How Can I Speed Up My Team’s Lean Learning?

“How can I speed up my team’s lean learning?” is a question found on the web, with no context given: we don’t know whether it is team of managers, engineers, or operators, or whether it works in manufacturing, finance, or health care… We can infer from the tone of the question that its author is a leader frustrated with the pace of a team’s progress. I will further make the assumption that the concern is not just about skills but also about principles. It’s not just about know-how but also know-why, as it is essential to address new challenges.

Then we also need to make a distinction between learning as a team and learning by team members. You hear leaders say “as a team, we have learned to change over a lathe in 7 minutes,” or “as a team, we have learned to introduce a new product on this line in 3 weeks.” If such a team replaces one of its members, it can bring the newcomer up to speed and retain the skills and the knowledge; if, on the other hand, it replaces half its members, it has to relearn. A team  is more than the collection of its members, but it builds on the expertise of its members, which means that their individual expertise also needs to be nurtured. This means that individual learning by team members also is a topic that must be addressed.

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