Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Training for Lean

Over the past several days, I’ve been reminded of how people learn Lean systems. This has occurred in the context of reviewing how we document the simple changes that bring about local improvements. Here’s the summary of each of the events. I’ve used as our model for this the simple system Norm Bodek put forward in his fine book “The Idea Generator.”

One colleague saw what a couple of departments had done but didn’t grasp the scope of what a “local change” would be. Rather than describe the theory of local change and how it relates to strategic change (which it does), I walked him to the two departments practicing this system. We stood and read a sampling of the documentation of the improvements. He started to nod, knowingly.

A second colleague had tried to document changes but misunderstood the form we were using. As he explained this to me, it hit us both that simply changing the wording on the form would help a lot. In 5 minutes, we had found the master copy, modified the language, reprinted the blank forms and replaced the old ones in our form rack. It seemed to make sense.

A third colleague had participated in a kaizen event (which we call a “blitz”) earlier in the week. He then saw a neat opportunity in his area to cut the packaging materials we use in one process in half. He just went ahead and experimented with it, reviewed it with the internal customers, got their buy-in and stopped in to tell me about it. I got pretty excited and asked him to simply document what he had already done. He saw how that would help solidify the change.

All of these happened in consecutive days. I didn’t conspire to do this training, it just “happened.” I realized, though, that the training happened in the context of making improvement. Not in a sterile training exercise. Hal Macomber introduced us to the term “elbow-to-elbow” training. It is a great term, in that effective training happens when one can literally touch elbows with the other person. And, it happened spontaneously. The learner was ready to learn.

I am increasingly convinced that these moments happen far more frequently than we detect. I’m trying to sense it more clearly. I hope you can do the same.

I hope this is helpful.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Email me

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