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Posts Tagged ‘process improvement’

by ulterior epicure

One of the core principles of quality improvement is that you improve quality by reducing variation.  In a learning context, this is often a hard point to get across because of the differences in learning styles and needs of learners.  But that’s really a discussion about offering variety.

Here’s how I explain the differences.  Baskin Robbins has been famous for decades for offering 31 flavors.  On any given day, you might see several different types of chocolate ice cream from mint chocolate chip to rocky road.  That’s variety and most people would say it’s a good thing.  They cater to the tastes of a wide range of customers.  However, if every time you ordered chocolate it tasted different that’s variation and that’s not a good thing.  You’re not getting a different flavor, you’re just experiencing lack of quality control in the ice cream making.

So here’s how it applies to training.  Let’s assume that new salespeople learn by going on joint calls with experienced salespeople.  Without a lot of structure and direction, it’s likely that the training will be different on every call and with every mentor.  They may sell differently so they will teach differently.  This is not because of the differences in the students by rather the differences in the instructor.  Imagine going back to 10th grade history.  Depending upon the school system, the school and the teacher, you will be a different class.  Some will be good, some will be bad and other will be indifferent.  Because of the variation, the quality of what you get is by the luck of the draw.

The best way to reduce variation is to identify it and try to reduce it, just like working on any other process.  As you do, you will also find you can take out time, waste and cost.

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Recently I had an opportunity to lead a number of process improvement sessions.  One of the things that’s challenging is that it’s really a divergent/convergent process.  By divergent I’m mean that early on the discussion is expansive with a lot of options.  Later on as decisions are made the process is convergent leading to closure. 

As a facilitator, it’s important to allow the early chaos to happen because that’s part of the creative process.  I continuously remind everyone that this is a normal part of the process and everything will come into focus as we go along.  A lot of people are uncomfortable with this messy state of affairs and try too soon to organize things or cut off discussion.  You just have to push back and tell people to be patient.  I use parking lots to help record all those ideas that we won’t be dealing with in order to keep some focus to the discussion.

I also let people know when we are shifting gears and going into the decison making phase.  That’s the point were judgements are appropriate and necessary.  I find that when I train others on this type of faciliation that they have to see this happen at least once to fully appreciate what really happens.

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  Quality principles are usually applied to everything else in an organization than training.  That includes quality training.  It’s usually done the old fashion way.  So here’s one thought.  In a Kaizen event, one of the activities is to search out and eliminate waste or extra steps in a process.

What is the waste in training?  I’d start with everything that is taught that no one remembers the next day.  We know from most research that’s about 80% of lectures.  How about an example of extra steps?  Think of all the retraining or refresher training that happens because people are doing or following the first training.  Doing the training right and make sure you get the results you want before you stop can eliminate a lot of steps.

Does anyone else have an example?  Please leave a comment.

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