Tag Archives: competence

Training Does Not Create Competence

The training wasn’t working, but Crystal was looking in the wrong place.

The skill was simple. Enter the data into the computer during the phone call, not after the call. The software was in place, the training program was clear, with exercises and interaction.

The problem wasn’t the training, the problem was AFTER the training. Once training was complete, the operators were literally abandoned. They were introduced to the skill, performed the skill two or three times during the training, but afterwards, NOTHING. Only one day later, all the operators abandoned the new process and were back to taking notes on paper during the call.

“Crystal, I want you to develop some practice sessions following the training. Create some scripts based on the ones used in training. Then have the operators practice, practice, practice.

“And you are going to have to take off your training hat and put on your coaching hat. Your training is only intended to get this process started. Before you let them go, you have to bring them to a level of competence. Competence comes through practice and coaching. Training comes before the behavior. Coaching comes after the behavior.”

How to Coach Increasing Competence

“Sustained, discretionary effort. That’s what we are after,” I said. “The training period requires more attention and focus from the manager. But as time passes and new behaviors become competent skills, the reinforcement changes.

“In the beginning, the manager has to overcome push-back and fear of failure. But, as the new behavior turns to competence, the issues change.”

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

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

“Let’s go back to our example of the video game. Modern game designers structure training sequences into the lower levels of the game. Leveling up requires certain fundamental skills be demonstrated. 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.”

Biggest Room in the World

What is the struggle? I want to know the pain. Often, the largest pain is the crucible for the largest gain. The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.

Don’t avoid the struggle. I know it hurts. It appears debilitating. Lean in. These are the areas of greatest opportunity. Context is important because the struggle that is causing pain looms large when you are up against it. Step back. Place the event of your struggle into a longer time frame.

  • What does the pain teach us?
  • What are the most effective moves now to change the painful circumstances going forward?
  • What are the most difficult moves that must be made now?
  • What must we learn to make those difficult moves?
  • How long will it take to learn those new skills?
  • How long will it take to master those new skills?
  • What is the long term impact of that mastery?
  • What will be different about you when that happens?

The Link Between Necessity and Competence

“I thought about what you asked. What is it that I have to do? What is it that I have to do to become the manager, to become the person I want to be?” she started.

“And, where did you arrive?” I asked.

“I am back to competence. To be the manager I want to be, requires competence.”

“So, you have to become competent in the skills of management, you have to become competent in thinking like a leader?” I asked.

Emily paused to reflect.

“More than a decade ago, I took up the sport of cycling,” I said. “The more I rode, the higher my level of fitness, the more competent I became at the skills of cadence and wind resistance. In short, I did the things I had to do to reach a specific level of accomplishment. It was not a choice. To reach my goal, I had to do those things. Without those things, I would never have reached the goal.

“What is interesting to me,” I continued, “is that level of accomplishment has become who I am. And to stay at that level requires me to continue. It is now one of my internal disciplines.

“I suspect, as the manager you want to be, you will have to practice in much the same way. You will have to become competent at the skills of management. You will do what you have to do to reach a specific level of competence. It will not be a choice. To reach your goal, you will have to do those things. Without those things, you will never reach your goal.

“That level of accomplishment, as a manager, will become who you are. And to stay at that level will require you to continue to practice. It will become one of your internal disciplines. Competency requires no less.”
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In the USA, this week we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a time to be with family and give gratitude for the lives we have. And, we might eat a little turkey. See you next week. -Tom

The Role of Necessity

“But, I am not sure I know what my team wants,” Emily replied. “I am not sure what my team will find necessary.”

“Even more important is,” I interrupted, “Do you know what you want? As a manager, what do you want? As a manager, what are the things you have to do? These are not things you might like to do, or things that might make you a better manager. These are things that you have to do, to be the kind of manager you want to be. It is only when those things become necessary that those things will become ingrained into your personal discipline, to make you who you are.

“As a manager, what is necessary? What do you have to do to be successful?”

People Only Do What They Have to Do

Just a quick note. Management Blog celebrates the anniversary of its beginning, Nov 15, 2004. Tomorrow begins its 14th year. Still having fun. “If there is no fun, there is no passion. If there is no passion, there is no success.” -Peter Schutz (passed away Oct 29, 2017).
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“Yes, there’s more,” I replied. “Our discussions led us through stupidity, incompetence, competence and mastery. But, just because your team becomes competent, does not necessarily draw superior performance.”

“But you said incompetence was the reason for most failures in the workplace,” Emily protested.

“I said there were two factors that determined success or failure, and competence is one of the factors.”

“So, what is the other?” Emily asked.

Necessity,” I replied. Emily sat back knowing she was in for another brain stretch. I smiled and she leaned forward ready to listen.

“Let’s say you had a team that was perfectly competent to perform at a high level, yet the results were lacking. What would you consider to be the problem?”

Emily thought briefly. “I would say, it’s probably attitude or motivation.”

“Consider that accomplishment, producing results, can be traced back to two factors, competence and necessity. If we know that competence is not the factor, how could necessity explain the shortfall?”

“Do you mean that people only do what they have to do?” she asked.

“Exactly. People only do what they have to do, to get what they want or to avoid what they don’t want,” I replied.

“So my people will only do what I want, if I make it necessary for them to do it?”

“If only we had that power,” I said. “We don’t get to make that decision for other people. Only you can make that decision in your life, to do what is necessary, to get what you want. The successful manager is the one who taps into the necessity in the team.”

The Link Between Morale and Competence

“So, if morale suddenly improved as the speed of the line improved, what changed? What changed inside your team?” I asked.

“Remember, before, we were talking about competence and incompetence,” Emily thought out loud. “I didn’t believe you when you said the problem was incompetence. But now, I see such an improvement, I think you were right.”

“So, what changed inside their heads?” I asked again.

“Before, the team didn’t know the daily target number. That single number became a tool for them to get better. They became more competent.”

“They are on their way to mastery,” I said. That word mastery hung out there like a full moon. Inescapable.

“I never thought of it that way.”

“Put the two together.”

Competence and mastery,” she said.

“Why do people perform at a high level?” I asked.

“Because they can,” she replied. “Give them the tools to become competent and you will see progress.” Emily smiled. It was beginning to sink in.

“At least, that is half the story,” I announced.

“There’s more?” Emily asked.

Not a Problem of Morale

Emily’s white board had been in place for three days when I got the call. The tone in her voice was quite cheery.

“My team is absolutely amazing,” she reported. “The first day was tough because production was pretty much the same as before. The daily target was 175 units and we only managed to produce 86. I thought the team would implode, but when I got to work the next day, they were all there early and the line was already running. Instead of shutting down the line for break, they took breaks one at a time to keep things moving. We still only got 110 units, but they saw the improvement. Yesterday, they changed a couple of more things and we produced 140 units.

“What’s funny,” she continued. “All I have done, as a manager, is post the target number on the board in the morning and make comments about their improvement. All the changes, they have done on their own. It’s like everything has shifted. This is no longer my problem. They are working to fix it like it is their problem.”

“And, what about your morale problem?” I asked.

Emily’s face curled into a smile, “Oh, I don’t think the problem was morale.”

A Simple Feedback Loop

Emily was already in the plant. Out on the line, she tacked up a small white board. She wrote -Today’s target – 175 units. She tied the marker to a string and let it dangle.

She called a quick team huddle. “Listen up,” she said. “Instead of waiting for the QC report, I want to start tracking finished units before they leave the line.” She explained the tick marks and assigned a team member to count the marks at 10:00am, 2:00pm and 4:00pm.

I showed up during lunch. “Emily, I am glad you were in class for our discussion of control systems and feedback loops.”

“Yeah, we were going to talk about that, but all we did was talk about my morale problem.”

“Not exactly,” I replied. “Think about this. Before today, you had a dysfunctional control system. The results from the QC department were delayed by one day and the people who could fix the problem weren’t given accurate information.

“Today, you successfully converted your troublesome control system into a helpful feedback loop. The team (who can fix the problem) now gets accurate information in real time without delay.”

Deliver the Truth

Ernesto and Emily were locked in deep discussion. Emily was learning as much about herself as she was about the problem she brought to class.

I’m the problem?” she asked.

Ernesto shook his head. “Yes, and that’s the good news,” he replied. “The one thing you have the most control of is you. Your team is consistently short on daily unit production. But to protect morale, you never delivered the bad news. You never delivered the truth, at least not the straight truth.

“What do I do?” she asked.

“Tell them the truth,” Ernesto replied. “If they don’t know what the problem is, how can they fix it?”

“What if I tell them and they quit or get mad at me?”

“People are not that fragile, people can handle the truth. It’s the load that usually comes with the truth that people have trouble with. Look, Emily, all they need to know on Tuesday are two things. What is Tuesday’s target and as the day progresses, how are they doing toward the target?”

“So, how do I tell them, without the load?” Emily asked.

Ernesto was quick to respond. “Get a white board and in the morning, write down the target number for the day. When they finish a unit, have them put a tick mark on the board. Assign someone to add them up at 10, 2 and 4. They will figure it out.”