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The Only Genuine Knowledge Is That of Actual Experience

By Steve Kane Updated on January 15th, 2016

“The only genuine knowledge is that of actual experience.”

~ Chinese proverb

Training is a big part of lean transformation.  Countless hours and dollars are spent in training rooms, seminars, and classrooms every year. It’s common for people to be trained on a new way of doing things only for them to leave the training room or return from a conference to go back to work without making any changes.  This very well may be because the lack of change was part of (or lack of) the training plan.

Training followed by inaction results in nothing gained.

A company I used to work for would send several people to the AME International Conference every year.  Each attendee knew before going that the whole point of going to the conference was to bring back at least one good idea, teach it to others and implement it.

Having people attend expensive and time consuming training without a plan to improve the organization in some way is wasteful.

Here are three ways to get the most out of training.

1.  Use experiential learning techniques whenever possible.  Physical activity directly related to the the training reinforces learning. 

Our friend Jamie Parker at FedEx office demonstrated a great example of this at AME last October.  She provided class each participant with set of eight printed cards a little smaller A3 or tabloid sized paper.  Each card had a form of waste printed on it.  ThIMG_0987e set represented all of the eight wastes. 

She then showed photographs of various scenes an challenged the participants to identify the waste by holding up the corresponding card.  For example, when she showed a photograph of people standing in a queue at an airport, participants held up the waiting card.

The physical activity of selecting the correct card and holding it up built engagement and forced participants to think more deeply about the training material.

2.  Apply what was learned right away.  Use it or lose it, as the saying goes.  Don’t delay the use of newly gained information.  If it isn’t immediately reinforced through action, it will likely be forgotten.

Immediately go from the training room to the gemba.  Apply what has been learned.  If participants attend a training session on standard work, have them go to their workplace, select a simple process, and write standard work for it right away.

IMG_0985Blake Watermeier of ARC Document Solutions uses smaller, but similar cards to Jamie’s.  Blake has learners go to the gemba with a set of waste cards about 3 x 6 inches.  The participants find a form of waste and photograph the card in front of the waste.  The photographs are shared and discussed in follow up sessions.

3.  Follow up.  Continuous improvement training isn’t a one and done type of event.  Put the emphasis on “continuous.”  Learn to do 5S, then do it every day.  The only reason to learn lean tools is to apply them repeatedly.

Have learners leave the training session with an implementation plan.  Keep it simple and achievable.  Have them make some small improvements, then have a follow up session in which the participants present their improvements and get feedback.

4.  Ingrain the newly gained knowledge into the organization’s culture.  If you’re going to teach people 5S, then practice it daily.  Be relentless and accept no excuses.  PDCA.  Improve the skills daily.  This never ends.

If you allow yourself to stop practicing a lean skill, there is little point in starting.  Again, it isn’t improvement.  It’s continuous improvement.

5.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  Learn a new skill.  Take the time to refine the new skill until it is no longer new.  Then move on to the next.

Avoid overburdening the workforce new lean tools.  Think tortoise, not hare.  Pace the team and help them gain proficiency.

Plan for a simple training session to take weeks, if not months to become cultural transformation.  Continuous improvement is a daily practice.  Good training is essential.  The action taken after the training is what generates the improvements.

  1. Mark Bradway

    February 22, 2016 - 10:01 pm

    Well said. Very practical. Having been a Lean consultant for years now it still amazes me that the simplicity of Lean is missed again and again!

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