Categories : Lean Manufacturing Principles


Train the trainer is a little more that showing a PowerPoint!

I thought of a good scenario for a comedy sketch a while back that I would like to share. I created it in my mind after a conversation with the CEO of a company who asked me this question. “How many trainers does it take to train the trainers?” I answered, “It all depends on how many trainers you want to train!” “Well, I want to train as many as I need to be able train my employees about lean” he replied. I contemplated for a moment about how I would answer his question and then I said “It also depends on how many employees you have and what type of support infrastructure you are willing to implement.” I saw him taking a moment to run all the possible scenarios through his mind. After a few seconds he said “I don’t like all these answers that keep saying”it depends”, I thought had some magic formula like one trainer per 100 employees or some ratio similar to this?” I found myself moving into a more defensive position emotionally as I listened to his words. Why do people naturally assume a canned mathematical formula exists for everything in the world today? I took a deep breath, “I would really like it to be that simple but it really does depend on what you are trying to achieve with your and how it ties into your business goals and objectives.” I saw the blood rush to his face “What does training have to do with my business goals and objectives. I just want to train my employees about lean and then get them to find ways to improve the performance of the processes in their own work area.” He was obviously frustrated and I felt I needed to be careful about how I delivered my reply. “I understand your beliefs about training are based on implementing a system where a trainer will spend their time with a specific number of employees. There are several factors to consider, here are a few of them:”

1. Who is going to become the trainer?
2. Is the trainer going to be a full time or part time position?
3. Who is the trainer going to report to?
4. What training materials is the trainer going to use to train the employees?
5. Which employees are you going to train first?
6. How are you going to assess if the Lean training was a success?
7. What measures are you going to use to evaluate the lean training?

I could see his eyes start to roll back as he was trying to fully comprehend all the factors under consideration. I stopped adding to my list of factors. He drew in a deep breath and said, “I thought it was just a simple task of filling a room with employees and showing them a PowerPoint about Lean principles and how to apply them. After that, it was going to be easy to follow the Lean training with a few kaizen events to give them some hands-on experience. Now I’m not sure if this will work.”

I learned many years ago that confusion is a good thing contrary to what most people believe. I once heard someone say “One cannot learn in the pretense of knowing.” I will always remember this saying. A person must put themselves in the place of total surrender to allow them to be open to accepting new information and learning. Training is only one part of the learning equation. Other important parts are the development of an employee, their skills capability, and a system of governance to support their continuous learning. Training and Development is an integration of the transference of knowledge to an individual and the development of this knowledge into a procedure or application to generate intellectual capital to support a particular business process. Training is much more than someone showing a PowerPoint to a group of employees and hoping for the best.

In the book “Telling Ain’t Training”, Harold D. Stolovich gives a series of great insights about what is training and what is not training. In chapter 4 he gives a detailed explanation about the types of knowledge, which are called “declarative and procedural.” Human beings process these two types of knowledge very differently, so a trainer must have a clear understanding of these differences to achieve a successful training goal. The CEO of the company I mentioned at the beginning of this article did not understand this process either. Implementing a lean program without a plan and system of governance to define the culture is like modern civilization without a police force. It would not take long before the rule of law failed and anarchy would become the norm.

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