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Learning Style - Part 7 of 7
Part 1  Part 2    Part 3   Part 4   Par 5   Part 6   Part 7

The Engineer has a PHD in the third law of Thermodynam­ics. The Marketing manager skydives for a hobby. The Production Planner started as an assembler. The purchasing lady is concerned about partnerships and long-term relationships. These people are all going to work together to better serve customer needs, cut time to market in half, and make designs more buildable. How?

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Improvement Teams—ISO 9000, Achieving Class A, TQM

Successful implementation of improvement initiatives is based on education. Education helps people change the way they do their jobs. Initiative implementations rely on large scale education to achieve the behavior changes needed to realize promised improvements.

The setting for almost all of this education is the team— either the problem solving team or the process redesign team. The educational setting also involves a facilitator working with the team to help the team achieve the prescribed levels of proficiency with key principles and practices and further working with the team to apply this new proficiency to daily situations.

How can we design an educational program that transfers the required improvement knowledge so that improvement teams own this knowledge and are soon solving important problems that were not even recognized when the program started? Following are common questions and considerations:

• Should we just buy training modules that simply present the educational content?
• Should we design an educational program based on understanding the differences in which individuals take in information?
• Can we use learning styles to help design the education program, to help facilitators, help teams learn, to choose facilitators?
• Should we involve the people who do the useful work in our design of the education program? Should we use our knowledge of learning styles to make this involve­ment effective?

Traditional improvement initiative education has been content oriented. Consider the impact of content oriented education on the practical people who populate our facto­ries. Content oriented learning fits our analytical learners. Factory people tend to be common sense learners who need to quickly get to demonstrated usefulness and application. These people want to get their hands on a principle quickly and resent being told the answer.

How successful is content oriented education in the fac­tory? We may have uncovered why our grumpy friend in the Harvard Business Review complains that improvement initiatives "have about as much impact on company perfor­mance as a rain dance has on the weather."

Based on what we now know about the impact of learning styles on learning, the answers to the questions listed above and the basis for the design of an education program are the following:

• Education programs should be based on learning styles.
• Education programs should relate the learning style of the participant with the delivery method of the learning.
• Facilitators should be trained to recognize and utilize learning styles.
• Generic education requires adaptation to company situations and participant learning styles.
• Involving the people who do the useful work in the education design is important to the design of a rel­evant, effective program and is important to the accep­tance of that program.
• Understanding and applying learning styles are criti­cal to involving the people who do the useful work.


Companies need to improve earnings, their use of time, and asset returns and to build Customer Advantage to advance their competitive position in markets served. To be suc­cessful, companies must change how they serve customers, do work and achieve objectives. If the old ways of doing business can't work, then changing organizations is a process of "teaching old dogs new tricks."

We need to change the complete organization and all of the business processes. Companies who successfully improve performance recognize new learning as the critical enabler of change. These companies establish themselves as learn­ing organizations. Learning organizations approach change as a process of acquiring and applying a critical mass of knowledge.
In the successful company, the team is the unit of perfor­mance. The team is also the unit of change. The process of acquiring and applying a critical mass of knowledge takes place within teams.

We can change the organization and establish the learning organization by teaching teams of people "new tricks," such as solving problems based on fact finding, brainstorming, analytical methods, team based implementation, and pro­cess innovation. The educational setting for the team based learning organization is the team.

Effective learning in the team setting is a function of both learning styles and leadership styles. Understanding learn­ing styles enables teams to match the preferred learning style of the team members to the method of learning. Utilizing learning styles enables teams to acquire the techni­cal, interpersonal and problem solving skills needed to be effective. Utilizing leadership styles enables the team to define a common purpose and achieve a sense of individual and mutual accountability for achieving that purpose.

Companies who effectively produce change via education through learning and leadership styles will drastically improve the success rate of operational improvement pro­grams. These companies will be able to truly build the learning organization, change how they serve customers, do work and achieve objectives. As a result these companies will enjoy dramatic improvements in earnings, the use of time, asset returns and building Customer Advantage. These companies will advance their competitive position in markets served.

Part 1  Part 2    Part 3   Part 4   Par 5   Part 6   Part 7

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