Training: Enough, Already?

I enjoy teaching, so if you asked me whether you could do too much training, my first response would be “no, of course not!”

But, on second thought, I would have to say, “well, maybe.”

It’s been my experience that knowledge alone is usually not enough to create an improvement. A lot of people enjoy being trained (a day away from the office, with lunch included) and also like knowing what could be done to create a better process. But, having a lot of knowledgeable people bumping around in your organization doesn’t necessarily mean that there are any improvement activities going in. It’s the doing – or execution, if you will – that separates thethinkers from the achievers. So the important question seems to be, when do you know enough to start improving things?

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There is a train of thought that runs like this: “We don’t need to train our whole organization in Lean or Six Sigma; that takes way to long toget any ROI (Return on Investment). Let’s start by getting some project teams together and use them to drive improvements.”

There’s another train of thought that says, “Let’s not go shooting off in a lot of different directions. We’ll train our executives, then our other leaders, then our managers, then our front-line staff; we’ll come up with a deployment plan, and then we’ll be ready to do projects.”

So is there a “right” way to approach a Lean Six Sigma deployment?

Now, before you all write back to me tellingsaying that the answer is “IT DEPENDS!” I will ask the question a different way: Have you, in your experiences, ever found that an organization did too much training? Or that an organization did too little training? What were the effects or consequences? And what advice would you give an organization new to Lean Six Sigma, on the balance between training and project focus? Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!

Comments 9

  1. Narayan

    Yes, Many can do too much of training. Things like six sigma are getting deployed all over organizations. Irrespective of people’s aptitude for such tools they are being trained. This is too much training. Most of them finish a project and do not show any more interest. the true value will be in training those who have the basic aptitude for the methods and then get them to effectively use the methods every where, by forming teams including them. These teams can provide information, data and participate in generating insight. If some one can combine both, six sigma knowledge and domain knowledge, it is great. But we just can not train all people into six sigma experts.

  2. Marty Y.

    I find in the service industry, part of the problem is training too many concepts. Most of the training goes right over people’s heads because the concepts and tools are so foreign to them.

    I find that we need to start with much more simple basic quality concepts and then get more sophisiticated later.

    Luckily this usually works out nicely, because the service processes are so immature and have so many opportunities for improvement that sophisticated tools are not necessary.

  3. Sue Kozlowski

    I liked Naryan’s comment, "we just cannot train all people into six sigma experts." I’ve seen the phenomenon where a Green Belt goes through the training project and then never does another, all the while proclaiming "certified Six Sigma Green Belt" on their resume.

    Marty gives a great explanation about why some training fails – too many concepts. We do seem to try to cram everything WE know into the heads of our trainees! Starting at a simple level, and theb building up the advanced knowledge, sounds like a great plan to me!

    Thanks Naryan and Marty for sharing your insights.
    –Sue K.

  4. Tej

    I dont think its a question of doing too much or too little training, but rather a question of doing the most effective training to the right group of people. It’s probably worth investing some time in identifying these individuals in terms of leadership skills, aptitude and project management skills before spending huge amounts of time and money in training. Once these individuals are properly identified, then by all means, provide all the training they need to be effective process improvement experts. Having said that I think basic yellow belt and awareness training for everyone else is essential in driving program success.

  5. Orlando

    Definitely a balance is needed. On my recent past experience we train more than 500 people in the organization but the executives did not see value on that. From mid last year up today we change the strategy and we train by doing it (a mix of in class and in project training), and we also found other variables:

    1) one is that every project you want to demonstrate the value of the training MUST be align with your customer (internal or external) needs.
    2) MUST bring value to the stakeholders, is not a matter of demonstrate the use of the tools is a matter of demonstrate the value to the organization

    Also I found out that many projects you do it implemented but are not sustain over the time and I found out that along with the project itself a Change Management component is need it for each project, this is the only way it will be sustain over the time. We are dealing with people not machines.
    In summary a mix is need between train and project application but its needs to be align with the stakeholder expectation and needs to consider the people who will affected by this new way of work to engage them in order for the benefits of a project to be sustainable over the time

  6. Sue Kozlowski

    Tej makes a great point – think about the basics first! And Orlando shares some valuable experience about doing massive training vs projects supported by training, and the importance of bringing value to the organization.

    Thank you both for adding to this conversation!

  7. Elyse

    I have found in my experience that the training program needs to go hand in hand with the amount of organization change which will be needed for the lean six sigma deployment. For example, if your deployment is tactical in nature, providing overall training to everyone is not a prudent use of resources. On the other hand, if the rollout will be strategic and the organization is looking to adopt the lean six sigma thought process. The training program will also need to be throughout the organization. Perhaps a basic overview for all, green belt for the change agents, and black belt for only a few.

    Hope this helps,

  8. rikki-ventanilla

    On the first question, one organization must strike a balance and follow the recommended number of Greenbelt or Blackbelt depending on the organization’s size. However I would tend to give more balance on too much training with realized cost savings rather than on too little training which I think will also translate to less or worst no cost savings at all. Training is essential and definitely has domino effect especially when approach is the usual topdown strategy.
    Yes, there must be a balance on training and project focus. For a company newly deploying Lean Six Sigma, my recommendation is to focus first on training and balance it out with the same amount of time and possible resources during project focus and reviews.

  9. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks, Elyse and Rikki, for adding to the discussion! It’s great to see this kind of thoughtful consideration and planning.

    In my initial deployment, the organization plunged into projects with training only for the belts. It was only when we broadened training to the manager-and-above level that we started to see widespread adoption of the lean six sigma philosophy.

    But training alone doesn’t typically bring measurable ROI in the way the finance department likes to see it! So there does have to be a balance, as you both indicated in your comments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, -Sue K.

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