Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Obstacles to becoming a LEARNING Organization #1 Too Busy

Last time I suggested making an investment of at least 1 hour of training or teaching every employee in your company EVERY week. The overall objective is to transform your business into a learning organization, and the payoff is in people solving problems together every day. Learning is hard work that takes conditioning just like physical work. The more we work at learning, the better we get at it.

But who has time for all this learning. Not many organizations have spare people these days, and people are busy trying to satisfy customers. Unfortunately, lean thinkers know that 90+% of any process is one or more of the 8 wastes. So, naturally, our people are too busy doing waste. Unless we teach them to see it in their own processes and systematically, continuously, eliminate it.

In my company, when we started our lean journey, we always had trouble getting people to stop working for an hour to learn together. We called this "being a mouse on a wheel". Working feverishly, but not moving forward! Can't we all spend one hour per week working on our business vs. working in our business? People would come running into our weekly class late, out of breath, complaining they didn't have time. Very rarely could we get EVERYONE together in the beginning, because someone was always busy working through waste to get stuff done. Finally, it occurred to me that we can all go on vacation for an entire week, and when we come back, our business is still there! Thriving! Doing fine! Without us! So I asked everyone to pretend they were taking a one hour vacation each week. Then I convinced them that being out of breath and working through chaos is not a positive thing. Start acknowledging the people in your company that get the work done WITHOUT the shortness of breath. Those are the folks who are "masters of their domain". When you start your learning sessions, take attendance and keep track of who came late (this is a "respect for people" thing). Do it in class and call out names. People need to know it is important to you.


  1. I love lean, the whole philosophy. "One hour per week vacation " to learn is fine, just need to carefully manage the time spent meeting on the A-3's. If a person is on more than one A-3 it can grow to 2 or 3 hours per week and may get disruptive.

  2. Bill,
    I think you've given me great ammunition for an upcoming blog. This is a common concern! Thank you for reading my drivel!