Internal Improvement Quality Systems/Processes/Improvement

A central component of our Vision Navigation strategic planning process is an internal assessment.  During the process, we ask the management team to identify those issues that are preventing them from optimizing the organization.  What issues are dragging them under or keeping them floundering?  (For an in-depth look at internal assessments, click here)

Recently we did a quick scan through a wide variety of strategic planning clients spanning a 10+ year period to look for commonalities in these internal issues.  What concerns rose to the surface consistently across a wide swath of organizations regardless of size, profit or non-profit, service or manufacturing, etc.?  We will look at several of those issues, and what to do about them, in upcoming blog posts.  For this post, we picked a common theme for a wide variety of clients: Training.

Though the issue with training took many forms (“we have a lack of cross-training”, “we don’t have culturally relevant training”, “training is not valued or funded”), the overall sentiment was clear, training was inadequate, insufficient and ineffective.

So what makes a good training?  We dug around our toolbox and developed 4 keys to a successful training.

standardized trainingKey #1: Standardize the training. There are two ‘standards’ at work here.  The subject of the training must be standardized, i.e., there should be a clear definition of how the process or task is done correctly.  And the training itself should be standardized.  If employee A teaches the employee B “the best they remember…”, then employee B trains employee C “the best they remember…”, and on down the line, employee Z will have a very different result from A. Standardizing both the task being taught and the training itself is essential to achieving a consistent result every time.

Key #2: Simplify the training: The more clearly and simply a process is taught, the more likely you will have a successful trainee when done.  How to simplify? Clearly define the result expected from the process or task, providing a sample whenever possible (see Key #3). Next, outline the steps to achieve that defined result with a flowchart. Flowcharts lay out the steps in a clear, simplified order that can be duplicated quickly and easily.

Key #3: Provide a sample.  A sample is simply a demonstration of what you are training.  A sample can be in the form of a video of a procedure, a document, table or checklist filled out correctly, an actual live demonstration of the task, etc. The key is to show the process and/or product in the form you want it done each time. The trainees can take notes and should be given access to the video or table or trainer to go back and refer to until they have the process down pat.

Key #4: Follow-up.  Here is the key most often forgotten.  Simply training someone once, then walking away, is a set-up for failure.  We are not advocating micro-management or excessive quality control.  But we do recommend putting checks into your full training system.  It is obvious that you might choose to have the trainee work with a coach the first few times they do the task independently. Or they may be asked to submit their completed form or job for a once-over by the trainer for the first several times they do it alone. However, it is also important to implement several checks during the first months the trainee is on his or her own.  Typically it is not the first several times a trainee is flying solo that an error occurs, the trainee is being extra careful to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s early on.  It is after they are comfortable in the new process, but still relatively fresh, that little errors or omissions creep in undetected, and those little errors will frequently become “the standard” over time. If you integrate into your training program a standard 1 month, 3 month and 6 month check, the trainee will feel supported, not watched, and will be more likely to ask questions and continue to check themselves on their success and understanding.

There you have it.  Four keys that form the basics behind a solid training. We have tools available to help with any of the keys as well as a free coaching conversation to help you get started. E-mail us if you are interested.