Teachable Moment

“Every addition to true knowledge is an addition to human power.  – Attributed to Horace Mann

“A teachable moment.” It’s a phrase often used to describe a lesson learned from an awkward attempt by the inexperienced. It is also a phrase that all too often describes the only education field technicians get. It is bad for the industry and bad for your business.

Mann Up

The situation is one with parallels to the development of public education in the United States. In the late 1830’s Horace Mann won election to the newly created Massachusetts Board of Education.  

Prior to Mann’s initiatives the quality of education and the consistency of the fundamentals were poor. The community that rallied around Mann’s  ideals believed fervently that solid and consistent education for all instilled success.  

Through the efforts of Mann and his activist associates every citizen saw education as a right. The system, despite its flaws, provides the foundation of power for the individual and the nation as a whole.

The model and results fit our industry well and the lessons it provides should be well noted.

In the late 1800’s, the struggle was  to accommodate the daily and seasonal needs of an agrarian economy with a comprehensive syllabus.  It is the same with an integration business today.

Efficient but Deficient

The old adage of ‘time is money’ holds no truer than in the system integration/installation industry. It is a complex endeavor where designs must be completed, gear tested, built, programmed, installed, vetted and serviced. All of it done under the yoke of less than realistic deadlines. The margins are minimal and any time spent not actively completing a project is a loss of money.

The principles of integration companies abhor downtime, whether seasonal or manufactured.  The thought of deliberately designing downtime dates where staff are set to learning over an onsite can be difficult. Keeping the machine moving is the mantra of every hour, but eventually engines need tuning, maintenance to keep making the long hauls.  

In the name of efficiency, the comfort of known expectations, we tend to put staff in staid little boxes. This tech is good with dressing wires and termination, this one with programming, another documentation and design. The architecture does lend itself to maximizing performance; often requiring little more than assignment of a task.  

So, if it’s not broken why fix it?

A stuck in the ruts crew will eventually equal a stuck in the ruts company. One solution is to grow by hiring more folks to fill the need for new cubby holes, find the skill set and place it. There are many who use this technique but time testing has show it to be limited in success over the long haul. A company may grow but the dynamism which drives it forward can sputter.

The modern integration industry is not one limited to a few small factoids and best practices. It is no longer an ancient art handed down from generation to generation only moderately changed. Today bleeding edge technologies are incorporated in a steady parade.

Certify or Certifiable

The call to action here is for knowledge, to expand the understanding and horizons of your staff (and yourself).  Knowledge, no matter how small a beginning, is powerful.

A common response to the cry to uplift your staff concerns not only the time needed to learn – there are also the hours needed to accomplish certification. The trade organizations thick reams of syllabuses are daunting. The drum beat to have those little letters after your surname is strong and steady.

The merits of being certified and having certified folks working for you is clear. Those little letters qualify a commitment to an expertise and understanding. Does this have to be the goal for anyone looking to learn?  

Just as not every college student is PhD material, nor do we need to think all our staff needs to be a CTS-D.  A goal to look towards and have a knowing appreciation of those who have earned it ? absolutely. This should not be a deterrent towards becoming educated, to grow into a better tech.

Certification is a next step, an essential one but not the crux of this discussion. Here we want to inspire you to get the learn-on yourself and to spread that to your staff.

Get caught knowing more.

Right now you should be working to make your staff certifiable. Most of us in this industry can already be classified under the moniker, albeit for other reasons, so you’re already halfway there.

It bears saying again, knowledge is power and your business depends on it.

A staff seeped in the habit of learning is more motivated, is more creative problem solvers, and could find the inspiration for your next revenue stream. Do you want more efficient service calls, better code execution and better systems? Give your staff the time and support to do it.

Otherwise, one winds up chasing the proverbial rug ends, running from corner to corner attempting to nail it down but never to full satisfaction.

 

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