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No Do, No Learn

by Eric Ethington
August 21, 2014

No Do, No Learn

by Eric Ethington
August 21, 2014 | Comments (4)

Last week was a significant week for me. I had my first guitar lesson. After decades of obsessing on the diverse styles of David Gilmore, Steve Morse, and Johnny A (to name just a few) I decided to finally learn the instrument.

This week was perhaps more significant, it was my second guitar lesson. As I was driving to the lesson I started to think about what the next 30 minutes would be like had I NOT practiced. Lesson #2 would have essentially started where the previous lesson left off, or perhaps even back a few steps.

If you want to get lean-geeky about it, we are talking about the Plan, Do, Check, Adjust (PDCA) cycle and it's impact on the learning process. I ended lesson #1 with plan to practice a set of basic chords, and I did. The second lesson allowed my instructor to check my progress, offer me ideas on how to improve, and set forth a plan for the next lesson. 

Think about your improvement projects and coaching situations at work. Outside of these meetings with your coach, are you actually practicing? Do you cram the night before? Or do you just treat the coaching session like a confessional, “I really had good intentions, but...”

In the PDCA cycle, most of our learning happens in the Do & Check steps. No do = no learn. We know this, but we still have a hard time practicing.

Why does this happen so often in our working world? One hypothesis I have is we don’t focus the practice of our new skills on our primary work, but on “side projects.”  We make lean thinking a side project! Then, day-to-day, our primary work takes precedence and we never get to practice (DO) our new skills. The key is taking what we’ve begun to learn and applying it to what we spend the majority of our time doing; addressing our most pressing issues. Then, as we DO, CHECK and ADJUST the real learning can happen.

Think of this way. How many times have you set aside time to deliberately learn a new fun skill such as playing a musical instrument or new sport? It’s fun, sure, but it’s also difficult. A lot of learning is involved. But we make the time to do it anyway because we want to learn. Shouldn’t applying lean to your ever-present, day-to-day work be easy by comparison? You don’t have to set time aside to practice, you just do and learn.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  A3,  PDCA
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4 Comments | Post a Comment
Steinthor Thordarson August 21, 2014
Thanks Eric, for an excellent reflection.
I share your interest in learning some of Gilmour's licks and solos but I don't "DO" enough. In my work with colleagues and clients on "getting lean off the ground" I have used the same analogy a couple of times and asked "why do we expect results without practicing"? I have seen the "we are too busy for lean today" attitude time and time again. "Let's chase rabbits instead". I belive a big part of the problem comes from the attitude that a manager should get stuff right the first time and a manager's know how should not be questioned. And I have met more managers who tell me they know what there is to know about lean then managers who actually do.
I know how Gilmour plays the "Time" solo but I can't play it myself. I need quite a bit of DOing for that. One of the key reasons why lean initiatives go bust is the lack of understanding of the time factor - time and practice. There will always be demand for instant solutions but lean will never be one of them. Failure to see that means that the essence of it is not understood and that will be reflected in the results - or the lack of them. 


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Eric Ethington August 21, 2014
Steinthor,
Thanks for the comments.  I agree - there is always that false perception out there that activity = progress, so let's implement something now


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Marsha Aragon August 22, 2014
Eric,

Thank you for the insight I have sent this on to my team as we are all working to help one another make PDCA part of our every day culture.  We have a way to go but I have not doubt that with practice we will get there and having one another helps us with staying on track.  Good luck with the guitar I am sure you will be playing like Hendrix in no time.



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Keith Gregory September 18, 2014
Thought-provoking article - many thanks

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