Train and Do. Do Not Train Then Do.

I have read about three quarters of the Toyota Kata by Mike Rother.  It is a very good book.  One that provokes a lot of thought even from people that have been implementing lean for a long time.  This post isn’t a book review of the Toyota Kata.  It is a reflection on a point made my Mike Rother in the book about training and doing.

In the book Mr. Rother talks about moving from a system where we train in the classroom and then ask them to go out on the floor and do.  Instead, the mentor needs to be with the mentee on the floor training and doing at the same time.  Below is a graphic to try and illustrate that it isn’t two steps, but one combined step.

As I thought about this, I remembered some of the coaches that I got the most learning from.  In every case, the coach was out on the floor with me observing me learning and resolving the problem.  The coach invested a lot of time in me.  He made sure I was thinking about the problem in every way possible and would ask questions and guide me when he saw I was off course.

In contrast, I had coaches that would train me in the classroom and then give me an assignment.  The coach would come back a week or month later and see how my work had progressed.  The coach would try to get an understanding of my thinking but it would be hard.  I learned but not nearly as much or as fast as when I had my coach there with me as I worked.  This isn’t an indictment on the coach.  It was just the way the process was set up.

It may seem that having coaches for a lot of employees that can spend time with them on the floor is not feasible.  In our current system and thinking that may be true.  What is amazing is that Toyota has found a way to do it.  Leaders at all levels are coaches to their employees so they are training and doing at the same time.  This creates hundreds of coaches training and doing on the floor across the organization.

Our organizations may not be able to do this right away.  If it is truly important to the company to create learning an investment will need to be made.  Start small.  Get a few people coached and then have them coach.  Slowly let it spread.  Start with a small part of the organization.  It allows for experimenting with the training and doing process before spreading it.

I know this is easier said than done.  It was a method that worked for me in the past.  To show how slowly it can move, I was coached and then I coached 5 others and then they started to coach.  Just to get to that point took 3 years.  That started with a base of one, just me in our plant.  The whole purpose was I was there with them training on the floor as they were doing.  It is definitely a huge commitment.

I believe this huge commitment and slow process is why organizations are not successful at it.  It takes patience.

I hope your organization is willing to make the commitment.

Posted on January 28, 2011, in Development, Leadership, Learning, People, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. You are right – easier said than done. In our model, we talk about Learn – Apply – Reflect. This is connecting the full bridge of learning (training?) and doing. The goal is to continue to shrink the cycle. It never becomes truly 1 moment, but if we can connect them in minutes instead of weeks, that’s much more effective.

  2. Matt,

    Great post! The action is on the floor so we need to do a lot of the learning there. The classroom training comes into focus when you put it to the test on the floor.


  3. Hmmm… Perhaps this is why in school systems we value small teacher to student ratios. Another comparison that comes to mind is that of wrestling coaches. The best ones are right in there with their athletes – very hands on – wrestling right along with them actually grabbing their hands, legs, arms, etc. and showing them how to perform escapes, takedowns, etc.

    Nice job of pulling some very meaty stuff from Rother’s book, Matt.

    • I like the comparison to teachers and the small student to teacher ratio. I think that is a great comparison. I believe there needs to be teaching in the classroom, but the on the floor coaching and teaching is priceless. I’m glad this post hit home with people.

  4. Tim, great post! I think the hands on doing and training approach is the best way. Depending on the nature of the training or skill I am teaching, some classroom training may occur prior to going to the floor. A short “off floor” introduction or synopsis before hitting the floor directly lets people know what to expect.

    I cringe when I see prescriptive solutions that say “Here’s how to do it”. The point of the kata is to understand and do what works and overtime continue to evolve into something that works even better.

    Toyota Kata concerns the thinking behind the solution, not just the solution itself. The downfall in manufacturing has been copying the solutions without understanding why or how they came to be in the first place.

    I am fortunate to have read and own a copy of Toyota Kata. I am encouraged by your post and the books endorsement as well. For those who may be reading the comments, I highly encourage you to get your hands on a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

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