I have recently been involved in discussions of methods to teach adult learners and the ways if differs from teaching children or young adults. My personal experience is exclusively with adult professionals in a continuing education mode, and I provided examples from my recently most successful course, on New Plant Design, developed in 2005 at the request of the Hong Kong Productivity Council, and given more than 15 times in China since, and twice in Russia, although never in the US or Western Europe.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not true that only what gets measured gets done. If it were, business, government, and society at large would come to a halt due to the damage done by metrics gamers, and for the lack of the contributions made by people who do not care whether they are measured. Deming is often quoted on this subject, as saying:
- “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.” (Deming, The New Economics. p.35)
- “People with targets and jobs dependent upon meeting them will probably meet the targets – even if they have to destroy the enterprise to do it.” It is cited on Brainy Quotes, but without a source, and it may be apocryphal.
As he showed in his “red bead experiments,” his primary concern was about people being rewarded or punished based on random fluctuations in metrics that have nothing to do with their talents or efforts, but there are even more fundamental challenges in an area like people development.
You can measure how much dirt you have shoveled by weighing it, but developing people is different. There is not even a single direction. Some individuals are “hedgehogs,” who know one big thing like heat treatment, while others are “foxes,” who know many things like all the technical and human moving parts of a production line.
There is no metric– or even set of metrics — that can reasonably summarize people development, but it is nonetheless tangible and observable.
Teaching, training and coaching are overlapping activities. Usually, not much harm is done by using these terms interchangeably, and the distinction made in a number of publications is without much of a difference. You use a personal trainer to sculpt your abs and a voice coach to hone your public speaking. Perhaps these expressions roll of the tongue better than “personal coach” and “voice trainer,” but these alternatives would be equally descriptive.
This week, the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) invited me to present the comparison of approaches I posted on this blog in January, at its annual conference, held this year at the Silver Legacy Resort in Reno, NV.
While the name of the society does not suggest it, it is really focused on training effectiveness; its tag line “Where Knowledge Becomes Know-How” is more explicit than its name. Started in 1962 as the National Society for Programmed Instruction, which was an explicit reference to behaviorist B.F. Skinner. This reference was remove when it became the National Society for Performance and Instruction. It finally went international in 1995 and changed the “”PI” to Performance Improvement. The point was to emphasize concern for the outcome rather than the process of training, and, in doing so, highlight differences with the rival American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).
ISPI has developed a body of knowledge called Human Performance Technology (HPT). which it defines as an integrated systems approach to improving the valued, measured results produced by people within a system. It has a 6-step implementation methodology, and ISPI has a program to train Certified Performance Technologists (CPT).
Most of the 500 attendees were training managers in corporations, and the others included academics, consultants, and entrepreneurs in training technology. The vast majority was from the US. On the international side, I ran into attendees from Canada, Nigeria, Korea and Taiwan, but none from Europe, Japan, or mainland China.
Compared to other conferences I have attended, I found this group to be unusually friendly and welcoming, as well as serious and dedicated. Given the speakers’ background in training, you might expect them to be good presenters, and they delivered: no laundry-list slides and no reading aloud of text. And they frequently engaged the audience through questions, polls and short group discussions, to which it responded with gusto.
The first presentation I attended, on Monday afternoon, was on Scenario-based eLearning, by Ruth Clark, author of eLearning and the Science of Instruction. I learned that US corporations spent $65B/year on training, and that, in 2012, about 30% of it was on eLearning. Ruth Clark does not envision the disappearance of live instruction, but thinks a balance will eventually be reached because there are many subjects that simply cannot be taught remotely. I also learned about different approaches for the following different kinds of training:
- Compliance — such as what safety gear you must wear to walk out of the shop floor.
- Procedural — like processing a deposit for a bank teller.
- Analytical — like diagnosing a machine failure or designing a production line.
The audience was here to learn, and didn’t stop during lunch. On the day I presented, the lunch session was called “chat’n chew.” Sandwiches were served in the largest ballroom, where each table had a designated speaker who had prepared a talk. 20 minutes later, the facilitator rang a bell, and all the participants moved to another table to hear another talk. There were three 20-minute sessions, so that each speaker gave his talk three times, to 10-12 people each time. The topics ranged from the documentation of human performance in processes to the way Lowe’s used Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives and collaborative development of eLearning materials.
My own presentation concluded the Research-to-Practice Symposium, preceded by Steven Villachica and Marcus Dickson. Steven discussed the use of the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) to give actionable meaning to otherwise vague and fuzzy guidelines like “provide excellent customer service.” Marcus presented the GLOBE Project about national cultures and leadership styles, blaming the failure of the Daimler/Chrysler merger on cultural differences.
Later, around drinks, I pointed out to Markus that, against all expectations, the Renault/Nissan merger succeeded in spite of much wider cultural differences between France and Japan than between Germany and the US. I also took him to task for describing German trains as running on time, when my own recent experience of crisscrossing Germany by train was of chronic delays and slowdowns, wrong carriage locations posted on platforms, and reservations sold for non-existent seats.
ISPI materials sometimes use a challenging vocabulary. Prerecorded on-line courses, for example, are called “asynchronous HPT.” But they also play with words, calling the lunch session “chat’n chew” and “lunch’n learn.” One presentation was about “Getting your shift together.”
My own presentation combined the materials from the January blog post with my recent introduction to Lean. From my perspective, human performance is a means to the end of growing manufacturing companies. Lean relies on people to improve operations, provides them with safe and secure jobs, and supports their professional development as a strategy for the company to gain market share, enhance profits, and grow. In ISPI’s HPT, on the other hand, enhancing human performance is the goal. The domains overlap enough for me to learn from the sessions I attended, and for the ISPI members to listen to what I had to say.
Whenever Lean implementers discuss training, these days, they promptly bring up Training Within Industry (TWI), which I would imagine to be of great interest to ISPI, but, to my surprise, there was not a single contribution about it in the whole conference.
For a conference, a casino is good value for money. In Reno, you enjoy the view from the upper floors, but you have to walk the flowery carpet in the hallway, past the his-and-hers Fiats prize and the lonely gamblers before you can go down the rabbit-hole elevator to the conference floor and its professional environment.
Note: The teacher in this picture is Mustapha Kemal Atatürk, founder and president of the Turkish Republic, in 1928. Until then, Turkish had been written in the Arabic script. Atatürk crisscrossed the country to personally introduce the Latin alphabet to notables in every town. At the end of his presentation, they had to choose a last name and write it on the blackboard in the new script. It may not have been on-the-job training, but it certainly is an illustration of training and of committed leadership. And it worked: 84 years later, Turkish is still written in the Latin alphabet.
Deming’s full, terse statement of his 6th Point is as follows:
“Institute training on the job”
“Institute” is stronger language that just “implement.” It is not just about making something happen, but turning it into an institution. In the language of the 1980s, “on-the-job training” was synonymous with “sink or swim”: as a rookie engineer, you were given projects, and it was up to you to figure out how to carry them out. Given that you had had your fill of classes in college, you didn’t mind. Production line operators received some mandatory orientations on things like safety gears, but relied on colleagues to figure out how to do their work. So, what was Deming talking about?
Deming’s elaboration on Point 6 actually drops the “on-the-job” and is entitled just “Institute training.” In it, explains that it is about “the foundations of training for the management and for new employees,” as opposed to continuing education. Regarding management, he points out that Japanese managers “start their careers with a long internship (4 to 12 years) on the factory floor and in other duties in the company,” implying both that it is systematic in Japan, and not done anywhere else. I once worked with a Purchasing manager in a major Japanese company who had five spent years in Design Engineering (See Point 4), and this was part of a number of rotations preparing him for senior management positions. However, it was not systematic, in that not all professional employees went through this process.
This practice is also predicated on long-term, committed employer-employee relationships. It trains managers who know in depth how the company works and have personal ties to many of its departments, but are not necessarily at the top level of expertise in any of their specialties, and it does more to enhance their value to the company than their marketability outside of it. Similar practices are also found outside of Japan, in companies like Boeing, GM, or Unilever, for young employees identified as having “executive potential” (See Alternatives to Rank-and-Yank in Evaluating People). In Italy, I had the opportunity to work with a production supervisor in a frozen foods plant who was a young German engineer in such a program. The parameters and the management of these programs matter. They may degenerate, for example, if the time spent in each position is too short and if participants are rewarded for not making waves.
Here again, Deming is at odds with Drucker. The rotation of managers to be seasoned in the specifics of the company’s business before being promoted is contrary to Drucker’s concept of a professional manager who can run any business, and more in line with the practices of the military. When, at the end of The Practice of Management, Drucker discusses the preparation of tomorrow’s managers, which he sees as a combination of a “liberal education for use,” centered on classics and on a “basic understanding of science and scientific method,” supplemented by continuing education in advanced techniques of management. In his view, managers need to respect technical workmanship in the activity of the company, but they don’t need to possess this workmanship themselves, and their generic management skills are transferable across industries. At Apple, Steve Jobs would probably have agreed with Deming; John Sculley, with Drucker.
Deming says little on how shop floor operators should actually be trained, and makes no reference to Training-Within-Industry (TWI), a program we would have expected him to be familiar with as a development that was contemporary to his own work in World War II, but a Google search for “Deming +TWI” does not match any document. He bemoans companies’ failure to use people’s abilities but does not explain how training, on the job or otherwise, can remedy this.
Deming also says that training should be focused on the customer’s needs, which, influenced by TQM, we may interpret as meaning the next process. When Deming writes “customer,” however, he does not mean it metaphorically but literally. He is actually thinking of the real customer, the one who pays and has the option to buy elsewhere. In other words, training must relate the work done at any workstation to the experience of the end user of the finished product. The farther upstream from final assembly, the more remote the connection and the more challenging it is to communicate, but the more understanding an operator has of the effect of the work, the stronger the motivation to do it well.
Even in the best companies today, much of the initial training of operators is done off-line rather than on the job. The basic employee orientation on company procedures or personal protection equipment is, of course, done offline, but so is a major part of the work itself. Machinists learn the basics of CNC turning with tabletop lathes that carve wax cylinders before moving on to actual machines, and assembly teams learn the basics of the Kanban system through simulation games.
Steven Spear on the value of on-line education. I agree with him, but struggle with the challenge of on-line education for manufacturing. For math or programming, it is straightforward, and there are already models in place that work.
Spear describes cases of on-line participants in management classes using multiplayer technology tor collaborative problem-solving. But what about manufacturing?