In a lean culture 90% of the problems should be solved by the workforce where they occur when they occur. This will not be possible if the employees lack problem solving skills. Many organizations believe that by training employees in the classroom, learned skills will automatically lead to the desired problem solving culture.
Although knowledge is an essential ingredient for change, I believe that just training knowledge is not going to cut it.
We need to put knowledge in the context of an organization. What is the organization trying to achieve? What is the defect? How can more knowledge contribute? Is it a knowledge problem or behavior, or leadership, or..
Making knowledge productive
If we see Lean as continuously adding value with fewer resources, then the organization should be engaged in and focused on increasing throughput.
Throughput would be the value produced.
Employees could and should be trained to understand the value they are producing and ways to increase it without adding direct costs. Then they are really contributing to the goals of the organization by delivering more value with fewer resources. That will give direction to improvement and will make knowledge productive.
We need a corporate continuous improvement mindset
In reality, organizations that embrace lean, often see it as a means to slash costs. Often headcount is a major cost and basically organizations are teaching their employees to get rid of their job.
The question to be asked is why desperate measures are necessary to slash costs in the first place.
An answer could be that organizations did not take the time for continuous improvement.
In fact they were so busy that no time at all was spent on any improvement.
Experience shows that many trained employees subsequently were allowed to spend zero time on improvement initiatives. Frequently this is set in an organization where the culture is one where management knows the solution to every problem
It makes an organization lazy, complacent. Employees have stopped caring, because nobody seems to care. It leads to training employees because the numbers trained is a target to be met without answering the question of the value to the organization.
knowledge only effective in the context of Purpose, Process, People, Leadership
Management practices function as an anchor for the status quo
If management processes do not change, changing the culture by training employees will eventually fail because everything will revert back to the original situation.
To begin with, change only happens if the entire organization embraces the purpose. This in itself is already a challenge as many organizations come with general terms like “satisfied customers”, “margin”, and the like. None of these are inspiring challenges. None of these help engage the employee around his contribution to the success of the organization. It becomes very unlikely that he or she will deploy learnings to make the difference.
Purpose, process, people and leadership all need to be in place to effect change.
Just training people in knowledge does not address the other elements process, purpose and leadership.
Without a plan how training will contribute to change, the results will be disappointing.
Training done? Make sure you have a project and a coach
Experience shows that educating employees is not effective unless they can immediately apply it. Too often employees are sent to training only to return to the workplace the following day without the need to show new behavior. The need to train has to follow the need to improve. The organization needs to have a supply of improvement projects.
This supply of projects comes from challenging the organization to improve their value. Kaizen events, improvement workshops, value stream mapping are terms used to make employees determine problems that need fixing.
Selection of the project has to be based on the impact on the critical chain. Find the appropriate level of training to complete the project successfully.
And newly trained employees need coaching to make sure that they apply learnings in an effective way. This is an essential management task. It requires management to rethink their practices. How to organize this? How to free up their time? How to avoid giving the solution?
Make training valuable
Finally we need to understand how employees learn to make sure that they effectively digest the training material.
In that respect learning through feeling, through experience, is best.
Often we unleash an endless amount of PowerPoints on students and when they pass the test, training is considered completed. Simulation and games allow students to feel the new way of working. They deliver long time results. But simulation must be tailored to the organization. Not a one size fits all PowerPoint, but training tailored to the needs and challenges of the students. More work for the trainer, but better for the customer.
Organizations that invest in training should measure the success of training by measuring the success in applying the learnings. If we manage to fix problems, then we have a return on investment. Then the training has added value. Just completing the test is no indication at all of the value of training.