Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Value of Cross Training

The Value of Cross Training

My colleague Misty took a couple of well-deserved vacation days last week and, due to other scheduling issues, the only person in the place to cover her role in order entry was yours truly.  Misty went over detailed instructions with me on Tuesday, in desperate hopes that I wouldn't completely crash the system, and then left, quietly fearful over what she would find when she returned.   

As she predicted, we got a large, complex order from a major customer on Friday morning.  I pulled out her excellent instructions and got the orders placed, seemingly correct from indications of our error-proofing methods (though I put them in much more slowly than Misty).  But several other useful observations flowed from this small exercise. 

The value of cross training.  It is necessary to have some back up, particularly in a small company.  It is well worth the time.

Appreciating people.  The hour or so I spent with the orders gave me a fuller appreciation of Misty's skills. 

Seeing new things.  I had not interacted with the details of our customer's ordering patterns.  Though I reviewed them from an aggregate point of view, I had not "rolled around in the dust" with them.  And that was useful.

Ways to improve.  Misty is such a pro at what she does, she knows how to make some of the cumbersome elements of our system be more nimble.  As I bumbled through them, I got several ideas on how we might eliminate some of the steps altogether. 

All of these are expected when one goes to gemba, to the work place, and interacts with it directly.  Fresh eyes see new things.  Fresh eyes learn better. 

I hope you can soon go to a part of your workplace you seldom frequent.  Look for a way to cover for someone on vacation this summer.  Write down what you learn.  Propose local improvements.  Eliminate some waste.

I hope this is helpful.

No comments: