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Senior Correspondent

Folks occasionally ask, "When are you going to write a book, Jeanne?" That's when that little voice in my head kicks in. You know the one. It's the little voice that is constantly offering up its opinions and advice. It has an opinion about darned near everything, and sometimes it even wakes us up in the middle of the night to share something that apparently just cannot wait.

We call that little voice K-MIND, because, like a radio station, it is constantly broadcasting. It's the same little voice that reminds us about the Snickers in the freezer just when we're doing so well on our diet. 

When folks ask me about writing a book, my K-MIND begins passing remarks. "What would you write about, for the love of Pete? What profound knowledge do you have to pass along? Would anyone even read it? Seriously, Jeanne? Get back to work."

Our clients and friends tell us they have a similar little voice, tending to serve a similar function. K-MIND's job is apparently to keep us safe, to maintain the status quo, and that's a good thing most of the time. But, not always. The trick is to know when to listen to it and when to flip to another channel. When I turn to another station, a kinder, gentler voice kicks in saying, "Well, why not?"   

Last week I had a chance to see some of my favorite folks at Harman Automotive's Washington Plant. This state of the art electronics plant is a first tier supplier of infotainment systems to automotive plants. A total team culture, the company's over 300 employees were carefully selected and trained to run small businesses within the larger business. The Quality Coach!® was privileged to train and coach teams during the start-up of this wonderful plant, and we loved the people there. Harman's team model requires a minimum level of supervision, because employees are so engaged that they lead and manage their own work. Managers and technical staff serve as resources to the front line teams.  

Despite stellar business performance, the plant is closing this spring as part of a global restructuring initiative. This is not news. The closure has been in the works for a while. As business is handed off to other Harman plants, operations are winding down and team members are leaving.

Expecting to find some very sad and upset people, I was amazed to discover many folks were quite upbeat and optimistic. Other companies are happy to hire Harman employees because of their can do attitude and great reputation. That's a plus. Many team members will be furthering their education, thanks to tuition benefits. Others aren't quite sure what they will be doing, but have faith that it will all be okay.

Folks told me that working at Harman was the best job they'd ever had, and they will sure miss it. They are grateful for the experience and skill sets they acquired and get to take with them. Barbara Heidmann, the human resources director who was there for the start-up and ultimately the closure of this facility, is extremely proud of these folks and how they have developed skills that are valuable to other businesses during their employment at the plant.

The Harman culture in Washington has inspired team members to do their best to the very end. This includes activities associated with transferring their knowledge to employees in other locations who are literally taking over their jobs.

We were there to assist in the plant start-up and now to observe the plant closure. When I mentioned that I wanted to write an article about all of this, the team members said …"No Jeanne. You must write a book about us. We deserve a book. We're that good." They are so right. And, before that little voice of reason had a chance to kick in, I had agreed to write a book about our first class friends at Harman Washington. Well, why not?

Contact Barbara at barbara.heidmann@harman.com if you are interested in knowing more about Harman's talented team members currently looking for a new job.

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