Applying Lean Value Stream Mapping to Corporate Training

lean value stream imagePeople familiar with lean manufacturing probably know the concept of value stream mapping.

Value stream mapping is the process of mapping, diagramming, or otherwise analyzing your current production state and a desired, more efficient future state. The point is to map the current state, search for and identify any inefficiencies that cause waste and don’t add value, and then map a new, more efficient process. And then, of course, to make changes to move toward that more efficient desired process.

Sounds simple enough, and it is. The key things to remember are that value stream mapping (1) is focused on the lean idea of making sure production steps are always intended to provide value to the customer and (2) removing all production steps that don’t provide value to the customer or that aren’t otherwise necessary.

Trainers can learn a lot from their lean friends and from these concepts underlying value stream mapping. For one, trainers should always focus on providing value to their customers. It’s sometimes easy to forget this and sometimes easy to forget who the customer(s) is/are, so we’ll get back to this shortly. The second thing trainers can learn from lean value stream mapping is the importance of taking things out of training materials if they don’t provide benefit to the “customers.” Again, we’ll get back to this point.

Who Are the “Customers” of Job Training?

Lean Manufacturing begins with a focus on the customers and what they value.

Let’s take a closer look at this issue, but this time in the context of job training. If you’re creating or delivering training materials, it’s important to always consider the value you’re providing to your customers in the same way that lean manufacturers always keep an eye on the value they provide to their customers.

But who are the customers of a trainer? The real answer is that trainers have two customers. The first, as you might have guessed, are the trainees. These are the employees at your company who need training to do their job more effectively, or more safely, or in some other desired manner. So it’s important to always keep the needs of the employees in mind at all times. Remember that you’re trying to provide training to help workers succeed at their jobs.

Here are a few ways you can do that:

  • Keeping your training relevant to their jobs
  • Keeping it based on real job-tasks
  • Letting them know how the training applies to their jobs
  • Making them active participants in the training when possible
  • Studying methods of effective manufacturing training and applying them in your own training

One good place to start researching this is to learn more about adult learning principles.

If the employees are one of the customers of your training, then that’s also true of the company itself–or of the management who’s paying for the training. Because ultimately, you’re providing training to employees so they can help the company reach their business goals. It’s a good idea to know what the company’s business goals are and to make sure the training you’re creating/providing is intended to help the company reach those goals. You might want to touch base with management to see what those business goals are and what key performance indicators (KPIs) are used to track them.

To learn more about providing training that helps a company reach its business goals, read this article about Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation.

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Get Lean: Cutting Waste from Training Materials and Focusing on Value

Now let’s talk about the second lean principle we mentioned earlier: removing steps that don’t provide or increase value to the customer.

In training, less is more. Meaning, employees learn more if you condense the training materials and present less information. If you’ve heard people talk about bad training by using terms like information dump or spray and pray training, that’s what they mean.

So you could say “lean” training materials with lots of filler removed help people learn.

What you should always do as a trainer is begin with a set of learning objectives. Your learning objectives are a list of what the employees need to be able to do when training is over (click here and/or here to read more about learning objectives).

Then, once you’ve got that list, create training that covers nothing but those learning objectives. Resist the temptation to add more. Remember, LESS IS MORE.

But this is a point that some trainers struggle with. They want to include MORE information instead of less. Their intentions are good, and they’re ultimately trying to make the training better, even if it backfires. Here are some of the reasons people add more training materials than is necessary:

  • They think it’s interesting and that will keep the workers engaged
  • They enjoy the information themselves and want to include it for their own reasons
  • They’re not aware our ability to learn is limited to 4-7 “bits” of information at a time and they wrongly think the brain is like an empty pitcher ready to be filled with information
  • They know they should limit information but for some reason they do it anyway–maybe they feel the training schedule demands it

If any of these sound familiar to you, try keeping your training materials lean and to the point. If you’ve got extra stuff, give it the axe.

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Value Stream Map Your Training and Keep It Lean

So now you’ve seen a few ways that trainers can benefit from borrowing the concept of value stream mapping from lean and applying it to their training.

Did you know  you can actually create a value stream map of your training materials? Maybe start by looking at a specific job role and representing each course as a box in a flow chart. Do you have the right number of boxes to match what the employee needs to know, or do you have too many/too few? Is the order ideal? Likewise, you could zero in closer and look at a course to map the ideas covered in that one course.

It doesn’t matter how you decide to diagram your “value stream map” for your training materials. There are conventions used in doing this for lean manufacturing, but as long as you’re putting pencil to paper (or dry erase to white board) and getting a bird’s-eye view of your training materials, you’re off to a good start.

The basic idea is to analyze your current training materials and remove things that don’t add value because they don’t support the learning objectives. You can also make sure your training materials DO fully cover the learning objectives and that your workers are able to perform the necessary skills/behaviors on the job, because that’s your real goal. And of course that all the training is  having a positive effect on a business goal as measured by one or more KPIs.

Hope this helps. Let us know if you have any thoughts about lean training materials.

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. You can follow Jeff at LinkedIn as well.

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