Over time, I have developed a strong distaste for the word “mass,” no matter the context.
- Production? - Good! Mass production? - Hmm…
- Media? - Exciting! - Mass media? - Cringe…
- Turnpike? - Sure, why not? - Mass Turnpike? - Avoid at all costs! Ok, the latter is a different story, but you get the picture, right?
Now, how about mass training? Why do the same companies and organizations (that spare no effort developing a one-piece flow in their operations) brush this concept aside when it comes to people development? Why do we readily acknowledge the usefulness and numerous advantages of making things one by one, or in small batches, but fail to apply the same thinking to the critically important process of learning and development?
Most organizations mean well when they come up with a plan for deploying training across the board. They genuinely believe this demonstrates their commitment to Lean while inspiring employees to improve their work. Instead, this kind of training "en masse" often produces an opposite effect because in most cases it starts and ends in the classroom, providing little or no connection to real-life problems employees struggle with in their work areas.
Moreover, after hearing in the classroom about all the great things that are going to happen as the company transitions to Lean, most people struggle to take their new learning back with them. Purely out of habit, most end up going back to business as usual. As a result, they quickly lose interest in lean or any other improvement methodology for that matter.
How about we stop resorting to mass training as a "blanket solution" for all organizational problems and start applying lean thinking to the way we develop people? Meaning, let’s start with making a clear connection between a problem that hinders a worker’s (engineer’s, nurse’s, creative writer’s, mechanic’s, executive’s, etc.) ability to do a good job and the training support we are going to provide them to help solve this problem. Then develop a blended learning process that will help employees learn specific concepts and develop skills needed to solve their particular business problem. Lastly, let’s reflect on the effectiveness of the learning process we’ve come up with, make necessary adjustments, and design the new round of learning.
(Yep, it’s the same PDCA thinking we strive to use in our work processes, and it works just as well when applied to people development.)
What do you think? Are you willing to give it a shot?