Gustavo Pospischel, Senior Director of Core Mobile Engineering at Sears Holdings Corporation, spoke recently with MIT Sloan Executive Education about his experience on campus, why he chose MIT Sloan, and the benefits he received from the programs.
What executive education courses have you taken at MIT Sloan?
I’ve taken so many executive education courses at MIT Sloan, I don’t remember them all. But, the two I found very valuable were those taught but Professor Arnoldo Hax and Duncan Simester. One focused on the Delta Model and the other on technical marketing. Hax was amazing. It was a true eye-opening experience.
How have you applied what you learned during the courses back at your workplace?
Aside from expanding my knowledge base, I found the methodologies and business cases very beneficial and was able to apply what I learned to great success.
One famous scene from the movie Five Easy Pieces shows Jack Nicholson ordering a side of whole-wheat toast with his omelet at a diner. He’s then informed that the system doesn’t allow sides of toast. So he orders a chicken salad sandwich on whole-wheat toast—without butter, lettuce, mayonnaise, and chicken.
Nearly everyone recognizes what’s wrong with the “system” in this scenario—the customer doesn’t easily get what he wants. But the traditional approach to “fixing” this might be to simply add more options for what the customer might want. That change would impact the diner’s ordering system, the inventory needed in the kitchen, and even how the kitchen staff cooks. So sometimes it’s easier to simply say, “the system doesn’t work that way,” or, in other words, “no substitutions allowed.”
Google “HR” and “seat at the table” and you’ll find articles from nearly ten years ago lamenting why the human resources function does not have such a seat—in other words, it has little voice in the executive suite. Part of the reason may be how HR practitioners view themselves. The 2013 State of Talent Managers Report from New Talent Management Network found that “the modest and siloed career ambitions among those in HR suggests that we must either meaningfully shift how we grow HR talent or become comfortable having marginal impact…[as a result] talent leaders will likely develop more myopic and less strategic solutions.”
There is great potential if companies can change how they view HR—and how HR views itself. Commenting on President Obama’s plans to improve the economy by strengthening the manufacturing sector, Tom Kochan, Professor of Work and Employment Research and Engineering Systems at MIT Sloan, told HR Executive Online, “One of the most important factors in [the manufacturing industry’s] success is HR.”
The workforce is generally made up of two types of workers: blue-collar workers, mostly working for an hourly wage, and white-collar workers who tend to be salaried. But some trends in the overall labor market indicate we might be creating another class of worker. These new workers are part of the “Gig Economy,” which seems to be crossing—or in some cases, blurring—the lines between the blue-collar worker and the white-collar worker.
When it comes to manufacturing in today’s economy, increased automation in manufacturing plants may seem like a given. Factories first opened their doors to modern industrial robots in 1961 when Unimate—a 4,000-pound (1,814-kilogram) arm attached to a giant steel drum—joined the General Motors workforce, and they have since become a mainstay of mass production. When a job is just right for a robot, productivity tends to increase dramatically.
However, not all companies are going the way of automation on the assembly line, especially when trading humans for machines goes against their brand.