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
• Should we just buy training modules that simply present the
• 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
• 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
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.