Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"A dollar's a dollar"

When she was a teenager, my mother immigrated to this country from Scotland.  Her family settled in Culver City, California and my Grandpa Wilfred went to work at Helms Bakery. I never had the opportunity to meet him, as he passed away before I was born. However, my mother would speak often of the life lessons he taught her through his work at Helms. More than 60 years later, I too would learn some wonderful lessons from those who work in a bakery.

On January 30th at 4:00 am, I reported for duty at the loading dock of the College 8 kitchen. This was the first of my "In My Shoes" sessions. These sessions are an adaptation of a program I implemented at my last university, and they stem from the notion that nothing is as powerful in enhancing the understanding of another person's perspective as walking a day in their shoes. Over the next year, I will join various units across BAS and work in various roles to gain a better understanding of what our teammembers face each day.

If you have eaten a baked good on campus, it likely was made here

Though 4:00 am might seem like an early start to some, my teammates in the bakery had already been at work since 2:00 am.  By the time I arrived, much had already been accomplished.  This is a seven day a week operation, and my time spent with these colleagues yielded many lessons that are applicable across our entire BAS division. Here are a few that really hit home for me:

1) Stewardship happens one scoop at a time: When Gabriel taught me how to scoop the muffins into the pan, he said "a dollar's a's not 99's not a dollar one." His eye for perfection in the scoop size was an important lesson. He does not let anything go to waste, and he knows that those who pay for our goods and services want consistency and they want value. We tend to think of stewardship using large dollar figures, however that can make the concept seem nebulous and at times hard to operationalize. Gabriel taught me that stewardship happens one scoop at a time.

A dollar's a dollar

2) Don't pull the donut straight out of the frosting....twist it out slowly: As I learned the techniques involved in making and frosting the donuts, Paul taught me that you do not pull the donuts straight out of the frosting pan. Rather, you twist them out slowly. This technique makes the frosting settle better and provides a smoother finish. As our division moves forward, we must remember that the work ahead necessitates bold ideas and a smooth implementation. Rapid change that does not engage both internal and external stakeholders will result in cultural paralysis, unsustainable risk, and a rough finish.....twist the donut slowly.

3) Two critical elements of baking are consistency and quality: Whether it is the size of the muffin scoops or the amount of blueberries that go into each batch....consistency is an important value in baking. Ensuring quality remains high is equally important. This was a lesson I learned repeatedly as the morning progressed.  The experience also reinforced for me that quality and stewardship can co-exist.....we can provide quality services, while not wasting resources.....remember, a dollar's a dollar.

4) When 5:00 am rolls around and you have been at the bakery since 2:00 am....a little fun is a critical ingredient: Around 5:00 am, one of our teammembers pointed out that talking while they work helps them make it through. Though the work and activity levels never waned, laughter was a critical ingredient in the morning's activity. Our work in BAS is hard and the challenges ahead are great. A little fellowship and laughter along the way will be important as we press into the future.

At 4:05 am, a friendly smile goes a long way

5) Everyone must know their role and how it affects the next stage of baking: 6:00 am is a critical time for our bake crew. It is when the goods roll onto the truck and head out across campus. If the group preparing the batter falls behind, it affects those scooping, shaping, and baking. If the items go in the oven late, then the truck can't leave on time. Understanding how each of us affect the work of others is key. Seeing how our activities either enable or hinder processes is vital. We must look at processes end to end and see where we have problems and where we have opportunities for enhancement.  Every step along the way must add value.

Everyone must know their role and how it affects the next step

I would like to end by saying thank you to everyone who hosted me this morning. Thanks to: Gabriel, Paul, Marcos, Rachel, Geraldo, Arturo, and Scott.  I am grateful for your kindness, your patience, and for the lessons you taught me.

A slug I am,

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