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Invite Hansel and Gretel into the Workplace

The past few years have certainly been a reality check.  Following one of the greatest economic booms of recent years has been a financial calamity.  The year 2009 was certainly the hardest in my career, and probably harder than most people have endured past 1980.  A great many jobs were lost as companies that weren't strong enough to weather the storm crumbled under the force of the collapse.
It is easy to think only of ourselves when these things happen.  Most people have families and financial obligations that often feel daunting when the threat of joblessness is looming.  It is times like these when we need to leave a trail behind us to guide us back safely.  The old saying "knowledge is power"will always be true, but true knowledge isn't what we keep only for ourselves, but what we share with others.  I have met many coworkers that keep "vital" work related information very close to their chest.  They may have small notebooks or private journals that they keep tidbits of job security hidden deep inside and only scarely share it with others.

This is a delusion.  Years ago, this may have been the way to keep yourself valuable, but now, in the era of encompassing databases, quality systems, and fluid information transfer it isn't as effective as people may think.  If you are a miser with information, your tenure will be cut short, and you will be labelled a non-teamplayer.  True value in your organization is based upon what you can do with information, not the information that you have.  Absolute value comes from a person's versatility in dealing with situations and their ability to teach others how to perform better.  If you are working in an environment where secrecy between coworkers is the only way to succeed, then I suggest finding a different place to work.  

I am a huge proponent of computerized database systems for keeping asset information, repair history, accumulated costs, etc.  Just recently we finished a four-day maintenance outage that included many major repairs and equipment replacements.  I took a week long vacation to Florida with my family when it was finished.  When I returned I made entering all of the details of the different jobs into the maintenance system my first priority.  Years from now, someone will want to know some detail from the major work done, and they will be able to find it from the shiny stones that I left behind for them.  Just like the trail that Hansel and Gretel left behind so they could find their way home in the moonlight.

Our spare parts warehouse supervisor is responsible for over 50% of all maintenance material purchases in the mill.  She has categorized all of the contents by type, size, etc using a coded part number system.  Better yet, there is a NOTES field that allows for a large amount of miscellaneous information to be added to the record . .. . a virtual bread crumb trail (except the birds don't eat this one).  We make sure that when new parts are added in the warehouse, that information plent of information is recorded to make it easier for others to find the parts in the future.  Most times, we record the area, equipment, and component that the part is used on.  For sundry items we prefer to add complete part numbers, family numbers, and even manufacturer jargon.

The success that I have is really the success that I share, and enable others to have as well.  Even if one of these trails lays dormant for years, it will certainly help someone in the future, long after I have moved on.  I may not get anything directly from it, but my value will be remembered when that person in the future saves time and money because of something positive that I did to help them.

True value is how we help one another perform successfully, not how we shine brighter than others by selfishly keeping things to ourselves.  That is evil stepmother kind of stuff.  If you want to keep being a info-miser, then be prepared to be the lonely old witch who gets snuffed-out in the end.  It isn't easy being mean.

Nighty - Nite


  1. Nice tie in with the fairy tale storyline.


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