought out by others, and to be seriously considered when I approached others.

I have long believed it is very valuable to build a personal brand online (for knowledge workers anyway). The return for doing so may well be difficult to measure. But it can definitely help open doors and give you opportunities for jobs and consulting.
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You’ve Got to Find What You Love

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

– Steve Jobs

Watch this great commencement speech by Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2005.

We lost a great person today, when Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. His words are just as important today: you have got to find what you love to do. Keep looking until you find it. It won’t necessarily be easy to do. But life is too short to waste merely getting by.

My father found what he loved and pursued that throughout his life. He also died young. They both died young, but they both had great lives because they took charge to make the most of their lives. By doing what they loved they made the world a better place for many others, and themselves. Take that message to heart and make your life the best it can be.

Related: Quotes from Steve JobsPeter ScholtesPositivity and Joy in WorkBuild an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation FlourishesRemembering Bill Hunter

Interviewing: I and We

In response to: say “I” — not “we” — in your interviews

If you are a manager you need to lead teams, lead projects and improve work systems. In an interview I believe you need to say specifically what you did but also talk about what the team accomplished. A manager needs to have successful project and make other people successful. To me the important thing is getting great long term results, not doing lots of tasks themselves. Often figuring out the right leverage points to work on is difficult but it doesn’t have to be a large volume of work, just the right decisions on where to make improvements.

Sometimes (often, for me, but maybe I have more difficulty explaining it than I should) these ideas are hard to convey to others. It is similar to answering hypothetical questions where, the way to “handle” the issue raised is to avoid getting into that mess in the first place. We were able to success not because of 3 specific actions I took during the project but because of the system I put in place and cultivated for years that allowed the team to succeed. But some people have trouble connecting long term system improvements to current project results.

As a manager my main focus is on building capacity of my organization to succeed over the long term. That greatly reduced any fire-fighting I have to do. Of course for many interviewers great tales of fire-fighting play better than I didn’t really have to do much to make x,y and z projects successful because I set the stage over years creating a system that works well.

Creating systems that work well often isn’t tremendously exciting and tales of creating systems that avoid disasters seem boring. I didn’t have to be heroic isn’t as sexy as and I was a hero in this way 3 months ago and then last month I saved us from disaster when… If I am interviewing, I would want to ask why you have to keep being a hero, but I don’t think most people think that way.

If you just talk about what I did it also can confuse interviewers, I think. Those things are often not directly tied to accomplishing some business need. Creating the right systems which allow great results to be attained often isn’t obvious why it matters. It is indirect and not nearing as obvious as fire-fighting behavior what the benefit is. Most organizations are not used to the value of creating well performing systems so they just think of management doublespeak that accomplishing nothing (since most such talk, respect for people, for example, is just talk and not of much value).

To show that the improvements made have real results I think you then have to switch follow “I did x,y,z’ with “which allowed our team to accomplish a,b, c.” Unless you really did have to do most things yourself instead of creating the systems that allow others to perform well. In which case it makes it easier to say what I did, but should cause those doing the interviewing to ask why you hadn’t set up better systems (at least it would if I were the one conducting the interview).

Related: How to Get a New Management Strategy, Tool or Concept AdoptedWhy work doesn’t happen at workBuild an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation FlourishesCircle of Influence

Finding, and Keeping, Good IT People

Finding good IT people, wherever you located globally, is hard. Waiting for the good IT people to apply for positions, is not likely to gain enough good candidates.

To get really good IT people you need to actually manage your current IT staff properly. Then word will get out that your organization is not run by pointy haired bosses (phb) and good IT people will be open to joining. This obviously is not a quick fix. But this practice is the key. This is just respect for people with a eye on the special needs of creative IT people.

If you do this you will also reduce turnover. That doesn’t help in recruiting people, but it solves the underlying problem recruiting is meant to deal with – having staff to do the work. Making your environment tech employee friendly has the benefits mentioned above and will reduce turnover.

Like many issues when examined systemically the most important factors to deal with the recruiting problem are often not directly looking at the problem at hand. Now there are sensible actions to improve the recruiting process. Take a fundamental look at the hiring process and think about some real changes – how about trying people out first, not determining staffing primarily on judgments based on how well then interview. Don’t have silly prerequisites. Why do you need a college degree for an IT job? Or why require specific degrees, like a computer science degree, and exclude others, for example, an online IT degree. Might specific college experience be helpful? Yes. Might someone without it be a great employee? Yes.
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Eric Schmidt on Google in 2010 and the Economy

CEO Eric Schmidt Reveals ‘Centerpiece’ Of Google’s 2010 Strategy, speaking at the White House jobs summit.

Google is definitely hiring. “We’re hiring a couple thousand people over the next year,” he said.

And looking at the White House summit he said, “The basic message today is that with small business – which is the primary source of jobs – we need to figure out the loan problem. The banks aren’t really lending to them and anything that the government can do to accelerate that, needs to happen right now.”

“Cloud computing is the centerpiece of our strategy. It’s a new model. You basically put all your information on servers and you have fast networks and lots of different kinds of personal computers and mobile phones that can use the applications… it’s a powerful model and it’s where the industry is going. It is the centerpiece of our 2010 strategy.”

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster today said in a note, that by 2016, 78% of Google’s revenue will still be from search. Schmidt agreed.

“My guess is that advertising and search ads will be the lion’s share of our business for quite a long time,” he said. “The reason is, it’s such a large part of our business and it continues to grow quite well.”

I continue to own Google and have it in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio.

Related: Google Exceeded Planned Spending on PersonnelEric Schmidt on Management at GoogleMeeting Like GoogleGoogle Should Stay True to Their Management Practices

Job Listings Online Filled with Jargon

The job market is not great, 9.4% unemployment in the USA, and not efficient either. At my full time job, we hired a ruby on rails developer (web programmer) this month, and are looking to hire another.

Job listings online filled with jargon

With unemployment reaching historic levels, online job search traffic is heating up. Sites like Monster.com, Dice.com, and HotJobs.com are gaining steam with anywhere from a 20-90% increase in traffic in February. Somehow CareerBuilder.com managed to dip 3% but SimplyHired.com achieved a 290% increase in traffic, and other sites like Craigslist and LinkedIn are also gaining momentum.

Job search sites are gaining traffic and providing a great service to the unemployed and unhappily employed. Unfortunately, the inability of corporations and recruiters to provide prospective applicants with sensible job postings threatens to render these sites useless.

Filling the entire job posting with corporate and industry acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon – By filling the job posting with nonsensical jargon, a recruiter further inflates their false sense of importance and also avoids the issue that they know absolutely nothing about the job. The applicant is left wondering whether they just applied for a job responsible for fixing Boeing 747s or installing Kimberly-Clark toilet paper dispensers. Pretty much a toss up.

It’s scary to imagine what job postings might look like in 10 years if this trend continues. If anyone is interested in building a Google Translate with a “Recruiter to English” option, I can serve as your Subject Matter Expert.

In the information technology field the standard practice is to include a large number of basically irrelevant skills as requirements. And then managers wonder why they don’t get decent applicants. You need to include the knowledge, skills and experience you really need and not all sorts of details that an employee can easily pick up, if needed, once they are on the job.

Related: Hiring: Silicon Valley StyleInterviewing and Hiring ProgrammersIT Talent Shortage, or Management Failure?Joy in Work: Software DevelopmentManagement Improvement Career Connections

Hire People You Can Trust to Do Their Job

How great companies turn crisis into opportunity

The right people don’t need to be managed. The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake.

The right people don’t think they have a job: They have responsibilities. If I’m a climber, my job is not [just] to belay. My responsibility is that if we get in trouble, I don’t let my partner down.

The right people do what they say they will do, which means being really careful about what they say they will do. It’s key in difficult times. In difficult environments our results are our responsibility. People who take credit in good times and blame external forces in bad times do not deserve to lead. End of story.

I think he makes a very good point, but may overstate it just a bit. The right people do need management to do their job: to provide guidance, to work on improving the organizational system, to coach employees when needed, to plan for the future, to determine where to focus the organizations resources… But they don’t need to be micro-managed. They can be expected to do what is needed when the proper conditions are set, including a clear understanding of what is needed, communication of current conditions and changing needs, a shared understanding of roles (for people and organizations)…

Also, just to be clear, it can be the right thing to closely manage someone as they are learning. This is true when a new employee starts with the company. And also when they take on new responsibilities. I would have no problem with a company tightly managing a new supervisor. In my experience the exact opposite problem is much more common, moving people into supervisory roles with little support, to sink or swim on their own (well perhaps sinking those around them too). At both times they should get the support they need and the freedom they need to work effectively.

Related: Keeping Good EmployeesFlaws in Understanding Psychology Lead to Flawed ManagementPeople are Our Most Important Assetposts on managing peopleThe Joy of Work

What to Wear to an Interview

Response to What to Wear for an IT Job Interview?. Is this just a huge bit stereotypical?

Who can blame them for not wanting to bother with their wardrobes? Fashion is fickle. Fashion is expensive. Fashion requires imagination and inspiration, and let’s face it, after a long day spent debugging code or trouble-shooting computer problems, there’s not a lot of creativity left for clothing.

But if there’s one professional occasion when a tech worker should think fashion first, it’s the job interview. CIOs says so. According to research conducted by Robert Half Technology, more than one-third (35 percent) of CIOs surveyed say that IT professionals should sport a suit for a job interview.

I don’t see any harm in wearing a suit and tie or such business attire if you have no other information to go on for IT, or other employees. That advice to candidates is perfectly fine. Asking what is appropriate attire when the interview is set is also a good idea. In fact, that is all you need to take from this post as an interviewee, in my opinion.

Is there any value in you wearing a suit? If so, then not doing so might be a negative. The psychology of what makes people uncomfortable is tricky. And dress is one of those factors that may seem trivial but to differing extents most people base opinions partial on dress (even if they claim they don’t). Some organization with casual dress codes may also look at being too dressed up as a bad sign (out of touch…). Basically they are experiencing the same discomfort with your dress even though most likely they would profess to find those making judgments based on dress to be superficial. The Manager FAQ does a good job of looking at the thought process behind some managers thinking on the topic.

My manager seems to dress funny. Is there any way to impress upon him the pointlessness of corporate appearance?

Your manager is probably aware that, in the abstract, the way she dresses changes nothing. However, part of her job is to interact with other people, and there are rules of etiquette for these dealings. Your manager’s clothing, even when she’s not dealing with other people, is selected in part as a way of telling you that she takes you seriously; it’s just like calling people “sir”. It’s a convention, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real convention, and your manager is honoring it.

Even if there is no value to doing so there are many people who make judgments on silly factors like clothing.

Now for the most important point for manager’s, from this post, if you evaluate software developers on how they dress please quit and go work in some other line of work. You really don’t have what is needed to manage software developers or system administrators. If you are hiring someone to sit in meetings with MBAs and translate technology to them, then maybe being comfortable in a suit is a valued trait. But if you are hiring someone to create code 90+% of the time the suit is a completely silly measurement of value.

Related: Curious Cat Management Improvement JobsIT Talent Shortage, or Management Failure?Hiring the Right WorkersGoogle’s Answer to Filling Jobs Is an Algorithm
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Some Firms Cut Costs Without Resorting to Layoffs

Some Firms Cut Costs Without Resorting to Layoffs

Hypertherm Inc. has never laid off a permanent employee in its 40-year history. A 20% downturn in sales in recent months led the closely held maker of metal-cutting equipment to eliminate overtime, cut temporary staff and delay a facility expansion, says Chief Executive Dick Couch.

Managers are transferring employees to busy segments from those with less work. The Hanover, N.H., company also may bring some outsourced manufacturing in-house to keep its 1,100 workers busy, Mr. Couch says.

Private companies, like Hypertherm, may feel less outside pressure to cut jobs and a deeper commitment to employees than publicly held firms, some experts say. Still, a few public companies — including Lincoln Electric Co. and steelmaker Nucor Corp. — also have no-layoff policies.

Good for them. Smart management practices that pay off in long term results. One thing I think some employees forget is the value of such respect for employees. When times are good it is easy to see the lure of higher pay, over long term stability. Layoffs are never good. If you work with an employee and cannot find a way for them to provide value after serious effort then letting them go is fine with me. But that shouldn’t have to do with the economy. That has to do with them not being able to fulfill their responsibilities. I am very suspicious of such claims though, normally management either needs to fix the hiring process or the employee management/development process. The system is the problem not the person (the vast majority of the time).

Related: Bad Management Results in LayoffsFiring Workers Isn’t Fixing ProblemsFind the Root Cause Instead of the Person to Blamemanagement improvement jobs

Family Business Gives $6.6 million in Bonuses to Workers

The PEER Bearing Company (a manufacturer of bearings based in Illinois) was bought out by a Swedish company this year. The family that had owned the company gave surprise bonuses of $6.6 million to the 230 employees of the company (an average of over $28,000).

family thanks employees with surprise bonuses

Family members signed two thank-you cards to each employee, one in Spanish and one in English, expressing gratitude for “the loyalty and hard work of our employees over the years.” “They treated us like extended family,” said Maria Dima, who works at the company along with her husband, Valentin. “We won the lottery.”

On the day the checks were distributed, Valentin Dima watched as co-workers broke down in tears over their bonus checks. He drove home first, then opened his envelope: $33,000. His wife received a check for a smaller amount, and the two Romanian immigrants have since taken a Caribbean cruise to celebrate.

The new owners intend to operate the company based 40 miles north of Chicago as a wholly owned subsidiary. Workers have been told that most will keep their jobs.

A small bit of good news for these troubling times. It is nice to see true respect for people being practiced. The family also created the Spungen Family Foundation, 2 years ago.

Related: Tilting at Ludicrous CEO Pay 2008Focus on Customers and EmployeesPeople are Our Most Important AssetManufacturing Continuous to Increase in the USA

Management Improvement Jobs

Curious Cat Management Improvement Career Connections provides a source of jobs targeted to those interested in this blog. Take a look at the jobs listed now including: Lean Manager at Erlanger in Kentucky; Senior Lean Six Sigma Specialist at Cooper Crouse-Hinds in New York and CEO of Jefferson State Forest Products in California.

At the recent Deming Seminar in Colorado Springs I met the CEO of upstream21, which owns Jefferson State Forest Products: Bryan Redd. He has a great understanding of how to put Deming and lean manufacturing ideas into practice. Having a boss that is knowledgeable and passionate about the management improvement is a huge plus. I think this is a great opportunity.

So if you are interested in looking at new career opportunities look at the jobs posted on the job board and good luck. And if you have a management improvement opening, go ahead an add the opportunity.

Related: Signs You Have a Great Job, or NotDeming CompaniesHiring the Right Employees

Internships Increasing

Hard to find a job, but not an internship

The bullish market for interns is good news for those in college, who find that internships are increasingly required for landing that first job. The summer posts allow students to bolster their resumes, learn more about their field of choice and meet executives who could hire them for full-time positions one day. And they often pay a good wage: on average, $16.33 an hour, or $7,850 over 12 weeks, Luckenbaugh said.

“Students are looking for internships even after their first year,” said Sheila Curran, executive director of Duke University’s career center, noting that 88% of Duke students graduate with at least one internship under their belts. “It’s become expected that you’d have at least one internship during college.”

Universities are also recognizing the increased importance of internships and are working harder to secure spots for their students, said Richard Bottner, founder of Intern Bridge, a college recruiting research and consulting firm. Some colleges are even requiring students to do at least one internship to graduate.

graphic of Deming Scholars internship cycle

The Deming Scholars MBA program at Fordham includes a heavy dose of internships [broken link removed] (“Subject matter is delivered in five integrated learning cycles. Five eight-week sessions of classroom lectures, seminars and study are linked by seven-week internships at participating firms”). Integrating well planned internships can be very valuable to improving learning. By the way if your company would like to host these students you can contact the program to discuss the opportunity.

Curiouscat.com has a web site for locating internships. I would love to get some good management improvement based internships added – there is no charge to add internships. For actual jobs try the Curious Cat Management Improvement job board.

Related: Hiring the Right EmployeesIT Talent Shortage, or Management Failure?Young IT Workers DemandsJoel ManagementThe Joy of Work

Manufacturing Employee Shortage in Utah

Utah scrambling to meet need for technical workers

The state faces challenges in generating necessary interest to fill available manufacturing jobs for what Utah’s governor has called the state’s “Aerospace Hub,” both immediately and in the future, the report said.

The situation continues to worsen, with jobs being created and unemployment remaining low in the state. And as the current work force ages, the supply of skilled workers is diminishing, forcing employers to recruit outside of Utah and sometimes leave Utah altogether, the report said.

The college’s Lean Manufacturing Center was built from an old warehouse with state funds and $30 million from rocket-booster manufacturer Williams International. Williams provides the college with equipment and mentors to train students with practical, real-world applications, said Lloyd McCaffrey, the Lean Center’s director.

Related: Engineering Innovation for Manufacturing and the EconomyApplied Quality Engineering EducationWisconsin ManufacturingTop 10 Manufacturing CountriesHelp Wanted: Lean Manufacturing ExpertsThe Lean MBACurious Cat Management Improvement Job Board

How Downsizing is Handled When Management Respects People

Three Amazing PHP/MySQL/Perl Developers Now Available – Posting on Craigslist. The url will expire so I included everything but the contact info below (follow the link for contact info).

Yesterday I had to do one of the more difficult things — lay off three of my good friends, all of whom are talented and professional developers.

I’m posting here today in hopes that someone out in the world is looking for some seasoned talent, people who can get things done for you. I will personally recommend all three of these guys, and I’ll detail below each of them. If you are interested, I’m including my phone number. I’ll take your contact information and give it to the person(s) you are interested in, and you can take it from there.

Here goes.

Developer #1
I’ve worked with Developer #1 since 2005. He’s worked for Fortune 500 companies and small startups. His strengths are conceptualizing and implementing complex systems using PHP and MySQL. These systems are not limited to the web, however the web is where most of his work has been for the last few years. During his employment with me, he:
* Designed a complex billing system, complete with audit trails
* Developed a site-wide internationalization system, allowing us to easily translate any phrase on the system to a different language
* Designed and successfully implemented several difficult projects based on half-way decent specifications documents (my fault)

Related: People are Our Most Important AssetBad Management Results in LayoffsHiring the Right PeopleSeverance Plans to Respect PeopleCurious Cat Management Improvement Jobs
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Lean Manufacturing Saving Jobs Again

Lean manufacturing saving jobs

Keiper Automotive has slashed more than $2 million in costs and saved 100 jobs from layoff — all by reducing waste. Bob Cook, plant manager at the Scanlan Street auto parts manufacturer, hosted a lean manufacturing session at the plant yesterday where 10 manufacturers from different sectors learned first-hand how to cut waste, and what an impact it can have.

“This is not about a reduction in the workforce, it is about reducing waste in the system,” Cook said. “There is a lot to be gained . . . and it is really just common sense.” The lean manufacturing session got its start in November at a mayor’s roundtable on advanced manufacturing. When the issue of cutting waste arose, Cook volunteered to lead a session and the London Economic Development Corp. organized it.

“This information is not proprietary. If these people take it back to their plants and expand on it, we all gain,” Cook said.

A number of great points, including:

Related: Manufacturing JobsLean Thinking MisconceptionLean Manufacturing Resources

Creating Jobs

Do Lean Companies Create Fewer Jobs?

No, they create more. If you assume the lean company grows sales at the same rate as some poorly management company then it may well be that the lean company creates fewer jobs. However that is not a valid assumption. Deming provided the reason in his presentations to Japan in the 1950’s with his chain reaction. From page 3 of Out of the Crisis

  • Improve Quality —>
  • Costs decrease because of less rework, fewer mistakes, fewer delays, snags, better use of machine-time and materials —>
  • Productivity Improves —>
  • Capture the market with better quality and lower price —>
  • Stay in Business —>
  • Provide jobs and more jobs

For an example of this process at work see GM, Ford and Toyota. Toyota defines lean (Toyota’s management system is what was called lean manufacturing by Jim Womack and Dan Jones). Toyota continues to add employees while Ford and GM have been shedding jobs.

It is true, for lean (and un-lean) companies alike, productivity is improving (it just improves more at lean companies) which means that fewer people are needed to produce the same amount as we have in the past. We have posted previously about the mistaken belief that jobs are moving overseas.
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