General Mills Employees Learn Tech Leadership Fundamentals at "TLE 4.0"

Two dozen employees from General Mills are flocking to the U of M campus this week for Technical Leadership Essentials 4.0, a TLI-hosted short course in technology leadership for promising scientists and engineers. The course kicked off on Tuesday morning, with students settling in to learn about managing teams, projects and departments. 

Running for five days, the fourth offering of TLE is designed to acquaint leadership-track employees with the fundamentals of tech management, strategic planning and persuasive communication. Taught by instructors from TLI, the course was specifically tailored for GMI employees who work in largely technical fields. The grounding in business fundamentals will help to prepare these employees for a career in management.

“We listened to feedback from last year’s TLE, and have added significantly more GMI-specific content,” said Travis Thul, TLI’s director of operations. “We’ve also moved to a new venue, one with a lot more space than we had at the McNamara Alumni Center last year.” 

By “new venue”, Thul was referring to the beautiful Huntington Bank Stadium across the street from TLI’s offices. The state-of-the-art facility offers the GMI students comfortable meeting spaces and breakout rooms that overlook the stadium’s impressive football field. It provides the students a glimpse behind the scenes of the 20,000 square foot facility. 

The course is divided into five sections: “Innovation and growth”; “leadership and team design”;   “technology management’; ‘technology architecting’; and “selling ideas: storytelling”

As the course progresses, students will directly tie what they learn in the course to their jobs at General Mills by selecting a capstone project that they can apply to the workplace. 

The capstone projects the students selected will need to address a new or existing technology-centric problem. These projects usually fall into three categories: a major cost-savings initiative that will require cross-functional efforts; a cost-saving innovation that will offer new revenue; or a measure that aligns with the company’s strategic targets in a particular area – for example, GMI’s push to achieve 100% recyclable packaging.

Many of the concepts presented in the course have been taught by TLI since its founding in 1987. Part of the U of M’s College of Science and Engineering, TLI provides leadership training for people working in technical fields and offers three Master’s degrees: Management of Technology, Security Technologies and Medical Device Innovation. TLI also offers short courses and certificates in particular areas, such as power system electrification and medical device cybersecurity.