10.19.2007

Unconscious Experimentation - The Current State of Training

I'm currently reading Managing Minds, by Charles Allen and Henry Tiemann. Allan wrote the TWI inspiring book, The Instructor, the Man and the Job in the mid-20's. Managing Minds is called a "practical" psychology book and deals not with the direct control of minds, as the title leads one to believe, but rather the indirect control of the mind. Allan and Tiemann argue this is achieved by not knowing "why the mind works in certain ways", but rather by being concerned with "the fact that minds do work in certain ways under certain conditions."

There is much discussion in the book about different forms of instruction. One of the reasons TWI-Job Instruction is so important to many of us in Lean is that we practitioners understand that basic stability comes from standard work, and standard work is borne out of good instruction. One of the questions in JI training is about learning by "trial and error", which good JM trainers want to encourage in controlled environments, but JI trainers abhor since mistakes can develop into bad habits. Allan and Tiemann touch briefly on the problem of allowing trial and error during instruction:

"The experimental method is given the highest educational value because it involves learning by trial and error. It requires initiative, resourcefulness and the use of all the other [instructional] methods. Its high cost practically prevents its frequent use."

What really struck me about this is that lack of good training promotes the experimental methods described. Often, a new hire enters the company, is briefly trained if at all, and then left to their own abilities and resourcefulness. Allan and Tiemann are speaking of controlled, experimental instruction; not unbridled, poorly defined, left unchecked and conducted by trainees on their own. The fact that experimentation is of high cost makes sense: new hires left on their own naturally have more scrap, less production and exhibit a higher potential for injury. Worse, their bad habits developed through unconscious experimentation may or may not be passed onto other new hires. It is no wonder we can't Kaizen on a daily basis in U.S. plants....we have no stability!

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