Value of consistent, continual learning

Tim Goshert

Many people have heard and/or seen the work of the non- profit organization Reading Is Fundamental. This organization's mission is to develop the love of reading in our youth. According to its Web site,, this effort was started by one person with a vision. The history of RIF is taken from that Web site and outlined below.

"In 1966, former teacher Margaret McNamara brought a bag of used books to four boys in Washington, D.C., whom she tutored in reading. When she told the children they could each pick out a book to keep, their astonishment and delight led her to discover that these children, and many of their classmates, had never owned any books. By that summer, Mrs. McNamara had gathered a group of school volunteers, and on November 3, 1966, they launched the book distribution and reading motivation program they called Reading Is Fundamental. In 1975, the U.S. Congress created the Inexpensive Book Distribution Program (IBDP), which provides federal matching funds to sites that qualify for RIF's national book program. Today, through its contract with the U.S. Department of Education to operate the IBDP, now supplemented with private funds, RIF programs operate in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. RIF is also affiliated with programs in Argentina and the United Kingdom."

So, you ask, why am I writing about the Reading Is Fundamental organization in Reliable Plant, a maintenance and reliability magazine?

Simply put, reading is fundamental in the maintenance and reliability business.

Many people think that for a person to continually learn, he or she must invest time and money to attend formal training courses, seminars, conferences and similar events. These are important vehicles to enhance skills, however what could be missed from the learnings and experiences of others comes from reading.

For many years, I have practiced skills enhancement simply and easily by setting a goal to read at least one book per month on a business-related subject. I try to read a technical book on maintenance and reliability one month and then a lighter book (for example, developing people skills) the next month. After 15 years, my library is overflowing with books on maintenance and reliability, and other business subjects.

What I have found is that after years of this habit, my thirst for learning is increasing. Additionally, I believe this habit has enhanced my life and career substantially through simple and easy continual learning.

Getting started is easy. Here is a list of some suggestions to become aware of business-related books:

  • 1) Each month, the Soundview organization provides executive book summaries of two to four business-related books. These summaries are normally six to eight pages in length and can be read in approximately 10 minutes. These summaries give the reader a high-level look at the books' main points. I use these summaries to prescreen books that l should read. There is a written or electronic edition of these monthly summaries. For further details, see

  • 2) By your interest in reading this article, you already have experienced the advantage

  • of reading monthly maintenance and reliability periodicals like Reliable Plant. I peruse many of these periodicals on a monthly basis, and so should you.

  • 3) The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) Web site suggests hundreds of books to read based on SMRP's defined body of knowledge (BOK). These lists are categorized by SMRP's five BOK pillars: people skills, business management, manufacturing process, equipment reliability and work management. Visit to examine the list.

  • 4) Join or start a reading book club with colleagues and associates. I am a member of an informal book club along with several of my associates and colleagues. Many times, these people give me tips on what to read next. Presently, I have approximately 10 books on this list for reading.

So, start today. What you will experience is a world of simple and easy continual growth and learning that enhances your life and career.

Tim Goshert is the worldwide reliability and maintenance manager for Cargill, one of the world's largest food and agricultural processing companies (more than 1,000 facilities worldwide). He is responsible for the company's global reliability and maintenance initiatives and is chairman of the company's Worldwide Reliability and Maintenance Steering Committee. Tim is an active member of the Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) and serves on its board of directors. 

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