Lesson 2: The Human Element

The great benefits of ones life’s work are only implicit in American society and in other truly free societies. They are not guaranteed. That is, they are available to all for the taking, but they are obscured to many and may become more obscure to others over time. It may be that it is not always thought through or taught in our early years. Focus may be lost because of perceived difficulty of circumstances, or comfortable routines becoming rigid paradigms.

Some environments teach (perhaps by example) that mindless labor and drudgery are normal, thus deflating ambition and positive perception of the future. Other environments preach government and organized labor control philosophies, which can profess to shelter us from risk and insecurity or offer unrealistic security without corresponding contribution. They will discount the need to be adventurous in accepting challenge and risk. Still others will not see the need because of birth status and inherited material wealth. In that context, you may remember that the majority and the most rewarding of the rewards (W3) are non- monetary, far too great a penalty to pay even for the advantaged.

The demands of the special machine tool industry, its competitive nature, and the need to outsmart and outperform worldwide competitors on every single piece of new business fosters the culture of Yankee ingenuity. The only security offered is the success of the efforts in a very challenging marketplace and against “take no prisoner” competitors. Facing challenge and risk energizes courage, imagination and passion and awakens latent capability.

The human element is everything. It is the source of free thought and imagination that create and it is the energy and passion that implement. It is responsible for all things that make a difference-progress.

The competition for attracting, retaining, and encouraging passionate, imaginative and free-thinking team members must be as intense and as aggressive as the competition for winning new business. These efforts should include:

  • Develop and maintain an environment that makes fulfillment of the promises of “the reasons we work” a top priority for all.

  • Foster and develop the courage characteristic, as a practice.

  • Eliminate any psychological barrier between white and blue collars, empowering all equally under their leaders.

  • Provide and require ownership, a stake for responsibility.

  • Establish a succession plan that assures that industry reared people are in line, with appropriate ownership for all management positions

“The 1998 edition of the EWC Engineering and Technology Degrees survey covers data from 340 schools with engineering programs and 284 schools with engineering technology programs in The United States.”

“According to the EWC, between 1986 and 1998 , the number of students receiving bachelor’s of science degrees in engineering declined by 19.8 percent to 63,262 nationwide while the number of students receiving bachelor of science degrees overall increased by nearly twenty percent over the same period of time…In Connecticut where the ‘Connecticut Yankee’ has long been a symbol of ingenuity and inventiveness, only 533 students received B.S. degrees in engineering last year, one third as many as the state graduated in 1986,” said Torpey, Chair of the 20 year old AAES. “How can a state that considers itself ‘engineered for high performance’ believe that it will be able to fuel technological innovation without an adequate supply of engineers to provide the spark of Yankee ingenuity.”

“As our society becomes increasingly dependent on its engineers to maintain our nation’s economic, environmental, and national security, our community has a responsibility to improve the nation’s ‘engineering literacy’ as well as a responsibility to encourage and inspire our nation’s youth to consider engineering as an exciting and rewarding career,” said Torpey. “As Motorola CEO Gary Tooker said two years ago, ‘The nations that lead the world in the decades to come will be those that encourage creative people to become engineers.’”[29]

The concerns expressed by Mr. Torpey and Mr. Tooker are even truer today and must be taken seriously. They present a major handicap to American industry and in particular to the special machine tool industry. The second lesson of Yankee ingenuity underscores these concerns and must add fuel to the efforts to encourage young people to become engineers. However, the discussions on recruiting along with those on collar color in Chapter 6, if taken seriously, can help to mitigate that problem.

[29]Press Release, (The American Association of Engineering Societies, January 11, 1999).

Sweet and Sour Grapes
Sweet & Sour Grapes: The Story of the Machine Tool Industry
ISBN: 1587620316
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 77
Authors: James Egbert

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