Alumni in Action: Dean McKay
As a General Manager for a large retail store, Dean McKay most loved developing leaders, building teams, and facilitating cultural change. When he accepted a buyout from his employer of 30 years, Dean knew he wanted to leave retail and work in Human Relations.
Changing Industries and Job Titles
Dean took stock of his options. He considered multiple industries and chose manufacturing. He recognized “jumping industries” might not be easy. So, as a non-degreed executive without a formal human relations title on his resume, Dean decided to validate his experience and demonstrate his commitment by:
- Completing the US Back-to-Business Program.
- Obtaining the Society for Human Relations Management-SCP certification — designed for senior-level HR professionals involved in implementing a company’s goals.
- Earning a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt from Breakthrough Performance Group – a step that helped him get his “foot in the manufacturing door.”
Dean also began networking and sharing his goals with contacts. One of his contacts, a recruiter who works closely with clients to understand their needs and match them with appropriate candidates, saw that Dean’s skill sets could help one of his manufacturing clients meet the challenges of a rapidly growing organization. The recruiter set up a meeting between Dean and the CEO. Just seven months after accepting the buyout, Dean achieved his goal of applying his human resource experience to manufacturing.
Building a Lean Organization
At about the same time he hired Dean, the CEO hired as Vice President of Operations a strong proponent of Lean Organizations. Dean is working with the Vice President and CEO to introduce the Lean approach throughout the organization. Their first focus is on Lean Manufacturing. To get started, the VP asked all managers to read “The Lean Turnaround” by Art Byrne.
Their other initial focus is on Respect for People – the secret weapon of a successful lean organization. Dean is leading a program to ensure managers and employees know that good communication is essential and that everyone must work together to drive solutions. To help build this culture, teams are being established to identify areas for improvement. Dean holds an initial meeting with the team and the team then “owns the process “of finding a solution. Dean uses his Black Belt training every day on the job – especially the “5 Whys,” value stream mapping, and visual project management. He emphasizes that the company’s goal is to develop a culture of continuous improvement driven from within the organization – not from the top down.
Dean has already worked on a few projects in and outside of manufacturing. He is working with:
the aerospace team to streamline and document their training program for new employees. is
other departments to improve processes, customer service, and communication.
Dean identifies two elements as key to his success in achieving his employment goal: First, communicating his skills sets in a way that showed they were transferable. Second, networking. Dean says simply: “you cannot underestimate the importance of networking. Many of the relationships I made during my transition are still working for me today.” Appreciative of the support he receives, Dan urges others to ”Give back. I meet with people in transition every week. I help them in any way I can. I’ve reached out to groups for key openings to see if they had contacts.”