Tuesday, February 03, 2004

On Being a Lab Rat

We've been interviewing recently for May grads and summer interns at a number of colleges and universities in Indiana. Last night was another such event, an open info meeting on campus.

In the midst of the candidates, well-groomed with resumes in hand, was another visitor. After chatting and discussing some of the usual introductory questions, we wondered a bit just why she showed up...her background didn't seem a fit for what we were offering. Then we discovered her reason for stopping in.

It turned out she was a doctoral student examining how interviewers form impressions about interviewees. Thus, she came to observe my three colleagues and me as we interacted with candidates for jobs.

Yep, we were the lab rats and she was the scientist. Perhaps it was quite fitting that we had a tray of cheese and crackers in the back of the room. I solved the maze of tables and chairs quickly to get my share of the cheddar and Colby. I hope I passed. At least I didn't get an electric shock.

Seriously, our unexpected guest was quite professional. She took many, many notes and was a keen observer. What was she writing down, I wondered. After the event, she offered some useful feedback and thanked us warmly for welcoming her. It still felt a little odd, though.

Which was good. In many efforts in a Lean transformation, we who "have the knowledge" go onto the shop floor and "observe" what is going on. And I'm sure a lot of the fine folks I've worked with have felt like lab rats at the time. Which is not a great feeling.

How to deal with this better? Be more clear, at the first step on the shop floor. Explain to the folks just who I am and why I'm there. When I'm done, share all the notes and observations. Be respectful. Understand it's odd to work when you know someone is observing to see just how it is you are doing what you already know how to do.

And, be grateful for those moments when the shoe is on the other foot. I hope this is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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