Lean Trainings

Are you still thinking that training is not important?

Not much time ago, I visited a packaging plant that used to be the best of all their company facilities.  The plant performance, from quality to on-time delivery, from safety to operating costs was excellent.  This was possible thanks to their work force stability.  Most of the employees had more than 15 years of experience, very committed with the company and very knowledgeable of their procedures and policies.

One day for reasons out of their control, they lost almost 50% of their hourly team and was necessary to replace them with temporary employees.  The people coming, apparently with no reasons or desire to stay; walk out the door almost as fast as they come in.  The turnover rate grow exponentially from less that 1% to way more than 100%.  Why they leave?

Have you tried to assemble a piece of furniture? You start putting the thing together with great difficulty.  You scream, you curse, you are really aggravated, frustrated.  The instructions provided may help or not; most probably every time you read them you become more frustrated.  Out of frustration, you want to quit and most probably you will and let somebody else to deal with the problem.  Most probably, that is what happened on the plant I mentioned before.  There is no formal training program, new people come in and start working with some training, after several supervisors intervention for defects or downtime, frustrated employees walk out.

Everything starts with the hiring process, identifying the right candidates, people with values and beliefs that match those of the company.  If the candidate is not a match with these or the company culture, it will not stay long.  But even if the candidate is a match, no training, proper instructions and follow-up can frustrate the person up to a point where if feels neglected.

Training is highly important, especially during the first ninety days.  If things go wrong during the probation period, most probably it will not be any better later.  During this time, companies are also on probation, employees are also checking on how they are treated, how well they like the environment, how they feel being part of it.  Are we giving them any reason to stay or commit with the company?  What are we doing to attract and retain the best employees?  Are we doing anything to understand their needs?  If not, we better start soon, companies can gain or lose World Class Employees during that time.

Training Program

Have you ever considered to be a mentor?

Some years ago, the company I was working by that time establish a mentoring program.  They realize that their staff was getting older, most of them very close to retirement age and they did not have trained people ready to replace them.

The plant implemented the program and the operations manager adopted me.  Back in those days I was an industrial engineer full of theoretical information but very little experience.  It helped me a lot to have a successful manager with years of experience couching, counseling and sharing her perspective and very good information about best practices and the why’s of them.  At the time, she was not my supervisor which maybe helped to open even more the communication to discuss items like how to meet the challenges of being a young woman in charge of people with more years of experience than my years of live and some men that did not appreciate the idea of taking orders from a woman.  I became a successful supervisor and grew up relatively fast in the company in part for this

I once inherited this department with no supervisor.  The previous manager had this talented guy with no previous supervisory experience lined up for the position.  I was struggling between hiring an outsider or giving the chance to this person.  I chose the latter, knowing that he was not prepared for the position.

Without training or a role model to follow, soon he was having problems to delegate, distribute the work within the team, discipline people or even to understand what he can decide by himself and what consulted with his supervisor.  I remember my experience as a mentee and decided to mentor him.

Our journey together deserves a post by itself but for now I will say that has been very rewarding for both of us.  Now he surprises me all the time with his ideas, leadership and committment with lean manufacturing. He surprises himself and use his experience to motivate and convince his own team.

I did not know how to mentor, I was just following the steps that my mentor walked with me, the following quote from Simon Sinek summarize that relationship:  “A mentor is not someone who walks ahead of us to show us how they did it. A mentor walks alongside us to show us what we can do”.