Editor's Note Northwest Passage
A few weeks ago I was out in Seattle, where my wife had been invited to speak at a conference. I took advantage of the trip to visit with several in-plant managers in that part of the world. This is the best part of the job, when I get to meet some of the people I've been writing about.
Take Paul Katz and his comrades, for instance. Last month I wrote an article about the informal association of Washington school district in-plant managers to which Paul belongs. While in Seattle, I got to meet all those managers and attend one of their meetings.
Working with Bill Kennedy and Nancy Bowen at Boeing, Paul and I had set up a tour of Boeing's in-plant for the group. About 15 managers drove from school districts up and down Washington's east coast to attend.
We had time to talk before the tour, so I asked them what concerns they had as in-plant managers. I learned that the state has been cutting funding to school districts, forcing districts to eliminate staff. To keep their in-plants intact, the managers have had to be more responsive to customers than ever.
That's where their managers' group has come in handy, they said. They have shared tips on how to better serve their similar customer bases. They have also advised each other on which new services to add to keep customers happy. After all, they know the only way their in-plants will survive budget cuts is if they are seen as integral parts of their school districts—not as ancillary operations that can be easily trimmed.
I was glad to see how much value the managers in this group were getting from their meetings, and impressed that so many had shown up. Having attended IPMA chapter meetings around the country, I've noticed a drop in attendance in recent years. Yet the Washington group, without a formal association behind it to urge participation, is thriving. Clearly there's value in networking regularly with other in-plant managers. If more managers realized this and attended IPMA chapter meetings, perhaps fewer shops would close.