I like to think that a large part of a leader’s job is to teach, coach, mentor and inspire.  And, working for people who do this well is often a great experience.  The trouble is that there is typically little, if any, training in these areas when people first transition into leadership roles.

I was recently working with a customer who works as a supervisor in a distribution operation.  She’s new to lean and is tasked with developing her team to work autonomously to meet customer needs and continuously improve processes.  She asked, “How do I teach my team?”  It’s a simple question, with a not-so-simple answer.  So, here are some thoughts on teaching others.  Keep in mind, I’m not trained to be a teacher, although I’ve facilitated many workplace training events.

Know Your Purpose

Training for the sake of training is ineffective, a waste of time for all involved, and it erodes morale.  Understand why you are presenting information to people and make sure they understand as well.  Lean training is often to make work easier, better, faster, or cheaper.

Know What Success Looks Like

There is no substitute for preparation.  Begin your preparation by clearly stating what the learners will be able to do by the end of the learning event.  Keep it simple.  Something like “Participants will demonstrate understanding of the seven wastes by identifying three examples of each waste at the gemba.”

Create a Message Map

A message map is a simple document that guides the instructor through a training event by listing activities, training content, and discussion points along with a timeline.  Here’s an example:

2 Min |  Session Introduction and Purpose – Learn to identify and eliminate waste to make our work easier

12 Min | Gemba Academy Video: 7 Wastes Overview

5 Min | 7 Wastes Quiz  (Invite participants to openly discuss answers)

10 Min | Discussion: Give an example of value added, non-value added, or waste in the work that is done in this organization

1 Min | Wrap up; date, time and location of next session

Use Experiential Learning Methods

Attention spans are short and knowledge retention rates are low when people are inactive.  Enhance the learning experience by getting participants physically active during the learning experience.

Jamie Parker, of FedEx Office, does this by providing participants a set of waste cards.  The cards are about 9×14 inches.  Each card has the name of one of the seven wastes printed on it.  A set is made up of seven cards with all of the seven wastes represented.

Jamie then displays images of everyday examples of waste, such as people standing in a queue at the airport or misspellings on a marquee.  Participants are challenged to hold up the card the corresponds with the waste in the image.

This slight physical involvement increases engagement, makes the exercise more fun, and leads to greater retention of the information presented.

Don’t Try to be an Expert (unless you really are an expert)

It’s okay to let training materials speak for themselves.  Focus your attention on being a good facilitator.  Questions will come up.  When they do, invite the other participants to answer.  Encourage discussion when this happens.  For some, this is the greatest part of the learning experience.

Review and Check

Review the training content by concisely restating it along with any key point.  Conduct knowledge checks with verbal fill in the blank exercises and simple quiz questions.  Recalling and stating what has just been learned helps with retention.  Whenever practical, go to gemba and apply what has been learned right away.

Follow Up Relentlessly

Again, training for the sake of training is a waste.  Follow up by challenging participants to show how the training has been applied in their work.  This is where the value of training is realized.  It also sends the message that we are expected to take training seriously and do what we have learned.

Continually review the training at the gemba until the learning has become habit.  Your challenge is to prevent entropy.  Doing this consistently well establishes the pattern of learn, do, and improve.  And, the more you do it, the easier it will become.

  1. Rick Wintheiser

    February 3, 2017 - 4:02 pm

    Some pretty good ideas and valid points, especially experimental learning and Follow up.

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