"We already have a training program"

This is the inevitable response by people presented with a Job Instruction plan. I can't prove it, but I believe this response is the result of believing that training is a necessary evil in running a business. Training is often cut in tough times, and this helps bolster my conviction. Do we not need to run the business in tough times? Isn't it even more important to work smarter in tough times? Since training programs are stronger in good times, the result of this paradigm is that primary purpose of training is to get new people up to speed in order to meet growth. A secondary purpose is to develop people. Let's look at an example: Kaizen Event training. Participants learn kaizen tools and apply them for one week. Hopefully, they use the skills next Monday when the Kaizen event is over. Seasoned lean practitioners know the result.

So, when I hear people say, "we have a training program", I'm naturally a little skeptical.

So, a line of questioning is in order to understand the current training situation: is your training program a 1) necessary evil to get new hires up to speed and 2) used to solve short term financial problems through kaizen; or is training something more in the company?

Don't get me wrong kaizen is what we want. But long term, daily continuous improvement is the real skill that we want built into our leaders and colleagues. We don't want people only thinking about kaizen once a year in the event that a manager selected them to participate in. Nope, we want people bringing their problem solving "A" game everyday to the job.

So, a distinction can be made and should be made. Good JI trainers are able to do this. Is your training program used to solve everyday problems through the development of people? This is what JI aims to do. The mechanisms to do that are numerous but simple:

Standardized training delivery method:

The four step JI delivery ensures that for new hires, trainers are held to a high standard of conveying the same message and skill to each person. Keypoint here is standard work. Also, the trainer is able to deliver in a standardized manner, the keypoints of quality, cost, safety and many other tribal knowledge points that help maintain a high quality of knowledge transfer in the company.

When methods are changed through kaizen, a standardized training delivery method ensures that everyone is refreshed, or retrained in the same fashion. An improvement may affect quality for example, and everyone needs to know what to do, how to do it and why we are making that change in order to sustain it. In this way, training becomes a vehicle for sustaining improvements made through Kaizen. And because JI is so simple, and designed for the workplace trainer, not an administrator - it is far easier to support improvements through training.

Standardized preparation method:

Creating time tables at the workcell or office level ensures that workplace leaders are in tune with what skills are needed. When we decide on what skills are required to meet business needs, we can plan on how to build those skills up in our people. Again, creating timetables at the workcell level is not difficult to do and goes hand-in-hand with the creation of standard work in the area. It is a far higher magnitude of difficulty for an administrator to determine skill needs at a plant level since they are not in tune with the genba. This is why JI is aimed at the supervisor or team leader level.

Creating Job Breakdown Sheets is probably the most contentious portion of JI for organizations who already have a training program. Some of these organizations have no training documents. For them, making the mental leap to JI is easy, as there is little resistance in the document control ranks. For those who have heavy documentation, or perhaps obligated to ISO controls, transitioning to JI would be akin to tackling another ISO implementation. In short, the response is: we already have training documents.

The problem with most training documents is threefold: 1) they are virtually unusable if you believe a standard training delivery method is valuable, 2) they are often written by people are several orders removed from the process (thereby making them inaccurate and out-of-date) 3) from a coaching perspective and for reasons related to reasons #1 & 2, the documents lend little value to continuous improvement efforts. That is not to say that it is impossible - I only question if we could do this efficiently and effectively by a) engaging ALL people in the organization in a small, daily way, and b) using training as a coaching and improvement method.

Job Breakdown Sheets are derived from what is required on the job. The workplace leader is best suited to create a JBS or guide workplace experts in that process. After some practice, people can write JBS is about 10 minutes. And they are often more accurate, relevant and simple than most documents that we are used to. I have seen 10 page documents reduced to a one page JBS that provides the trainer with everything they need to ensure the trainee "knows what they know."

Coaching models:

Coaching and development is where JI draws a clear distinction from common training programs. It is a workplace program, first and foremost. It follows then, that since the primary purpose is to solve problems that involve people, that JI leaders need to be fully engaged in the workplace. It is not uncommon to see JI leaders checking in with workers on a daily basis, asking questions about the job, referring to JBS and drawing conclusions about new problems. In this way, JI leaders can assess if a) current needs are being met, b) understand if training and methods are at the heart of those problems and c) if all is well, prompt workers for new ideas to upgrade the standard. So, JI leaders can become better workplace leaders through the training vehicle.

If I see you sometime and ask you if you have a training program, now you know why I'm asking.

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At April 8, 2009 at 12:48 PM , Blogger darrint said...

You make an interesting ping about badly done docs describing job functions. Can you show a before and after sample to illustrate?

At April 10, 2009 at 3:51 PM , Blogger Dan said...

Very relevent and timely post . . . thanks for the added insight.


At April 17, 2009 at 9:02 PM , Blogger Tom Southworth said...

Most companies have "telling" programs, not training programs. Great post.

At September 8, 2009 at 10:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently worked a temp job that believed that training could be accomplished by using nothing more that a typed five page instruction sheet of computer language to train someone to do a very detailed, complicated process for engineering company that involved using emails and an engineering prospectis. They expected no errors to be made. They trained me for two days and left me alone and were furious because I did make errors in their process. I had never before worked in a manufacturing environment and did not know the language, any of the process, or anything about engineering. They were so sure their training instructions were so perfect that no one could fail. They forgot to realize they were reading them with trained eyes only. To someone with untrained eyes, they left out a tremendous amount of information.


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