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How Pettibone's CEO uses Social Engines to Drive Transparency And Change

Barbara Philibert

Barbara Philibert is the President & CEO of Pettibone LLC, a subsidiary of The HEICO Companies.

After completing her master’s degree in Instructional Design, Barbara was hired by the Menasha Corporation to design technical training at their largest plastics manufacturing plant. Barbara leveraged her start at Menasha with her education to establish herself as an effective and transparent leader.

We recently sat down with Barbara to learn more about her career and how the use of Social Engines can be used to drive success in the private enterprise.

What were the factors that informed your decision to pursue degrees in education and communication?

When I was graduating from high school and pursuing a college education there weren’t as many options for young women as there are today. I was basically asked, “do you want to be a teacher or a nurse?” I knew I didn’t want to be either, but no one talked to me about being an engineer or a business major.

I decided to start a liberal arts education and a degree in Communication, which served as a catch all for my credits. I graduated early and went right into graduate school to study Instructional Design, which I chose strictly because my mother was getting her PhD in the field. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

What exactly is Instructional Design?

Instructional design is all about getting a message across accurately and efficiently. The concept came out of World War II, where a lot of troops had to be trained in a short period of time. Core to that goal was developing a process to transmit information to a large and diverse group of people as efficiently as possible.

Instructional Design is about receiving the intended message. As an example, Hoshin Kanri is a 7-step process in which strategic goals are communicated and implemented. This process originated in Japan and has become a popular social engine world-wide, particularly in manufacturing.

It doesn’t help if I am talking but you aren’t getting the information. When I communicate with a person, I need to figure out how they learn, how they communicate and, most importantly, whether they are absorbing what I am trying to communicate. If they’re not, I need to adapt my style.

How did a degree in Instructional Design lead to a career in manufacturing?

In 1990, the Menasha Corporation hired me as an instructional designer for Lewis Systems and I was promptly sent to their largest manufacturing facility in Urbana, OH. They had a lot of execution issues on the floor and my job was to develop a curriculum for the technical people to resolve those issues. I worked with them as a group and as individuals, learning about their jobs, their skill sets, and their issues and constraints. I took what I learned from them to design an effective communication and education model which improved execution issues and overall performance.

As this “instructional design” proved successful, I moved into an HR role and then one day, the plant manager made me the Plant Scheduler. That’s how I got into manufacturing.

Your career launched and matured at the Menasha Corporation, a family run business. How did Menasha foster your growth as a professional and leader?

Menasha was/is an extremely well-run organization that was an ideal learning laboratory for a young person. They had strong processes and good leaders and had established an employee-centric culture focused on training and development. This was a key concept that I have taken forward in my career. In fact, I still use the old Menasha guiding principles:

  • ‘People know the business’

  • ‘People know what is expected and how they are doing’

  • ‘People have the tools to do the job’

These principles are all about empowerment and clarity, and they are the cornerstone of my management style.

Most of your career has been with family owned businesses. What observations do you have about the opportunities and challenges of family members working side-by-side with their employees?

Each organization is different and, consequently, expectations for family members vary. Many times, organizations encourage family members to seek outside business experience before coming into the company and other times, families require their members to start at entry level position and work their way to success. In either case, the non-family employees need to feel that they are working beside a fellow professional “who just happens to be a family-member”.