Every September, IBM Tucson spends a Wednesday or Saturday to help out local non-profit charities. The event is orgnaized the the local United Way. My first one was packing boxes of food for the [Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona] on September 12, 2001, the day after the [tragic events in New York and Washington DC]. The mindless activity of putting a bottle, bag or can into one box after another helped us cope with the shock and awe that week.
So, it seemed fitting on the 10th anniversary of that event to go back to the Community Food Bank and help pack boxes of food. The facility received nearly $200,000 in donations in response to the [shooting of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords]. Her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, suggested that dontaions go in part to the Tucson Community Food Bank, and with the money they were able to expand operations, dedicating a portion as the [Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center] to bring together food handouts with the [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for food stamps, and the Women with Infant Children (WIC) program. One-stop assistance!
This year, nearly 500 Tucson IBMers to complete 22 projects at 17 nonprofit agencies. We were not alone, we were joined by volunteers from Bank of America, Texas Instruments, Tucson Medical Center, Geico Insurance, University of Arizona, Cox Cable TV, Desert Diamond Casinos, The Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa, the Arizona Lottery, Community Partnership of Southern Arizona (CPSA), Pizza Hut, Arizona Daily Star, 94.9 MixFM Radio, BizTucson, and News 4 Tucson (our local NBC affiliate).
In a bit of competition, our team, Team B, of 14 IBMers, competed against another team, Team A, of 20 people. Despite having fewer people, we were able to pack 746 boxes, representing 20,000 pounds of food, beating out Team A which only packed 18,000 pounds. (I have chosen not to identify anyone on Team A, no need to rub their noses in it. This was all for a good cause.)
Each box contained cereal, canned evaporated milk, canned vegetables and fruits, fruit juice, rice, and dry beans. My job on the assembly line was to put two half-gallon jugs of grape juice in the box and move it down the line.
What lessons can a team of people learn from an activity like this?
- When you put a bunch of efficiency experts from IBM on a task, they will self-organize and self-manage for optimum performance, just as we don on our regular day jobs.
- No matter what you plan in advance, individual personalities and strengths surface, encouraging minor adjustments to process and procedures to be more efficient.
- In an assembly line process, where each person has to wait for the person before them to finish their assigned task, it becomes obvious who is not pulling their fair share of the work. In this manner, everyone holds everyone else accountable for their output.
This was a great day for a good cause. The Community Food Bank qualifies for the Arizona [Working Poor Tax Credit] program. For every dollar the Community Food Bank receives, they can give 10 dollars of food to someone in need.