Saturday, June 11, 2011
Little Green Men Invade the Parking Lot
I recently took over responsibility for a managing a group technical training instructors. They conduct classes to prepare service technicians to install and repair a variety of hardware and software products we sell as part of our customer solutions. Having spent most of my workplace learning career focused on leadership, communication, and other soft skills topics, it is going to take me some time to understand nuances of this baffling world of electro-mechanical wizardry, touch-screen interfaces, and the impact of trying to train 64-bit software on a 32-bit machine (if that is even possible). This week, in a meeting with one of the instructors, we got into a dialog about how he keeps up-to-date on all of the technical knowledge he needs to run his classes effectively. With the amount and frequency of product introductions and updates in our company, I expected he needed to build a “Parking Garage” to capture all the questions I imagine to be unanswerable in this mystifying technical realm. He shrugged his shoulders seemingly to indicate that “it’s part of the job.” Then he admitted that it is impossible to keep up with all the product changes. But even though that is the case, there is no Parking Lot in any of his classrooms. He told me about the long list of engineering and operations subject matter experts he has on his MS Office Communicator instant messaging contact list. At any given time during class, he can scan the list to see who is “green,” meaning they are online and available. So when someone in his class asks, “What was the thinking behind moving the lever to the other side of the unit in the version 4 release of Product X?” he doesn’t reach for the post-its. He taps the keyboard and gets the answer right then and there. And when the service technicians leave class, they pull out of the parking lot not only well trained, but with the list of little “green” men and women in tow as well.