As you recall from the "Quality at the Source" article, I spoke of providing quality training after initial operations training for new people. But what about carrying this further? How should you continue your training initiative?
There are many ways to train your managers and supervisors once you have decided to implement a training program. The next step, though, may be trickier. If you really want to change behavior and reinforce your message about your Lean Manufacturing transformation, you must find a way to reach every employee. Many times I have seen firms use their supervisory training as a screening process to look inside for new managerial talent, then use the same training to teach everyone. However, this may lead to rising expectations among all participants, especially those who will be screened out by this process. In any case, a supervisory screening course is not designed to reach everyone.
The best way is to combine general training in basic communication and problem solving skills with the Lean training and the screening process; use the same materials and same approach by actually putting all your employees through this training. Structure the class as one of general employee communication and prerequisite to the Lean training that you want them all to participate in. No expectations are raised, but you still have a great opportunity to see who is truly engaged and might be good candidates for promotion.
Start with key communicators such as line leaders because they have to give direction anyway. And your old hands who always have a lot to say are going to talk no matter what you do, so give them the correct message to spread. This includes shop stewards if you have a union shop; make them part of this process. Include the material handlers because they get around to all parts of the building. Of course you will mix in some of those who might make good supervisors, the ones you have already identified as having the behaviors you want reinforced. There’s no need not to use this opportunity!
What do you teach them? Start with the basics – communication, meeting behaviors, teamwork. Teach them how to solve problems by using a structured format: problem statement, probable causes, possible solutions, decision making and action planning. With everyone learning a single method of problem resolution, you can mix teams as needed or use just a few in-house facilitators and still be effective.
Teach the Lean principles to all, including the back office and everyone else. This gives everyone a common language and common purpose. Misunderstanding is greatly reduced.
As teams begin to identify and solve their own issues, some individuals will show their talents as potential leaders, facilitators or supervisors. You can try them out as team leaders or project leaders, give them some training in meeting management, and see which ones show the skills needed to succeed in your firm’s future.
There is no lost effort in the investment you make in your people. You will get greater buy-in to your efforts because they will share the ownership. You will get problems resolved; make lasting improvements to your products, processes and safety; and identify the next generation of leadership. You can then create a succession plan that makes sense at the operating level and at the managerial level.
Other than time away from the manufacturing floor, this does not have to cost a great deal. There are canned programs you can purchase such as Gemba Academy; you can train one or more of your people to be a trainer and facilitator. You can run the classes during your slow cycle if you have one, or whenever your schedule allows. If the time is planned and well-managed, this investment in your workforce will have minimal negative impact on deliveries or your bottom line in the short run, and a heavy positive impact on both forever.