Brandt On Leadership -- Neanderthal Inc.

Stop asking so many questions and get back to work.

Here we go again: No sooner do I hire new human resource types but then you guys start thinking up ways to spend money by "investing in Human Capital" or "building a Learning Culture." Listen up: I've been CEO of Neanderthal Inc. for a lot of years, and if I've learned one thing, it's that if our employees were smart enough to be trained, they sure as hell wouldn't work here. That's why we use the same great ECF (Easy, Cheap & Fast) training that everybody else in this industry does. Here's a quick overview:

Technical: You touchy-feely guys spend a lot of time fretting about the need for us to "document the knowledge of our experienced workers" or to "chart job requirements and workflow" so that we can create training "modules" that "simulate job conditions" or "teach continuous improvement." Please. Everybody knows that the best way to learn is on-the-job; if it was good enough for me 30 years ago, it's good enough for some lump off the street. Throw 'em into the deep end of the pool, I say, and if they swim, great. If they sink, well, there's always another lump standing outside. It's not like we're actually going to make them smarter, are we? Even if we did, who would manage them?

Teaming: Everybody tells me that collaboration and teamwork are very important in the 21st century, blah blah blah. I don't buy it -- I don't like you, but you don't see me not working, do you? -- but for the sake of the bottom line I'm willing to give it a try. That's why we bought these snazzy Incredible Power of Teamwork training binders, the ones with the picture of the handshake on the front. What's in the binders, I don't know, and I'm guessing that our employees don't either, since all we did was tell them to read them in their spare (off-the-clock) time.

We also got a bunch of posters that say sappy things about the Incredible Power of Teamwork and have pictures of clouds or mountaintops on them. I did have some concern that these posters might simply remind employees of where they'd rather be than at work, but I'm told that they're very motivational. Or soothing. At any rate, we didn't have to paint the walls we put them on, so that's something.

Financial: This made me laugh so hard I almost choked on my cigar: Because employees are close to customers and make decisions every day that affect our margins, we should -- this kills me -- teach them to understand the financials of the business. Ha! The last thing I need is a bunch of know-it-alls asking me about why we can afford new leather office furniture but can't fund preventive maintenance on the shop floor. I didn't spend years clawing my way to the top just so I could share the view with a bunch of losers!

Improvement Methodology: If I hear the words "lean" or "Six Sigma" one more time, I think I'll scream. All my CEO buddies agree that improvement methodologies like these only work at places like Toyota, big companies in industries with customers willing to put up with all that extra value and choice. (Thank God our customers don't want that!) If we spent so much as a nickel on training our workers in techniques like these, not only would the money be wasted, but employees would start getting the idea that we actually cared about their opinions. Memo to staff: Not happening!

Creativity and Innovation: As if our employees would share any ideas with us in the first place. I've been managing these people for years, and let me tell you, there's not a one of them who would walk across the street to help me or this company.

The last thing I want to do is motivate them into coming up with great ideas they'll probably just take to the competition anyway. Call it our low-cost employee retention policy: We'll keep 'em so ignorant and clueless that nobody else will want to hire them.

Then again, what if they stay?

John R. Brandt, formerly editor-in-chief of IndustryWeek, is CEO of the Manufacturing Performance Institute, a research and consulting firm based in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

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