The managing director of the medium-sized machine builder realised that ensuring that his engineering and marketing team worked well together was key to guaranteeing the success of his business.
But he also recognised that, because the staff came from a variety of disparate cultural and educational backgrounds, they might not be communicating with one another as effectively as they could be.
So the managing director called in a team of management consultants who he believed might be able to help out. And, indeed, they assured the managing director that they could. For the mere cost of just £2,000 per person, they could take the company’s six middle managers on a one-day event in which their communications skills would be honed to perfection.
The managing director was a little taken back by the cost of sending his top managers on such a training session, but the management consultants were a highly persuasive bunch of individuals that convinced him of the worth of the exercise by citing a number of instances where their courses had spectacularly improved the productivity of similar organisations.
So the managing director eventually acquiesced and his management team was duly dispatched for a one-day training session at a conference and leisure centre, where the management consultants set to work ensuring that they corresponded more successfully.
In the morning of the event, the management consultants divided the group into two teams and set them both the task of creating a manual production line to ’manufacture’ envelopes from stacks of A4 paper.
Each team was given two hours to discuss and develop the most cost-effective, efficient way to use the paper, scissors and glue that was supplied to them, after which they would race to see which could manufacture the most envelopes in a 30 minute time period.
The engineers on both teams considered the exercise a rather dim-witted waste of their time. But the folks in marketing and sales were eager to demonstrate their prowess at winning the competition and pushed the engineers to create the most optimal production method that would ensure that they would do just that.
Needless to say, one team fared better than the other in the exercise and, after the results were in, the teams were brought together for an afternoon session in which the team members analysed the effectiveness and failings of each others work.
Despite their initial scepticism, the engineers found themselves in a heated debate about the merits of the two approaches − there was much enthusiastic banter between the two groups, to the delight of the management consultants who guided the discussion between them.
Back at the engineering company, I’m pleased to say that the middle managers are indeed now communicating more effectively with one another. All thanks to the time they spent with one another folding bits of paper.
And when the company recently won an order to develop a bespoke machine to do nothing less than manufacture envelopes, the engineers and marketing folks realised that the time that they had spent together would prove even more invaluable − much to the amusement of all concerned!
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