I need higher learning before doing Lean Principles! Or can I learn by doing?
The education requirements for anyone wanting to get involved with Lean have always been something of a mystery to me. I often find myself wondering how companies determine the profile
for the type of person they are trying to attract to become one of their Lean Practitioners. A common theme seems to have developed over time in the USA, which defines the requirements for the education background and work experience for a typical Lean Practitioner.
Most companies seem to want someone with a minimum education level of a bachelorâ€™s degree. A job posting will always hint that a masterâ€™s degree is an added advantage. The work experience ranges from a minimum of three years up to ten years across many different industries. Work experience seems to depend on the entry level into a company. An example would be a position of a Lean Office Manager. They would be required to have more work experience than someone who was going to be a Lean Practitioner.
The initial Lean training is often delivered with a manufacturing slant. Lean training is based on the Lean Principles used in the Toyota Production System (TPS). Several industries have advanced their Lean programs and developed training modules using specific examples from their own operations. A typical Lean training program can take anywhere from one week up to three months to complete, during which time the participants are taught about Lean principles and their application into the workplace.
During the initial Lean implementation phase, it is always beneficial for a company to identify an employee who is committed to the idea of continuous process improvement. The purpose for choosing an internal employee rather than an external person is because the employee has the advantage of intellectual capital such as organizational knowledge and work experience. Anyone coming into a business will have to take time to develop the necessary intellectual capital about the organization, operations, etc.
Many business owners seem to hang onto the idea that anyone who is well educated is a better fit for their company. Is it true that a person with a masters or PhD has more to offer? One of the problems with highly educated people is that they will have developed a very academic and analytical approach to the application of knowledge. Lean does not require an academic approach or excessive levels of analysis, it needs a practical application based on ‘doing’ not just ‘thinking’. The thinking and not doing issues is called â€œThe Knowing-Doing Gap.â€
In their book called “The Knowing-Doing Gap : How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action” Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton identify the causes of the knowing-doing gap and explain how to close it. Companies who turn knowledge into action avoid what they call the “smart talk trap.” Executives must use plans, analysis, meetings, and presentations to inspire deeds, not as substitutes for action. Companies that act on their knowledge also eliminate fear, abolish destructive internal competition, measure what matters, and promote leaders who understand the work people do in their firms. The authors use examples from dozens of firms that show how some overcome the knowing-doing gap, why others try but fail, and how still others avoid the gap in the first place.
I know from my experiences over the years that the best Lean Practitioners are home grown people who learned their trade by listening, watching and doing. We are all measured by results, and these define the level of success in the world of a Lean Practitioner. Â I have seen many employees who did not even get a high school diploma achieve amazing results. Lean is not about your level of education, it is about doing the right things to get the right results