Lean Six Sigma Learning

What's wrong with most Lean Six Sigma Training?

Simple: It's about classroom training, not experiential, on-the-job learning!

To put this another way, a way that may be unpalatable for many of you, classrooms are, for the most part, a waste of time.

You cannot learn anything in a classroom that is procedural in nature.

- Roger Schank

Think about the most useful things you've ever learned. Did you get them in a classroom or through actual practice in the real world? When I look back, it's a little bit of just-in-time learning with some expert coaching and a lot of practice.

In his book, Lessons in Learning, e-Learning and Training, Roger Schank examines the limitations of classroom training and the power of experiential learning. Here are some of his insights.

  1. Classroom LIBITI: Learn it because I thought it.
    "Consider Euclidean geometry. You have to agree that Euclidean proofs don't come up much in life. We tend to justify learning such things because we imagine that scholars have determined that the thoughts of great thinkers ought to be learned. The reality is that if we were really concerned with [how this applies to your job] we would teach geometry in the context [of your job], not worrying about proofs so much as worrying about getting the measurements right."

    The same is true of Six Sigma. You don't need to know how to calculate the statistical formulas for control charts, but you do need to know which chart to choose and how to read the result.

    "As absurd as it is in school, LIBITI is downright crazy in corporate training."

    Principle #1: Just-in-Time delivery makes information useful (don't tell people things that they cannot make use of immediately).

    Principle #2: Authentic activities motivate learners (Don't tell people how to do something they will never have to actually do in real life).

  2. Things that are true when learning takes place:
    • There is a goal that learning will help us achieve.
    • The accomplishment of the goal is the reward.
    • After a skill is learned, it's practiced every day for the rest of your life.
    • There is continuous improvement.
    • The skill enables independence.
    • Rewards that accrue from future use are unknown at the time of learning.
    • Failure isn't a problem, because failure occurs with nearly every attempt to learn.
    • The process is not overly fun, but neither is it terribly painful or annoying.

    When we conduct JIT learning, we focus on applying everything we teach to your industry, company, and work environment. Not some mythical pizza joint. You can learn the essential tools and methods in a day. 

    Our goal is to help you develop your first improvement stories during the class. 

    With improvement teams, we use one hour of JIT training to lay the groundwork for what they will experience over the next day or two. 

  3. How do learning designers do this? Make sure that:
    • Training is a group process.
    • Training is a problem solving process.
    • Whatever is learned is merely a prelude to lifelong learning.
    • Make sure independent use of the learning is in sight.

  4. How do we do this?
    • Ask the experts what goes wrong in their companies.
    • Start thinking about training as JIT problem solving.
    • Start thinking about learning as doing, not memorization. 

  5. Use stories in training, because the unconscious learns from stories. Stories should be about a particular attempt to slay a particular dragon.
    • Use real stories
    • Never "tell" without using a story
    • Make sure the tellers are authentic
    • Tell stories just in time
    • Relive the story, don't just tell it.

Simple Truth: People learn by doing

Why Most Corporate Trainers Fail to Teach by Doing

  1. Real-life is too hard to replicate in a classroom.
  2. It takes too long.
  3. No experts are available for one-on-one help.
  4. They want to teach general principles.
  5. The subject matter doesn't seem "doing" oriented.
  6. The training department has a list of learning objectives that can be learned without doing. Learning objectives tend to trivialize complex issues by making them into sound bites that can be told and then tested.
  7. They don't know how to do it.
    We do.

Doing-based Learning involves:

  • Practice
  • Feedback
  • Reflection

People learn best when they are pursuing goals that they really care about and when what they learn directly helps them attain their goals. The best means of learning has always been experience.
- Roger Schank

People learn best when they:

  1. Experience a situation
  2. Must decide how best to deal with the issues that arise in that situation
  3. Are coached by experts

This is the essence of how we teach Lean Six Sigma, through stories, examples, and the essentials, not every little detail. Once you understand what I call the "spine" or the essence of knowledge, you can add to it forever. You can look up the more exotic requirements of Lean Six Sigma when you hit a situation that requires them.

Can we teach you everything about Lean Six Sigma in a day or less? No.

Can we teach you everything you need to know to make dramatic progress from three-to-five Sigma? Yes, we can.

Can you really afford to send your employees to weeks and weeks of training? Maybe if you have deep pockets, but not if you want to get started and make progress.

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, (888) 468-1537, support@qimacros.com."

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