Recently ABILITY Magazine
editor-in-chief Chet Cooper spoke with Steve Tamburro, co-chair of the
association of persons with disabilities at the Raytheon Company. Tamburro
helped plan a recent Creating Pathways to Work retreat. The daylong strategic-visioning
event brought together key representatives of federal and state government,
educators, members of the business community and advocates for people
with disabilities, along with Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin, the
first quadriplegic elected to Congress. They huddled to address the barriers
and challenges people with disabilities face when trying to enter the
workforce. Tamburro, who has had MS for 10 years, serves as manager of
Community Partnerships for Raytheon, an 80-year-old company that specializes
in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout
Chet Cooper: How did you get involved with the retreat?
Steven Tamburro: Ive been a member of the Rhode Island Business
Leadership Network for the past few years. It was there that I met Elaina
Goldstein. She leads Rhodes to Independence, which is devoted to ensuring
that people with disabilities who want meaningful employment are able
to find it. They also hold job fairs and prepare job candidates so they
Elaina and I discussed a number of different things, and she invited me
to serve on a conference panel to discuss the barriers and problems folks
with disabilities face when trying to enter the work force. She decided
to have me as a guest on the panel to represent the Business Leadership
Network, Raytheon, as well as people with disabilities. It was a very
interesting conference, but in the end everyone kind of turned to each
other and said, OK, now what?
Cooper: Did anyone answer that question?
Tamburro: (laughs) Well, at first there was silence in the room.
Thats a very bad thing for me, because when theres silence,
I tend to make a comment. But this time, I felt confident speaking up
since it was about Raytheons Six Sigma process. We use it to solve
all different kinds of problems or to facilitate a process, whether it
be in manufacturing or in an office. So I said, I dont know
how successful Ill be, but Im going to see if I can get Raytheon
to sponsor a Six Sigma event to see if we can figure out our next steps.
And we went from there.
Then I met with our vice president at the corporate office, Larry Harrington,
who is an advocate for inclusion in the corporation in a number of different
ways. He was very supportive. So we applied our Six Sigma methodology
to the problem. It goes like this:
Step 1: VisualizeEstablish the burning platform: Why is this problem
worth investing the time and resources required to solve it, and what
are attributes of the ideal or future state?
Step 2: CommitIdentify and obtain the commitment of the accountable
sponsor; the sponsor ensures allocation of appropriate resources to move
Step 3: PrioritizeDetermine the scope of the project and the key,
prioritized tasks required for the effort.
Step 4: CharacterizeDocument and analyze the current state, detailing
and identifying the root causes of any undesirable effects, and identify
Step 5: ImproveApply tools, data-driven analysis and rational decision
making processes to select the optimal solution; create and implement
an improvement plan.
Step 6: AchieveCapture results and celebrate the achievement; document
lessons learned, sharing project documentation to shorten the cycle of
learning when others approach similar issues.
Cooper: Sounds comprehensive. So, during the event, how did you identify
who should be the key participants?
Tamburro: In Rhode Island, the issue is complicated because there are
many different state agencies all trying to do the same thing. Its
almost like theyre in a competitive mode instead of a supportive
one at times. So we knew that all of the folks in the state who are currently
helping people with disabilities needed to be at the conference. That
meant that we needed to get a commitment from the Department of Human
Services, which we did. When Elaina approached the point person for that
department, Gary Alexander, he immediately said,Yes, well
definitely get the key people there that you need. He got all of
the different organizations involved by throwing his support behind it.
We also wanted some folks with disabilities who have actually used the
system, their families, service providers and any other stakeholders.
We were very successful in getting the attendance we needed.
Cooper: How did you get Congressman Langevin to participate?
Tamburro: Hes always been a supporter, both in Washington DC and
within the state. He came to the event and brought two staffers.
Cooper: What were the results?
Tamburro: We identified the burning platformthe main problem that
were trying to solve. Then we were able to create a vision statement
to make sure that Rhode Islands commitment to inclusiveness reflects
something that truly recognizes the ability of all citizens, not just
their disabilities. We also identified key stakeholders to serve as catalysts
and move forward with the Six Sigma tools.
One thing that rang true was that there was a lack of knowledge about
all the resources available within the state. Even folks that work with
people with disabilities on a daily basis did not know all the resources
available, and if they did, most didnt understand them well enough
to recommend them.
Also, various agencies werent working together. So there was definitely
a need to clarify all the different organizations, what they do and how
they do it. Workers needed to be made aware and familiarized with these
programs. If somebody becomes disabled or is living with a disability
and jumps on the internet to do research, they need to be able to determine
which agency is best for them. So there needed to be more of a common
vision and collaboration among the agencies. They needed to inform providers
and clients of what is available and what might be best for them. So we
focused a lot on education.
There were also knowledge gaps among the field workers. By that I mean,
the field-office staff needs to be fluent with all the programs and processes
and just provide accurate information and excellent service. The only
way to be able to do that is to be fluent in how the services work and
how the folks with disabilities can access them. So one of the themes
that just kept coming up throughout the day seemed to be education, and
that was a problem area that we could solve fairly easily. So each group
took back work with a small team to start looking at getting some of these
issues resolved. So those would be the next steps.
Cooper: Did you set dates for additional meetings?
Tamburro: Yeah, were hoping to have a progress meeting. There were
some thingswhat we call low-bearing fruitwhich
we could do now and get some benefit from now. So those are the types
of things were trying to implement going forward.
Cooper: Can you name some of this fruit?
Tamburro: (laughs) Specifically, some areas of education. One of the things
that Amy Judgethe legislative assistant from Congressman Langevins
officewas going to do is schedule town hall meetings to talk to
people and educate them at various locations, mostly in Rhode Island.
Continuing throughout next year, we were going for what we call constituent
engagement, which meant collecting data from all of the town hall sessions
and initiating advocacy in the legislative arena. So once theres
a good feeling for these town hall information-gathering sessions, well
start looking to see what type of role the legislature might play in this,
what types of things need to be passed, what types of things need to be
Cooper: So at this point youre not prepared to set goals for
a number of people that should be hired over a certain period of time?
Tamburro: We didnt set any specific goals for the state of Rhode
Island. There are people in the state that monitor those metrics as to
how many folks with disabilities get jobs and how many retain them, so
that data is available. What were hoping to do now is help people
understand everything thats out there and become better educated
about state services and providers of those services. So thats who
were hoping to really impact, and thats something we can measure.
Im hoping to be able to get the same group back together at some
point next year. But at a minimum, we can definitely do some type of survey
of all the participants and find out how they see things changing. We
could also go back to the actual clients, people with disabilities and
ask how theyre doing. We could ask folks who used the system before
the education process and folks who havent, to get a sense of whether
or not people are becoming more aware of the services.
So its kind of a tough thing to get your arms around, but the fact
of the matter is, the confusion is something that we feel we can clear
up, and the education process is something that we can monitor and measure.
We also wanted to follow up, after people went back to their groups, and
find out how they were doing. Did everybody leave this event and go back
to their lives and just say, OK, that was a nice day with a nice
lunch, and thats that? Or were they truly committed? I think
everyone at the meeting was excited. There was definitely an energy running
through the room, so I really do believe that there will be some great
impact from this.
Cooper: Arent the one-stops supposed to be doing what youre
doingintegrating all the different services and educating?
Tamburro: One-stop centers, as the name suggests, were definitely intended
to be just that. You go in and you get all the information you need. But
for whatever reason, that is not what was happening. To put your arms
around it got extremely complicated. But thats something we believed
we could look at and have an impact.....
continued in ABILITY Magazine
Other articles in the Laura Innes issue include Headlines CVS,
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Being Happy; George Covington When Lifes A Blur; Humor Therapy;
Senator Letter Ben Nelson; DRLC Is Your Health Care System
Accessible?; Allen Rucker Thoughts on the Writers Strike; Green
Pages Save Bucks in the Bathroom; Betsy Valnes Sticks and
Stones; Deaf Cruise Partiers of the Caribbean; ChairKrazy
The Marcus Ingram Story; Dr. Hans Keirstead Stem Cell Pioneer;
Richard Pimentel Get A Job (Heres How); ABILITY's Crossword
Puzzle; Events and Conferences...subscribe
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from the Laura Innes issue:
Laura Innes -- Interview
Ricky James Still Zooming Ahead
Hans Keirstead — Stem Cell Pioneer
Call Me Chairkrazy: The Marcus Ingram Story
Will Downing -- Will Power
UCP Life Without Limits
Raytheon Rhodes To Independence
Betsy Valnes Sticks and Stones
Richard Pimental Get A Job (Here's How)