What is your experience supervising?

I have some ‘scars.’

In my first supervisory role I was put in charge of 65 staff in a strongly unionized white-collar setting with no training. I had a very competent manager working “under” me; she kept me out of a lot of trouble. Still, I put my foot in my mouth a lot. It took me months to win any trust from the people I “managed”.

Since then I’ve run three different factories – two union, one not. One was a metal job-shop; one designed, manufactured and distributed specialized construction products; and one reverse-engineered industrial pumps and re-built them.

I’ve also had the privilege of working with almost 1,000 front line leaders in over 60 companies who have shown me what works, and what doesn’t.


“I’m proud that I was able to get the team past its culture of blame. Only then could we solve the problems facing the project.”  Hugh Alley

Have you used the methods described in the book?

Every one of them!

I first used the Training Within Industry (TWI) approach in 2008. I had taken on the role of Operations Manager and realized my supervisors and team leaders needed better skills. Tracy Defoe, now a friend, took me through my first TWI sessions.

The company had been moving towards lean manufacturing for several years; the results had been OK but not great. Leadership development for our front-line leaders made a huge difference.

The results were impressive: 10% per year gain in productivity, 25% drop in lead time, 95% drop in accident rate, and so on. As importantly, we started having improvements driven by people doing the work. And we started having people come back to the company who had previously left because they didn’t like the culture. Of course, the TWI programs were not the only thing we did, but they were the backbone. Since then, I have continued to use the approach in my consulting work.


What is your background? Did you have a “Julie”?

Eclectic! Industrial Engineering. Everything from Assembly to Yachts. And, no. There was no Julie.

I  spent most of my career working as an industrial engineer. I help people re-think their operations so they run smoother, faster and easier. I hope people see their work in a new way after I’ve worked with them.

My schooling was eclectic: Systems Design Engineering at University of Waterloo, a Master of Science in resource economics from Cornell, and a Master of Divinity at Vancouver School of Theology. (Yes, I thought I had a calling to ordination, but I didn’t.)

And, no. I didn’t have a “Julie.” I wish I had. I might have learned things much earlier in my career. But I’ve heard it said that “When the learner is ready, the teacher will appear,” so maybe I wasn’t ready. From what I’ve seen, very few people have good bosses, so there are very few people with good models to learn from or copy. That, said, I’ve had some awesome people in my life that I’ve learned a lot from.

I’ve been very fortunate to have been exposed to an incredible range of industries. Agricultural equipment. Algae. Appliance assembly. Banking. Buildings. Construction products. Distance Learning. Electrical contracting. Electronics assembly. Engineering. Furniture. Government regulation. Health care HR. Heavy steel. High-precision machining. Industrial pumps. Insurance. Liquor distribution. Mining. Parcel distribution. Permitting. Plastic injection. Post-secondary education. Reverse engineering. Secondary wood. Sewing supplies. Yacht design. It’s been a lot of fun!

Engineers’ and steamship inspectors’ tools, from Hugh’s collection

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We are honoured to be able to work and live on the unceded and traditional territories of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Musqueam) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) speaking peoples.