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Posts Tagged ‘Quality’

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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I was going back and reading about quality principles and thinking about how they apply to training.  Here’s an interesting challenge.  Take the 10 commandments of Kaikaku and replace training or education with the word manufacturing.  Would you be able to come up with revolutionary changes using this method?

  1. Throw out the traditional concept of education and training methods.
  2. Think about how the new method will work, not how it won’t work.
  3. Don’t accept excuses; totally deny the status quo.
  4. Don’t seek perfection; a 50% implementation rate is fine as long as it’s done on the spot.
  5. Correct mistakes the moment they are found.
  6. Don’t spend money on Kaikaku.
  7. Problems give you a chance to use your brains.
  8. Ask “Why” five times.
  9. Ten person’s ideas are better than one person’s knowledge.
  10. Kaikaku knows no limits

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

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The 7 basic quality tools help diagnose and measure most quality issues without using more advanced statistical techniques.  However, they are much more rigorous than they way most training is measured.  Here they are and how they relate to learning:

1. Histogram

A histogram is used to graphically represent the frequency and extent of two variables.  For example, you can use it to show the types and frequency of inbound calls in a call center.  This gives you a rationale for focusing on one type of call versus another, or determine how much live practice might be needed to experience all call types.  For more on histograms go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histogram

2. Flow Charts

Flow charts are used to map out a sequence of events.  Flow charts can be used to map out the sequence of formal and informal training that leads to the desired outcome of the training.  Flow charting is a great team activity to determine how to develop salespeople or even how to develop leaders.  More on flow charts: http://class.et.byu.edu/mfg340/lessons/seventools/flowcharts.html

3. Cause/Effect Diagram

A Cause/Effect diagram is mostly commonly used to determine the root causes of a problem.  They can be used to determine the cause of declining performance and whether it’s a training problem.  Then the right training solution can be developed to address a root cause rather than an effect.  More on Cause/Effect Diagrams:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishikawa_diagram

4. Check Sheet

A Check Sheet is a simple tool for collecting data.  It’s a quick way to collect data by hand when it can’t be done electronically.  For example to determine closing rate, key to sales training, you can track each person who comes into the store and how many purchase something.  You can also track something like number and type of errors.  More on Check Sheets:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Check_sheet

5. Control Chart

Control charts are used to track and identify variability.  They track results and through setting control limits, they determine what falls outside the normal range of variability.  For example, if you’re in a call center you can track call time by agent.  This will show you which agents are taking a lot more or a lot less time with customers.  Since both are outside the normal range of variability, they may need additional coaching or instruction.  Those going to fast might be skipping parts of the process or rushing to get off the phone.  Those who are slower might be struggling with taking on the phone and using the computer at the same time.  More on Control Charts:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_chart

6. Scattergrams

Scatter Grams are used to determine if there is a relationship between two variables.  For example, you can use it to look at differences between new and experienced leaders.  For more on Scattergrams go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scatter_diagram

7. Pareto Chart

Pareto Charts are used to identify and set priorities.  If you chart all the safety issues, you can quickly see which ones happen most frequently or have the most serious effects.  This helps you focus training on where you can get the most bang for the buck.  For more on Pareto Charts go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_chart

As you test out each of these tools, try using them to present data when you report the results of needs assessments, evaluation of training or training results.  This helps build the case that you are focusing on the right things at the right time.  In additional these charts are relatively easy to create using Excel.  Here’s a quick demo http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/excel/ha102004991033.aspx

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“Welcome aboard ladies and gentleman, this is your captain Bill Johnson. We have clear skies all the way to Miami. Just to let you know, this is my first time flying the Boeing 757. Not to worry, I’ve been fully checkout including passing the landing test with a near perfect 95%.”
95% is a great score. You can get a 4.0 at Harvard and graduate with honors scoring 95% on all your test. However, anything less than 100% on landing a plane is considered failure. I’ve built a small mountain of training over the years and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “What should be setting as a passing score for this class?” Most of the time everyone is so concerned about what happens if someone fails the test, that they want to set the bar as low as possible.
While you might think that the pilot example is a little extreme, let me build the case for 100% and then show you how raising the passing score begins to change everything. Teaching to 100% is very different than teaching to 75%.
Let’s take something as simple as learning to add, subtract, multiple and divide. On a 50 question test if you only got five wrong, that’s 90% right. The teacher might give you a gold star or write GOOD WORK across the top. Later on your first job, you’re running a cash register. Using you’re A+ math skills, you give out correct change 90% of the time, not bad. Well maybe not, you eventually get fired because the register never balances at the end of the day.
Consider other common jobs and situations. A large part of the work in call centers involves giving out product information, taking orders and answering questions. If every agent, scored 75% or better on all their training this means that as much as 25% of the time they are giving out wrong information or making errors on your order. If you were president of the company, would this be okay with you? Before you answer, consider how much these errors cost you in terms of lost customers and lost sales.
Safety is a big deal in every manufacturing plant. If you get 75% right on all the safety tests, it’s a little like only losing a couple of fingers, if you’re lucky. Safety is something that requires 100%. Good simply isn’t good enough.
Remember 10th grade history? History is filled with dates, names, places and events. How much history is it okay to get wrong or mixed up? Does it matter that the treaty of Versailles ended World War I and not World War II? Anyway, over the years, most people forget most of what they learned in 10th grade so it may not be that serious.
In business most jobs require getting things right. Often this doesn’t happen right out of training but as a result of a lot of practice on the job. From doctors to engineers to carpenters to pharmacists, there are severe consequences for getting things wrong, even little things. When a pharmacist makes one mistake in a 1000 when filling prescriptions, it’s a disaster.
Setting the bar high is only part of the equation. There is also a cumulative effect that happens over time. It’s easiest to see in a school setting. If from first to twelfth grade you get 90% right on all your tests, that means that the remaining 10% is a growing body of knowledge that’s wrong. It doesn’t seem like a lot on one test, but on several hundred is massive. That’s for a top student. For a C student getting 70%, that’s the same as getting everything for 3 ½ years wrong.

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DALLAS (September 8, 2009) – Roach Howard Smith & Barton (RHSB), a leading independent insurance brokerage firm and Assurex Global partner, announces the launch of an innovative, highly accelerated development process for Property & Casualty (P&C) Producers. This rapid development process is called a “Learning Path.” It will cut the time it takes new P&C Producers to become fully proficient in their role by at least 30%.  See the entire press release here

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I’m expanding an updating the Learning Paths whitepapers.  To order go to:  http://learningpathsinternational.com/whitepapers.html

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The ultimate goal of new software is to improve the way people work.  All too often is this the forgotten part of IT training because that responsibility is not part of the IT department.  IT wants to teach the features of how an application works.  It’s also because “hard” skills and “soft” skills are taught by different people or different parts of the organization.

Here is just one of many examples I’ve seen.  Company A builds a wonderful customer data base for front line salespeople to use.  The training focuses on how to enter customer’s into the system, access customer information and run reports.  However, company A  has never captured customer information in any detail.  It will take months or years to get all the information into the database.  Salespeople have never used this type of tool for prospecting or account management.  Marketing has never used a database program to do target marketing.

As a result, everyone goes through training and the program is seldom used and everyone forgets how to operate the program.  Does this sound familiar?

The solution is to teach how the job will change.  For example, how do I manage MY accounts using the new program.  This  includes how they salespeople will get the information to put into the program.  Salespeople are then taught only the program features they need for this task.

Photo Uploaded on May 9, 2007 by CellPhoneSusie

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