Tag Archives: training

How Supervisors Get in the Weeds

“I am looking at your training chart. I see you have periodic S-II supervisor training and periodic S-III manager training. What about your S-I production teams?” I asked.

“Well, production around here is relatively simple. I want to spend most of my training budget where I think it will have the most impact?” Riley defended.

“But I noticed that Sam, one of your supervisors, was actually working the line yesterday. How did that happen?”

“Oh, happens all the time. It’s not unusual for my supervisors to spend half their time doing production work,” Riley explained.

“Is that why the work schedule posted in the lunch room is for last week? Isn’t Sam supposed to post a 2-week look ahead so the crew knows what is coming up?” I wanted to know.

“Yeah, he is supposed to, but sometimes we get behind on our production work, and Sam can get stuff done faster and defect free, no re-work.”

“You mean your team members each have higher re-work than Sam?”

Riley was proud. “Yep, Sam is a great guy.”

“If you spent some of your training budget with your S-I production people, would their re-work come down? Would Sam be able to spend more time in his supervisory role? Every time you have disruption at the S-I production level, you will drag your S-II supervisors into the weeds. And while your S-II supervisors are in the weeds, your S-III managers have to cover your supervisors. Everyone gets dragged down a level of work. Why do you think your teams are always behind?”

Riley stopped. “I guess I have to think about training, and competence, even at the production level of work.”

How to Smile and Train Slow

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” said Charlie. “You are going to lose eight hours of production today.”

My plan was to rotate eight operators off-line for one hour each. In that one hour, Charlie was going to coach the operator to perform data entry in real-time with a customer on the line. The current method was to take notes on paper and, later, enter the order in the computer. It was a delayed process that created mistakes and missing information.

Charlie was coaching the operators, I was coaching Charlie. Actually, I was training Charlie. Our first subject was Sonja.

“Good morning, Sonja,” I took the lead. “You have completed the training for the real-time data entry and then we throw you back on-line with real customers. I don’t know if that is fair, so today, we have you off-line for an hour. We will do the same work, but the customer won’t be real. In fact, I am going to be your customer, so if you need to stop and slow down, all you have to do is smile and we will slow down.

“Since, I am the customer, Charlie will be your coach. Every time Charlie sees something he really likes, he is going to stop you and tell you about the element you did well. Ready?” Sonja smiled.

“You smiled,” I said. “So, let’s take it slow. You have your phone script, let’s start at the top.”

Sonja started through the script. Twenty seconds in, I stopped her.

“Charlie, we just finished the first few seconds of the call. What were the elements that Sonja did well?” Charlie stared at me, intently. Though I had briefed him before we got started, he was still focusing on mistakes. In the first twenty seconds, Sonja had made no mistakes, so Charlie didn’t know what to say.

“Charlie, in the first few seconds, did Sonja stick exactly to the script?” Charlie nodded. “Then, tell Sonja what positive element she accomplished by sticking to the script.”

So, Charlie talked about consistency. And we went on, stopping every few seconds, so Charlie could make a positive comment about Sonja’s performance. The first call took 15 minutes. The second call took 12 minutes. The third took 8 minutes. The fourth took 7. Then 6 minutes. The last two calls hit our target at 4 minutes, and then we had coffee.

Why Train When There is No Time

“Look, we have a certain amount of work that has to be done around here and I can’t just sit by and watch these guys go so slow. They just don’t get it. I have been working with them for eight months.” Charlie stopped. He shook his head. He had been trying to get his telephone operators to go paperless. It wasn’t working.

“Did you know that you are a really good phone operator?” I asked.

“I know. I did it for six years before I came over to work here. I am the best. I just wish there was ten of me. This is a busy place.” Charlie seemed off the defensive, now.

“Why do you think the coaching is failing?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s not the coaching,” said Charlie. “It’s the training. We just have so much work to do that we don’t have time to train. It’s fast paced. These guys just can’t keep up. And the turnover on my team is killing me.”

“Charlie, what happens when a race car driver takes a curve too fast?”

“What?” said Charlie, off guard. He wanted to talk about operator through-put, and I was talking about race cars.

“Let’s say there is a straight-away coming up, where we can really blow it out, but we have to negotiate a turn first. What happens if the driver takes the turn too fast?”

“Well, he’s going to hit the wall.” Charlie responded.

“Charlie, sometimes, you have to slow down to go fast.” I waited to let that sink in. “Charlie, tomorrow I want you to schedule one operator per hour to be off the phones and back into coaching. See you at 8:00 sharp.”

Reinforcement and Mastery

“Sustained, discretionary effort. Especially when I am not around, that’s what I’m after,” Travis said. “The training period requires more of my attention and focus, but as time passes and new behavior becomes a competent skill, I have to change my focus.” Travis and I were exploring the role of the manager in all this, specifically looking at the role of positive reinforcement.

“In the beginning, as the manager, I have to overcome push-back and fear,” Travis continued. “But, as the new behavior turns into a competent skill, the issues change.”

“So, what does the manager do differently?” I asked.

“Lots of things, but let’s start with the easy stuff. In the beginning, I may reinforce good old-fashioned effort. But as time goes by and the effort becomes accomplished, I start to reinforce a specific sequence. As the specific sequence becomes accomplished, I may reinforce speed or efficiency.

“Look at my kid’s video game,” Travis smiled. “Game designers structure training sequences into the lower levels of the game. Leveling up requires certain fundamental skills. Once accomplished, the player is introduced to more complex scenarios where mastery of the fundamentals must already exist. Each level becomes increasingly complex. The schedules of reinforcement change, but the principle remains the same. What gets reinforced gets repeated.”

Not a Matter of Training

“And that’s where he stops. He can keep one or two machines busy, but we have fifteen machines and plenty of work for all of them.”

“Who was the supervisor before Ryan got hired?”

“Oh, he was a good guy, kept the place humming. Got promoted to our other plant in Michigan,” Drew explained.

“And there was no one else on the production crew that could take over?”

“No, a good technician doesn’t necessarily make for a good supervisor. It’s one thing to push out today’s work. Totally different to make sure all the machines are scheduled for each shift for the next three weeks. Lots of moving parts.”

“Can’t you train someone?” I probed.

“It’s not a matter of training,” Drew shook his head. “Some people have it and some people don’t.”

“So, what is it, that some people have and others don’t?” I wanted to know.
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Orientation kicks off this Friday. Registration is now open for Hiring Talent – 2013. This is the only program that blends Elliot Jaques’ Levels of Work with the Behavioral Interview. This 6-week online program is practical, hands-on, coached by Tom Foster. Follow this link for more information and registration.

Hiring Talent Summer Camp

It’s Summer. Time to go off to camp. We are gathering the next group for our online program Hiring Talent, which kicks off June 18, 2012. As the economy (slowly) recovers, your next hires are critical. This is not a time to be casual about the hiring process. Mistakes are too expensive and margins are too thin.

Purpose of this program – to train managers and HR specialists in the discipline of conducting more effective interviews in the context of a managed recruiting process.

Candidate Interview

How long is the program? We have streamlined the program so that it can be completed in six weeks. We have also added a self-paced feature so participants can work through the program even faster.

How do people participate in the program? This is an online program conducted by Tom Foster. Participants will be responsible for online assignments and participate in online facilitated discussion groups with other participants. This online platform is highly interactive. Participants will interact with Tom Foster and other participants as they work through the program.

Who should participate? This program is designed for Stratum III and Stratum IV managers and HR managers who play active roles in the recruiting process for their organizations.

What is the cost? The program investment is $499 per participant.

When is the program scheduled? Pre-registration is now open. The program is scheduled to kick-off June 18, 2012.

How much time is required to participate in this program? Participants should reserve approximately 2 hours per week. This program is designed so participants can complete their assignments on their own schedule anytime during each week’s assignment period.

Pre-register now. No payment due at this time.

June 18, 2012

  • Orientation

Week One – Role Descriptions – It’s All About the Work

  • What we are up against
  • Specific challenges in the process
  • Problems in the process
  • Defining the overall process
  • Introduction to the Role Description
  • Organizing the Role Description
  • Defining Tasks
  • Defining Goals
  • Identifying the Level of Work

Week Two

  • Publish and discuss Role Descriptions

Week Three – Interviewing for Future Behavior

  • Creating effective interview questions
  • General characteristics of effective questions
  • How to develop effective questions
  • How to interview for attitudes and non-behavioral elements
  • How to interview for Time Span
  • Assignment – Create a bank of interview questions for the specific role description

Week Four

  • Publish and discuss bank of interview questions

Week Five – Conducting the Interview

  • Organizing the interview process
  • Taking Notes during the process
  • Telephone Screening
  • Conducting the telephone interview
  • Conducting the face-to-face interview
  • Working with an interview team
  • Compiling the interview data into a Decision Matrix
  • Background Checks, Reference Checks
  • Behavioral Assessments
  • Drug Testing
  • Assignment – Conduct a face-to-face interview

Week Six

  • Publish and discuss results of interview process

Pre-registration is now open for this program. No payment is due at this time.

Let me know if you have questions.