Six Sigma Training vs Experience

Avoid the Pitfalls of Traditional Lean Six Sigma Training

I just got a request for proposal from a hospital to train their leaders and staff members. They wanted at least 20 staffers recognized as green belts and 20 recognized as black belts.

Big contract, lots of training. Sounds seductive, doesn't it?

Well, all that training is great for the trainer's pocketbook, but bad for customers. You end up with highly trained, accredited, but unskilled improvement leaders. I suggested that what they really want are experienced professionals that can diagnose, treat, and heal hospital issues concerning speed, quality of care, and costs.

The sad truth is that you lose 90% of what you've learned if you don't use it within 48-72 hours. And isn't that what happens: you go to training and come back after a week to a pile of work. By the time you're caught up, you can't remember what you learned just a few days ago.

Looking at this from a value-added flow perspective, the delay between training and application isn't just about the waste of time, but also about loss of skill. The only way to reengineer this problem is to eliminate the delay: just-in-time training.

In the early 1990s, when I was lured into the in-depth training paradigm, I'd spend a week using a Deming Prize Winning methodology to train 20 team leaders. They, in turn, would start teams that met once a week for an hour. Months went by. Years went by. Nothing got better.

Here's what I discovered: You can't learn to swim without getting wet.

So, unbeknownst to my company leadership, I changed the process. I shortened the training down to a couple of introductory hours that I would only teach immediately prior to solving a real problem. Then, in a day or two, I'd guide the team to a solution. They got experience and the good feelings associated with success. Surprisingly, many of these team members could then apply the same tools and process to other problems with equal success. I discovered that I was creating highly skilled, but essentially untrained team leaders in a matter of one day. To strengthen their abilities, I'd occasionally conduct a one-day intensive to review what they'd learned through experience. This helped reinforce what they knew and fill in any gaps.

With one day of experience and a day of review training, I was accomplishing what the old week of training and endless meetings could not. And, we were getting bottom-line benefits simultaneously.

Sadly enough, by the time I figured this out, the Quality Department was on its last legs because it had failed to do more than waste time and money defining and measuring cumbersome, error-prone processes that needed major repair. A year later, the department was disbanded and the people laid off.

Don't let this happen to you. Consider using just-in-time training to prep your teams for immediate immersion in problem solving or SPC. Use real data. Use real problems. From the time we are born, we learn by watching other people do things. When you guide a team through the process, they learn an enormous amount just by watching you. Then reinforce what they've learned unconsciously with one-day review training.

You'll save your company time and money, get immediate results, encourage the adoption of Six Sigma by satisfied employees, generate good buzz, and have more fun. 

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,"

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