One of those pronouncements that I have no idea of factual basis or origin concerns developing proficiency. “They” say it takes repeating a task a thousand times before you become an expert. I guess I can understand why they might take this position. Clearly repetition fixes memory. I am trying to think of things I have repeated that many times and it is a short list.
I recently heard a master sushi chef interviewed about his apprenticeship program in Japan. An aspiring chef must study with him for ten years at minimum. They must not marry, they must live at the school and they work for free during their apprenticeship. The jaded New Yorker in me thinks that this master chef has developed a great source of cheap and extremely dedicated labor. Others will look at this model and point to it with Zen-like certainty that this is how excellence must be cultivated. In practical business terms, training is undeniably invaluable on many levels. It assures competency and consistency that is important for quality and bench marking best practice. In addition to the positive impact on quality it is also fertile ground for identifying opportunities for improvements. It can even serve as the incubator for new ideas and technological advances.
Training and Qualification activities are also a positive “Cost of Quality” element under “Prevention”. Almost every company I speak with carefully tracks the amount and cost of training delivered. Those same companies can’t tell me what they are measuring to assess whether the time and dollars invested are generating a real return. If I had to make an educated guess I’d blame it on tunnel vision for logical associations between processes. It is easier to verify short-term proficiency and understanding of training delivered through testing but this is only one facet of effectiveness. It does not tell you whether the training was internalized by the trainee in such a manner that they understood and can reliably apply it to their daily work. You have to expand your view beyond training records to other processes to gain a more complete insight to total effectiveness.
- Post training effectiveness reviews by the trainee’s manager can provide that look back over time to see if they have retained and can apply what they learned.
- Regular process audits are also useful if they specifically include a look at training received by the persons interviewed during the audit. This can be particularly valuable when reviewing Corrective and Preventive Actions resulting from the audit.
- When patterns of issues or failures are identified, regardless of whether the source was an internal NCMR or a Customer Complaint, training issues should be considered and ruled out. Training lapses are one of the easiest causes to address and remediate once identified.
Part of the problem is: why we train and who has responsibility for the training program. Many times training is delivered to satisfy regulatory or compliance requirements. The group who has ownership of training may not have any interaction with other manufacturing and quality processes. The dots between lapses in quality and ineffective training are simply never connected in a meaningful way. Many of the companies I see carefully monitoring how much they spend on training have little or nothing in place for professional development of their employees. In my opinion, this is short sighted and counter-productive. Everyone in the organization should have a professional development plan, even if it is simply cross-training and a performance appraisal process. This is especially crucial for organizations that are growing or downsizing.
Our CEO is a master of what he calls “moving pieces around on the chessboard”. He knows this keeps people engaged, challenged and constantly paying into the bank of collective corporate knowledge. Efficient business managers know that true sustainable success comes from leveraging all the available resources and assets to truly work smarter, not harder. An effective Training and Qualification program that integrates with other quality processes such as Internal Assessments, CAPA, NCMRs, Customer Complaints, Risk Assessment and Quality Objectives as part of the KPI measures will add bite and relevancy to the program. If you are investing the resources and dollars, take the steps to assure the return.