Interview with Julia Apple-Smith, Manager of Employee Development at Sauer-Danfoss Ames, Iowa about Facilitation Skills:
Q:Would you tell me a little bit about culture at Sauer-Danfoss?
Julia:About nine years ago, Dave Pfeifle, President and CEO had a vision for us to change our culture. We, at one time, were part of Sundstrand Corporation, and as such, over time, had evolved into a company that was fairly autocratic and not very customer focused. It was not only Dave’s vision for that to change, but it was also a time when our customers were beginning to let us know that if that was way we were going to do business, they were going to need to find other companies to provide same type of product that we provide. Dave’s vision then became what is now known as Reaching for Excellence. It is not a program. It is our company’s vision statement. It represents our philosophy of who we are. There was not a training program here at that time. Part of Dave’s vision was to have a learning base to help promote and support that kind of cultural changes. It’s really been an evolutionary process over last eight or nine years. It is something that CMOE has played and integral part in.
Q:How did your relationship with CMOE begin?
Julia - One of first things we did was to preview Coaching Skills Workshop in California. We decided that it was a class that we wanted to bring in-house. That class and a Customer Awareness Class, that I created, were really cornerstone classes for what now has become one of our core courses in whole training program. As time evolved, we continued to build on that foundation of learning with other classes such as Teamwork I and Teamwork II and other types of learning. So there was a lot of internal training going on.
Q – Can you tell me about how Facilitation Skills came about?
Julia – About five years ago, I was getting feedback from team leaders, facilitators (supervisors), and when I sat in on meetings, it was clear that we were still struggling. We had structured ourselves into teams throughout organization, but we struggled, when we got people together, to make those meetings as effective as possible. From (my) observation and from feedback, it was very clear that we needed to be doing some thing to build on Coaching Skills training to give these people some skills on how to facilitate a group. Coaching, I think does a superior job of giving people skills for one-on-one coaching situations. You can even apply a lot of those skills to a group session, but we really wanted something that was more specific to facilitating groups. So a couple of managers went with me to Des Moines to preview a two-day class on Facilitation Skills, and we found that it was pretty typical of what is out there in industry. We wanted more of what I would call soft side or behavioral side of group facilitation. In other words, when people were facilitating groups, they wanted to enhance involvement, help to focus group without directing group, how to help group feel good about what they were doing and actually have fun with it, while helping group be more effective and efficient.