Fissure Guide: About John Kaman

John Kaman

John Kaman

It has been an interesting ride to 2010–sometimes bumpy, sometimes smooth, and sometimes circuitous. But always interesting!

I started off my career as a co-op student in mechanical engineering at 3M Company back in 1967. This may seem to be a long time ago, but I have very fond memories of working in 3M’s Duplicating Products Division laboratory, where we designed and developed copying machines. By the time I had joined the division, 3M was in fierce competition with Xerox for market share. You see, 3M invented the first dry copying process with the introduction of Thermo-Fax™ copiers, and during the 1950s 3M had an overwhelming market share. Then in the early 1960s along came Xerox with the first plain paper copier, and they stole the show. So by the time I finished my college degree in 1970 and became a permanent 3M employee, we were playing catch-up and trying to get our market share back from Xerox.

Thus began what would turn out to be a 25-year career for me at 3M. During my 13 years in the Duplicating Products Division, I contributed to the development of five different copiers and in doing so I grew my career to become a laboratory manager. As many of you know, 3M is divided into approximately 40 divisions, each with independent business operations and so in 1983 I decided to moved into the Magnetic Audio Video Division. I then spent ten years there, managing projects to reduce cost and improve the quality of our Scotch® video-tape products.  Along the way, my teams generated numerous creative ideas for new products and processes, and we were granted 16 U.S. patents.

During the early 1990s after years of managing numerous project teams, I came to the realization that my main interest focused on “how people work.” You see, in my early years I was very interested in “how things worked,” this was my original motivation for becoming a mechanical engineer. Now as a manager, my focus became my people and project teams. So I took a leap, went back to school, and obtained a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Human Development. Little did I know at the time that my focus on “soft skills” would come in handy later in my career.

In 1995, I (along with 12 thousand fellow 3M’ers) was informed that we all were being spun off to a new company independent of 3M. This new company came to be known as Imation Corp. I continued my career at Imation, where I spent the next 5 years, but in 2000 I decided to leave and go out on my own. I formed a company, Whitewater Coaching and Consulting focused on leadership skills, coaching project managers and project management education. I have taught one of my most popular courses, Project Manager as Coach™, to over 500 people, and have had the honor of teaching it at PMI’s Seminars World and Global Congress.

My journey has led me to the Minnesota Chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and through some of my newly-found friends there, I was introduced to Jesse Freese and Fissure. I obtained my PMP in 2002 and began teaching for Fissure about that same time. Fissure’s courses, based on Simulation Power Learning (SPL®), focuses student interest and creates a learning experience that is valued and fun!  Students report that they are able to retain and immediately apply what they have learned when they return to work.

On a more personal side, my wife and I recently built a cabin in Northern Wisconsin and we find ourselves spending weekends working on the cabin while enjoying the solitude that nature has to offer. My summers would not be complete without a trip to the Boundary Waters to explore and to do a bit of fishing. We also like to do long-distance bicycling and over the years we have biked across Minnesota, North Dakota and most of Montana. Our next goal is to bike through Glacier National Park.  So stay tuned for our next adventure.