Printer Friendly

A new definition of training ... or, no train, no gain.

Over recent years, we've written an abundance of article about the merits of teams and a "team-based" way of working. Results attained by organizations effectively using team-based principles continue to be outstanding, if not spectacular! One European producer, for example, is producing 400/o over historic output levels and has achieved a total turnaround in quality performance within a year of commissioning a team-based work system.

While there are many recognized factors that drive team-based success stories, such as team structure, management commitment and resource support, "training" is the factor that most often has to fight for recognition as a critical contributing element to success. Training is frequently perceived as being misdirected, optional, expensive and difficult to evaluate in terms of effectiveness. Regrettably, most of these criticisms are well deserved.

Training, in many manager's eyes, is seen as activity-oriented vs. outcome-oriented. We firmly believe this misdirection comes from an unclear definition and poorly constructed objectives. So let's start with a new definition of training for teams:

"Training is a process that empowers teams to improve decision making, problem solving and team development skills in order to achieve business results."

That's it, plain and simple. But there are some important phrases in this definition that will demonstrate what we mean.

"... a process. " Training is not a one time event. An effective training process does involve some classroom teaching in many situations. Teams need concentrated time to gain knowledge and learn new skills. But it cannot stop at the classroom door. Teams need structured practice of the new skills. There must be clear expectations set for use of the training on-the-job. And training must be reinforced by all levels of management. An executive once told me, "We've spent a fortune on training teams in skills they never use.- Avoid this at all costs!

"... that empowers." Empowerment means a systematic transfer of decision making and authority down in the organization to achieve business results. Therefore, effective training provides the knowledge, skills and experience that teams need in order to take on increasing levels of responsibility.

The accompanying diagrams demonstrate how progressive empowerment works. It is important to note that "team skills development-includes formal training, practice of skills and management reinforcement. The X-axis represents team skills development over time. The Y-axis represents the level of delegation or involvement possible.

Let's take three different situations as defined by the numbers on the charts (see next page). in Situation 1, skills development matches the desired level of delegation. The team members have had the training necessary to match the expected level of decision making and authority they have been given. This required a systematic plan with:

*Clear objectives of exactly what the teams would be expected to do Training that would accomplish these objectives and

*The progressive empowerment of the employees as experience was demonstrated at various levels of the process.

In Situation 2, teams have not been given the training necessary to perform to management's expectations. Management thinks the teams have been empowered but they have not had the necessary training to accomplish the tasks they have been assigned. After all, people do not automatically possess the skills required to be a successful team. People do not necessarily know how to solve problems in a group, reach consensus, do improvement planning, etc. Needless to say, if this is the situation in which you find your company today, there is probably a great deal of conflict, frustration and a lack of trust.

In Situation 3, we have just the opposite situation. Teams have been provided an extensive amount of training. However, this is not matched by a level of empowerment that allows them to use the knowledge and skills they have gained. In fact, their development is far beyond their level of authority and delegation. Once again, you find conflict and frustration.

"to improve decision making, problem solving and team development skills." Most training for teams can be organized into three categories.

The first is decision making. For teams to be able to make effective decisions, they need to know what's important to the success of the business. Establishing goals and improvement objectives is vital to the success of teams. Then it is necessary to train your teams on:

*The key success factors for the business,

*What is going to be measured,

*How it is going to be measured,

*The all important "why" it is being measured.

Teams have to understand what they are responsible for and how they can influence these results.

The second phase of team training is problem solving. To truly influence results, teams must learn how to identify problems and make improvements. In order to be empowered, teams must become increasingly more responsible for taking initiative in continuous improvement efforts. This may mean suggesting ways to reduce waste or cycle times. It might be diagramming the causes of a quality defect. But once again, most employees need training in how to accomplish this as a high performance team.

The third phase of training includes interactive skills. This includes communication skills and learning to deal with conflict constructively. It also requires that teams learn how to give each other feedback. One of the signs of a mature team system is that team members receive most of their performance and behavior feedback from other team members, not management! However, many people working in a traditional company have never given other workers feedback and they need to learn how to do so in a constructive and effective manner.

"in order to achieve business results." This is the last phrase of the new definition of training for teams. Much of the criticism that training receives in an organization comes because this phrase never comes home! Some companies use "feel good" rating to evaluate training. Do not get caught in this trap!

With the investment you've made, it is essential that you take time to assess the value of the training as it relates to business performance. Although this is difficult, it is not impossible. If objectives were clearly established up front, it only takes time and persistence to follow up and evaluate the application of new skills

For example, if the objectives of a certain phase of training were to teach teams how to set goals and do improvement planning, then it is possible to check to objectively determine if the teams have 1, accomplished this task and 2, set up a system for evaluating their results.

Additional Tips On Training

*Training should be sequenced in a logical order so that its various parts build on one another.

*Training should be spaced, not delivered in mass. By this we mean that effective training is not given all in one dose. For instance, if a team is to go through 25 hours of training, it cannot be absorbed in a one-week period. Space the training to give team members time to practice what they are learning so they are not overwhelmed.

*Train your managers. In fact, they should be trained first! This provides opportunities for management to understand and practice what the teams are being taught. It also helps them find opportunities for coaching and reinforcement.

*Provide training Just-In-Time (JIT). Learning opportunities are linked as closely as possible to the actual change in the job or the required performance expectations. Training should be associated with real, on-the-job projects so that team members can see the real application of the new knowledge or skill.

We have heard it said over and over again, "But ... training is so expensive." Look at the other side. Consider investing in an entirely new way of working: changing an organizational structure, gaining management commitment, setting up teams, providing them resources, delegating new assignments, only to find that the entire project falls flat on its face because the team members do not have the knowledge and skills necessary to work in the new way. So if you think training is expensive, take time to consider the alternative. But do it right, use the new definition of training! Remember, no train, no gain!

Tom Schuler, Richard Ducote, Jay Frankenfield, Kay McLeod, Dan Clark and Rich Barnard, of the consulting firm SDF International, write a series of bimonthly articles on Profitable Manufacturing--Using Manufacturing Leverage To Gain A Competitive Advantage in the Nonwovens Industry." SDF's offices are located at 6855 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Suite 2400, Norcross, GA 30071: 404-447-9750: Fax: 404-448-7722. Reprints of earlier NONWOVENS INDUSTRY columns referred to in any article are available from SDF.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Rodman Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:McLeod, Kay
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Fibers for nonwovens holding steady.
Next Article:Top 30 international roll goods companies.

Related Articles
Critical mass.
The returns to on-the-job training: are they the same for blacks and whites?
Spanish steps.
If people make the difference....
Depth in Training.
Talking about training: achieving success.
Importance of training.
Here to stay.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters