I have had the opportunity to interview for several really good companies this past week. There are two in particular that have really stood out to me. The first one was a company that I have really admired from a far and wanted to work at for some time and one that I have been very familiar with but never thought of working at because of the industry it is in. Being part of a downsizing with my last company, I have been very conscious about where I wanted to go but as I have said many times before, I believe God has a plan for me and He decided to open a door that I never thought about knocking on.
Both companies followed the same process. First a phone interview to see if you are worth the time talking to and then a face to face interview if you meet their standards. What separated the two companies apart for me was the questions that they asked. Ironically, they asked the same questions but what stood out to me was how they asked them. One particular question and discussion of the answer really stood out to me. One company asked “What is a major project that you have completed” while the other company asked, “If you were asked to implement a kanban what information and tools would you need to be successful?” Re-read those two questions and see if the difference stands out to you as much as it stands out to me.
I have 15 solid years in supervision in the manufacturing world. Anyone with that amount of time should be able to name at least one successful project that they have been a part of. Let’s face it… everyone gets lucky at some time in their career. On the other hand, by giving a concept and asking what you need to complete it truly shows whether or not you know what you are talking about. After hanging up the phone and reflecting on the interview, a picture of a mechanic came into mind.
I have been to many “name brand” mechanics and been impressed with their garage. They have all the snap-on tools with their fancy tool boxes. I have also received estimates from them only to find out after my vehicle has been torn apart that I either need to give them an extra $200 to fix the problem or for them to say it’s a problem that they don’t work on. Now, when I have a mechanical issue, I take it to a friend of mine who works out of a garage in his back yard. He is not a licensed mechanic but he is an engineer by trade and he knows what he’s doing. He does great work at a fair price and guess what? He doesn’t have the prettiest tools in the world like those “brand named” shops. I have come to realize that just because you have the newest and prettiest tools in your tool box doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to use them!
The way that the question was asked also told me a lot about the organizations looking at me. One seemed to know the “buzz words” of the time and it really felt that talking about lean made them feel really good about themselves. On the other hand, the second company gave me the feeling that they were a company very serious about their lean journey and looking for people that understood the road ahead of them. That gave me a really good feeling about a company I had previously purposely overlooked. I don’t for a second believe that I know all the tools associated with Lean Manufacturing. In all honesty, I don’t think that there are many that do. But, I am confident in the ones that I have learned and know that the whole purpose of continuous improvement is to continually learn. A tool that you have used a hundred times before utilized in a different environment or situation is sure to show you something new.
Anyone can walk into an interview and talk about all the miscellaneous tools associated with lean manufacturing. 5S, Kanban, Kaizen, Takt Time, Pareto Charts, Kamishibai Boards, Gemba, WIP, Just In Time, the list goes on and on. Unless you are trained in them and know which tool is appropriate for each situation you are not going to be effective in your job. Much like just because I own a socket set doesn’t necessarily mean I know how to fix an engine. The tools are exactly that… just tools. The theory and ability to apply them to the necessary situation is just as important as knowing or “owning” the tool. That is why the way they both asked the same question is so important. I know for a fact that when I am interviewing candidates in the future, I will ask questions that will make the applicant demonstrate their actual knowledge rather than just knowing the buzz words.
- Lean Manufacturing and Safety Help Manufacturers Survive Tough Times (prweb.com)
- How to Sustain a Lean Culture after 10 Years (gembapantarei.com)
- Lean Six Sigma Toolset (slideshare.net)