Learning In Practice 2014: Collaboration Division 1 Winners

From left: Barry McPherson and Michael Richey of The Boeing Co., Suzanne Farmer of UT Southwestern Medical Center, Chad Sanders and Lisa Doyle of Lowe's Cos., Inc.


The Boeing Co.

A quarter of The Boeing Co.’s workforce is eligible to retire in the next five years. In the next 15 years, resignations and retirements at the company will exceed its current headcount of 150,000.

Those statistics can blow any organization off course, which is why the aerospace company created a new flight plan for workforce development: a multi-disciplinary program focused on teaching core competencies to the next generation of engineers.

Aerospace Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering, or AerosPACE, is a direct response to the school-to-work pipeline gap. Students get hands-on experience in design and manufacturing as well as opportunities to build their leadership skills through “design, build, fly” challenges. Social network and design software allows multiple engineers to simultaneously review design changes from different locations, giving participants the ability to learn the same type of collaboration that created the program itself.

AerosPACE started as a partnership between Boeing, Brigham Young University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, but has grown to include three other universities. Including different schools could evoke rivalry, but associate technical fellow Michael Richey said the program works around it by giving participants an ill-structured problem that forces them to collaborate rather than compete.

The program has led 60 percent of its participants to a job in industry and 40 percent are pursuing advanced degrees — a step toward mitigating the talent drought threatening the engineering field.

“What the workforce of today needs are engineers who know how to incorporate their in-depth knowledge into a complex system, constructively using the knowledge of each contributor,” Richey said. “It demands a very dynamic leadership style, one that is innovative, open and flexible.” 



UT Southwestern Medical Center

Shifts in business approach come with shifts in knowledge needs. For the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, a new focus on clinical enterprises required physicians to have leadership skills not taught in medical school.

To meet this need, the organizational development and training team created the Academy for Career Enrichment, which provides six leadership training programs through blended learning, executive coaching and profession-specific programs. The process required hiring the medical center’s Chief Learning Officer Suzanne Farmer, collaborations with e-learning provider Skillsoft and the formerly decentralized clinical, quality, IT and regulatory functions inside the organization.

Learning and development activities increased by 315 percent and saved more than $85,000 in vendor fees and in-house development training costs by repackaging existing material for specific audiences. The organizational development and training team often cut up to a quarter of its classes because of last-minute cancellations. Today, it can schedule additional sessions to accommodate everyone who wants to participate.

ACE’s creation “symbolizes the coming together of independent departments, functions and external partners … in service of a higher common goal,” Farmer said. “We achieved something much greater together than we ever could have solo.” 



Lowe’s Cos. Inc.

Lowe’s Cos. Inc.’s learning and development team answered the same call its hardware stores make to customers: “Never stop improving.”

Facing a changing business strategy, the Lowe’s Leadership Institute collaborated with the Ken Blanchard Co. and faculty from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School to develop a store manager training program. The six-week program targets potential future store managers and helps participants understand the business, its customers and their own leadership talents.

Collaboration was critical to the program design and delivery because of the wide-reaching scope of the store manager role and the interdependence of the many support departments, said Chad Sanders, director of leadership development.