By Katie Voelliger March 15, 2012
A mix of new and experienced supervisors -- 14 in all -- took part in Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center's Arsenal Academy, a 12 week course which consisted of classroom training and hands-on training with occasional guest speakers.
The course was facilitated through higher education institutions and businesses in the Quad Cities.St. Ambrose University was awarded the contract in April 2011 as a conglomerate with Black Hawk College, Western Illinois and Spirit Partners, Inc. as subcontractors. The indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contract is for five years.
The idea started over two years ago with Mike Bunch, former Deputy Commander of RIA-JMTC. "Mr. Bunch had this vision," Otha Carter, Production Management Engineering Division Chief and graduate of the program, recalls. "He said my son got a job in private industry where they are sending him to training for six months. He won't even be on the job working during that time -- it's straight training."
Carter saw Bunch's experience with his son and realized that's what he was creating for the Arsenal. Erin Terronez, Training Division Chief and graduate of the program, believes Bunch's vision was to have a supervisor leadership program that new supervisors would attend to learn the proper tools and knowledge for the position.
"All too often, we promote employees to supervisory positions but do not give them the proper tools and training to do the job right," she said.
Beginning in October 2011 and lasting through February 2012, this academy offered techniques and valuable information in personnel management, program management, psychology in management, shop floor processes, process improvement using Lean Six Sigma methods, quality, safety, union/labor management techniques and partnerships. The classes were held at all three college campuses and taught by professors from institutions all over the US, business leaders and Arsenal retirees.
"The classes tied the mission and corporate goals to leadership and how to build strong supervisors and managers," Carter said. "How RIA can effectively get work done through employees."
Directors and General Managers were asked to submit names of people from their areas for this initial Arsenal Academy. Management went through the names submitted and picked 14. The contract for each session allows anywhere between 10-20 students. Terronez thought 14 students this time around were ideal as it allowed for discussion.
"We had case studies and projects," Terronez said. "When you have too many people -- it's hard to discuss. Fourteen was a good number and allowed for easy collaboration."
The number also allowed Alisa Everson, Order Management Division Chief and graduate, to build personal relationships and network.
"It was a huge advantage," she said. "I developed an understanding of the value stream map and strategic goals. It made me make positive changes to myself and in the organization. We all have the same tools to use now since we had the same training."
Twelve weeks is a long time to be away from work as Kathy Smith, Data Integrity and Testing Division Chief and graduate, felt.
"I felt like I was missing out. I was leaving my team. But I am new to my position so it helped me get started as a supervisor," she said.
She added that she learned several skills that she was never exposed to before because she wasn't a supervisor. Now, she has tools to utilize and knows this will pay off in the long term.
Carter liked the challenges and competitiveness of the training. Working with different people from different areas added a new prospective and classmates were able to open up and speak freely with each other on important and difficult subjects.
Commodity Management supervisor and graduate Mike DeWitte felt an important highlight from the class was learning how to work with your employees.
"Working with your folks is important," he said. "It's important to know them and be able to supervise them. Supervisors need to know guidance and training of their direct reports."
He added that topics covered ranged from performance appraisals, which are important for new supervisors, to working LEAN initiatives into your daily work. He felt the subjects discussed definitely had a sequence of how they should be organized in the class material.
Terronez plans to use the resources that came with the training experience. "Training with other supervisors was beneficial because we were with so many people with diverse backgrounds. All of this was important because we could see how our work affects other areas within RIA-JMTC. Arsenal Academy gave support to our (class) to change the culture here and continue to grow with classes we may add."
Two tools Carter felt were beneficial were techniques on how to get employees to be responsive and the importance of listening.
DeWitte thought communication was addressed well in the classes. Since communication is something that affects RIA-JMTC as a whole, it is an important topic.
"I think it's important we drill down all the way through the organization and show how everyone's role in communication plays an important part to the organization," he said.
Graduation was an important milestone for the course. Students were given the opportunity to present their projects to the Deputy Commander and Colonel. It provided them an opportunity to give feedback directly to the top management.
Smith felt the overall point was for everyone to have the same goals in the end.
"Once we have the same goals, then the Arsenal can have the same goals and everyone is on the same path," she said. "I think this was started because if we want to survive as an Arsenal, we have to change the way we're doing business and all get on the right track."
Plans for a future Arsenal Academy are underway. Terronez said they have already begun planning for the next session. The intention is for all levels of supervisors to attend Arsenal Academy.