Training and People Development – The linchpin that holds any Continuous Improvement initiative together. People development is at the heart of factory performance. In fact, survey after survey has shown that a lack of workforce development is one of the greatest impediments to driving a CI culture. You can get a pretty clear picture of an organization’s agility by taking a close look at their training and knowledge management systems. When a company decides to undergo a transformation such as implementing Lean or other form of CI, they are committing to a period of substantial change in the way business is being done. This impacts individuals on all levels in the organization. Many companies believe that implementing CI is as simple as hiring a Lean expert or doing a few improvement events per year. What they don’t realize is that a CI implementation demands that everyone adopt a new set of behaviors – meaning letting go of old habits and picking up some new ones. Sometimes KPI’s, performance reviews, and coaching alone aren’t enough to get people to relinquish deeply entrenched habits. Those old habits are what kill sustainment of any initiative. If you probe deep enough, you’ll find that one of the biggest reasons for resistance to change is that people don’t believe that they, their peers, or their managers have the discipline to change. The role of the training and people development function is to close this gap, especially during a CI implementation.
In many organizations, training is simply having someone sit through a presentation and sign-off that they’ve been trained. Some go as far as to give a test or quiz at the end of the presentation to validate that learning actually did take place. Modern adult learning techniques encourage incorporating activities to engage learners, mainly to keep them from completely tuning out. But a vast majority of training programs stop there. What happens when the employee goes out on the plant floor and gets back to work? What happens when that employee gets stressed or is under pressure to hit production numbers for the day? How much of the material learned in the classroom is retained after 6 months or a year. Training, and even further, workforce development goes far beyond a classroom activity. If an employee is not performing the new / desired behavior on the job as if it is second nature, they have not been trained. Similar to a boxer or basketball player who trains for months on end before the big fight or game. The training includes learning the sport but also conditioning the mind and body to execute the desired behaviors unconsciously. Best in class training programs do provide classroom time but include auditing,continuous coaching, and corrective action until the desired behavior is ingrained. Only when the employee executes the desired behavior on a consistent basis without deviation have they been trained.
The speed at which an organization can truly “train” their human assets, the more agile the organization is. Agility is a measure of how efficiently an organization can change from one state to another. Agility is critical for a transformation at the magnitude of CI implementation. An effective training program needs to incorporate 1) Standards Development, 2) Knowledge Transfer, 3) Validation of Learning, and 4) Change Management. Items 1 – 3 are fairly common but the 4th is actually pretty rare. Change Management is the piece that requires ensuring that employees have incorporated the new behavior after they’ve returned to their work area. In many organizations, the first question people ask when someone makes a mistake is – “have they been trained?” And even though the sign-off sheet confirms that they sat through the class, they were often never really trained. In other words, the desired behaviors were never fully ingrained into their work patterns. As a change agent, you owe it to the workforce to ensure that they are actually trained, which can be verified by sampling work patterns from time to time and verifying that they match the documented standard procedure. This should be a shared responsibility with the immediate supervisor. Even better if you can foster an environment where all employees provide coaching or other corrective action to all other employees whenever deviations occur. This is trademark of how a high performance team truly works. This creates a foundation for true leaders to emerge – being those who can not only help to engineer a more perfect production system, but also lead the way on developing a more agile workforce.
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