Business Center

End of Internship Article: Little Efficiencies, Large Impacts

By Niles Koenigsberg, Process Improvement Intern

January 29th, 2019Platteville 4 Niles Koenigsberg.JPG

After taking an American Literature-I course in my undergraduate career, I have constantly pondered the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, from his 1841 essay titled “Self-Reliance”:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.”

To paraphrase, Emerson is stating that efficiency is what holds us back, it is what preoccupies the minds of the many while the few “true” geniuses are more concerned with what constitutes their own individuality. Efficiency is a habit and, this American transcendentalist, encourages us to break habits as they limit our experiences. For instance, if you walk the same route to the coffee shop everyday, you might miss out on running into an old friend the next block over or witnessing a life-changing event on a different street corner.

For so long, I had thought of efficiency as a substantial weight dragging me down in my pursuit of individuality. However, as my internship comes to a close, I have realized how hollow and close-minded Emerson’s concept actually is.

This internship has been an eye-opening revelation into the power of efficiency,  the effects of innovation, and the influence that people have over an organization. Efficiency isn’t a life-threatening anchor, but rather the foundations of an innovative and bountiful experience. I’ve learned far more in the past nine months that I believe I would’ve elsewhere.

The Value of Experience

It is remarkably difficult to define experiences due to their intangible nature and large influence over our individualities. Yet, the experience I have gained here has been absolutely invaluable.

By my 4th day on the job, I left HQ and was on the road up to Greeley with one of my supervisors, Geneva Hooten, to visit CDOT maintenance employees in the field. And within a few weeks, I was visiting regional truck Roadeos, mingling with ruggedly intelligent individuals I would’ve never met otherwise. These experiences gave me the opportunity to not only do my job of spreading awareness of the Lean Everyday Ideas program, but to also hear about their innovative best practices, learn about their histories, and discover connections I never knew existed; it also helped me understand how terrible I am at driving a snowplow.

As I was (and still am) interested in communications, I took on the responsibility of developing a strategic communications plan for the Lean Everyday Ideas program and, through experience, I learned about the pearls and pitfalls of state agency communications structures. Having little prior project management experience, I was entrusted with a grand challenge: our Lean Construction pilot project in the OPI, just in its infancy stages. As I leave, I have confidence in how much it has developed and I have confidence in my own project management abilities.

In this internship, I wrote my first ever grant proposal. And then another one. I produced teleconferences for the first time ever and organized large-scale events with incredible co-workers. I wrote articles, compiled reports, and drafted applications. And I know each assignment has turned me into a stronger writer, a better planner, and a more inquisitive individual.

Lessons Learned

Productive, efficient, elegant. These are the three characteristics that every government structure should aspire to have. If a government agency is consistent and reliable, it’s not because entire departments are meeting quotas, but rather it’s due to the collective efforts of hundreds of innovative, efficient, and intelligent individuals finding ways to be quicker, more efficient, and less expensive.

I will never underestimate the power of a good idea; a simple innovation can carry an entire organization to a fruitful future, no matter how large or outlandish it is. Nor will I underestimate how impactful a large challenge can have on an individual. Taking on projects and tasks that were, at first, daunting gave me the opportunity to rise to the occasion and learn something new about myself. Those are lessons I won’t soon forget.

I had the power to educate myself thoroughly in this position as well, taking a 3-day Change Management course, a 3-day Lean Training course, and a handful of others. While I had no knowledge of process improvement or Change Management coming into this internship, I can now proudly say, I am certified in both.

Consistent Momentum

As I move forward and continue my career, I’m proud of the things I have accomplished in this role. At my goodbye ceremony, my supervisor, Gary Vansuch, gifted me with a black fedora to symbolize my supportive and jack-of-all-trades presence in the office. Efficiency creates experience, and experience shapes you.

Regardless of the truth of Emerson’s statement, he was an incredibly consistent and efficient man. After publishing “Self-Reliance”, he continued to write essay after essay for 30 years and gave over 1,500 public lectures proclaiming the truth of his work. Hypocrisy is the real hobgoblin, but efficiency in experience is what develops genius.