Saturday, August 2, 2014

LEAN Concept: The Internship Program

It has been said that there is no bigger compliment you can give any company than to recognize them as a true learning organization. Learning doesn't happen on it's own. It needs to be a conscious, thought-out strategy. Do we learn from our mistakes? Do we implement countermeasures to prevent them from happening again? Do we make an investment in every single person in the company to continuously develop them?  One of the best things about doing SCRUM using A3 is the standardized learning and sharing. After an A3 team works it's way through the DMAIC (define-measure-analyze-improve-control), they share what they've learned (and how they learned it) with their peers. Before A3, I always felt like we were solving the same problems over and over.

Here is one example. Nothing would frustrate me more than paying for someone's education, and then they leave. So many companies are generous enough to pay (or supplement payment) for continuing education for their employees. The TPS concept of "Continuously Develop Your People and Partners" is at work here. Our hope for every single person in our business is that they grow and prosper. Perhaps someone who works in shipping has an ambition to work in IT some day. Maybe that person decides to take some night classes to work toward that goal. Or, maybe a machine operator wants to be a quality inspector some day. Now, you've invested time and energy to develop these people. Wouldn't it be a shame if they had to go somewhere else to realize their potential? Wouldn't it be smart to allow that person to do a 10 hour "internship" in their own company. All you need is a willing student and a willing teacher.

The internship goes up on your A3 board as an improvement that lasts 11 weeks, start to finish. The mentor(s) and mentee agree to get together 1 hour per week for 10 weeks. The mentor(s) plan the curriculum for the 10 week internship. For those who argue that 1 hour per week is too much time "away", I would argue that we spend more than 1 hour per week talking about sports, American Idol or the weather. We spend more than 1 hour a week in the restroom. For those who would argue that 1 hour per week is not enough, I would argue that you would be surprised at how much can be learned in 1 hour if both the student and teacher are prepared for that hour. Over the 10 weeks, the "student" is generously given a mix of theory and practice. The teacher is showing the student what is involved in doing their job. At the end of the ten weeks, the student "closes" the A3 by getting up in front of everyone and telling them what he or she has learned. 

Several of my clients have done this. Most recently, an operator spent 10 hours in his own company learning all about IT (he is taking night classes in computer science). He learned about networking, programming, hardware, software installations, passwords, maintenance, etc. all in his OWN company. The next step is for him to be on A3 teams as someone from IT, helping A3 leaders solve real problems in his own company (still an hour or less per week). If he gets stuck, he goes to see his mentor. The beauty of it all is that he begins to gradually be perceived as an IT person, as well as an operator on the plant floor. After he gets his degree, and if there is an opening in IT, who better than a valued, tenured employee who already fits in?

Companies have done this for people who want to be tool makers, accountants, marketers and lab technicians. 

Continuously develop your people and partners. It is a lot more fun than it sounds.

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