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Jeff Liker

Dan Jones: Lean Training and Waste

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: lundi, janvier 10, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

The power of the very tight lean definition of waste as only those actions that directly create value for customers is to throw a spotlight on all those actions that clearly do not create any value at all and should be stopped, and to raise questions about those actions that might be necessary to enable the value creating work to be done, such as planning and procurement. This is also true over time looking into the future.

We can also distinguish between work that creates value today and work that will create value in the future, in for instance designing future products or services. In addition we can also see the development of new capabilities of employees as future value, but only when it is manifest for instance in an improved production or delivery process. Although not so easy to see, both new product development and training can also contain a lot of wasted time, effort and cost. We will discuss waste in new product development at another time.

At one end of the spectrum traditional training courses, such as those taught in universities, teach a big batch of things that participants may or may not use in the future. Very little of what is learnt is turned into value. At the other end of the spectrum is teaching a team the next tool they need to solve the business problem they are facing, with direct benefits to the organisation and its customers. Many years ago at Unipart we designed their corporate University, Unipart U, to be able to teach the new knowledge in the morning that was used that afternoon to solve a specific problem, whose results were captured on their problem solving sheet and logged on their intranet. The specific knowledge was pulled by the team just when it was needed to solve their problem.

In between we have the less specific training associated with for instance building a multi-functional team or training in problem solving practices. Lean places value on these skills when they are directly related to a specific, demonstrated capability to improve something. Which is why, in my view we should place less reliance on external assessments and “ticking the boxes” and instead judge the capabilities of employees by the quality of their actions in solving different problems. Toyota’s A3 problem solving sheets not only help employees learn how to think in the right way about the right things but they also demonstrate the ability to use this knowledge to achieve a clearly documented result. I would be much more confident of judging the capabilities of an employee by reviewing their portfolio of A3s than the list of training courses they had been on.

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