PODCAST: Inventing on a Timetable, and the Power of And

In her more than 30 years at Caterpillar, Tana Utley has been part of many projects.

Her work around emissions throughout her career, Tana has learned the stress and fulfillment of solving problems without easy answers. Managing regulation deadlines that could affect sales to customers forced Tana and her teams to innovate in a stressful and time-bound environment.

“As we were going through that, we really didn’t know how we were going to solve the problem,” Tana said. “We were inventing on a timetable, and I think that’s what the company learned.”

In The Caterpillar Podcast, Tana talks about how her father – himself an engineer at Caterpillar with patents still in use today – helped instill a problem-solving mentality in her from a young age.

“He was a true inventor,” Tana said. “He instilled in me the idea to be creative, ingenious and to develop new kinds of solutions.”

This early and continual development of creativity and problem-solving skills allowed her to lead teams that not only satisfied requirements like government regulations, but also delivered on customer value. In other words, she’s learned the power of “and.”

“We always strove for customer value and improving emissions, not just one or the other,” Tana said. “You could say the same today, like managing inventory and managing the upturn or downturn – we’ve learned the power of and.”

Show highlights are listed in the program guide below.

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Program guide:

1:08 – Tana’s path to Caterpillar after graduating with her mechanical engineering degree she said, “Frankly, Caterpillar wasn’t on my radar – most of the news was negative and I was looking somewhere else.”

2:20 – On her father, who worked for the company and whose patents are still in use at Caterpillar: “He was a true inventor…he instilled in me the idea to be creative, ingenious and develop new kinds of solutions.” Her dad created the architecture for pipe layers (still in use) and worked on powertrain.

3:50 – Tana – a veteran of over 30 years of engineering experience – almost majored in music in college. “By my junior year I was very confident in my choice of engineering.”

5:32 – “A lot of jaws dropped when I walked into the training class and I was eight months pregnant.” After Tana’s first child was born, running became one of her primary interests. She shares  what’s on her reading list (SPOILER: list includes murder mysteries).

7:40 – How fitness and discipline apply to business and leadership. “As we make changes in the business, it’s a big ship to steer…it requires an awful lot of discipline.” Tana shares how she keeps on top of industry trends – including podcasts, the Wall Street Journal and daily news reports about Caterpillar.

10:00 – One of the major works of Tana’s career has been around emissions and regulations. “As we were going through that, we really didn’t know how we were going to solve the problem…we were inventing on a timetable.”

12:10 – Tana talks about the power of ‘and,’ “we strove for customer value and emissions, not just one or the other.” On seeing others excited about emissions reductions, “Then I think, oh my gosh, I’ve been part of something that really is terrific.”

15:40 – Influencers that have impacted Tana’s leadership perspective and strategy. How the Congruence Model helps her and her team make decisions, including throughout the difficult times in the last several years.

18:30 – Tana offer’s her insight into some specific leadership pitfalls: “I think one of the perils of teaming is the leader sometimes doesn’t take accountability. It’s incumbent upon them to get the very best input they can in making that decision.”

21:03 – Current trends of fracking and natural gas, dual-fuel engines and their impacts on the energy industry. “The U.S. is now the Saudi Arabia so to speak of natural gas – we have huge reserves of natural gas, and this has changed the playing field of energy.”

25:15 – How Cat engines make progress possible, including the story behind the decision to donate a 3500 engine to the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti.

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