Sunday, December 14, 2014

A3: Building a Population of Teachers

"That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well."-Abraham Lincoln

Ever notice how often the best performers don't always make the best coaches? There are, in fact, so many examples of people in the world of sport who were elite, hall of fame performers, but couldn't coach their way out of a wet paper bag (the great Ted Williams is one example).

It is often quite simply the case where a great hitter in baseball might not be the best person to teach someone else, because simply, they don't really know how they do it themselves! (this is a great point because if a lifetime .300 hitter was capable of teaching how he does it, all you would need is one on your team, and he can teach everyone else how to hit .300!)

In other cases, the person who is good at what he or she does simply doesn't have the patience to teach others, because they have a difficult time understanding why others might not "get it". 

Often we "promote" people into supervisor or manager positions based on their demonstrated ability to do their job well, only to be disappointed when they don't coach as well as they played. When this happens, we need to ask ourselves if we truly developed and prepared them for this role.  

Just because someone is good at something doesn't mean they are capable of teaching or coaching it.  It is important however, that the people who are very good at their jobs understand that it is important that they participate in efforts to standardize their processes.

Standardization means "the best we have so far". It means we do things "our" way, not "my" way. Use A3 and video to standardize processes, with the goal of developing a more flexible work force. Simply put an A3 on the board called "Standardization of Process X", and select someone to lead it (a supervisor or team leader). Make a video using an iPad or even a phone of the expert doing the process. The A3 team would consist of the leader, the "expert", anyone else who might do the process, and someone who is good at editing video and doing voice over. Show the video on a big screen and invite anyone who does the process to watch it together. The objective is for these people to gain agreement on exactly what is "our way". Use the process of A3 to build a library of "how to" videos to ensure standardization and help train new people. Think about why we would use A3 to do this......we need to leverage diversity, gain agreement and then close (TEACH) the A3. The first video might take some time to get it the way you want it, but like anything else, the more you do it, the better people get at it.

At my company, we used A3 to develop these videos to standardize (and then improve) & teach processes. Keep in mind that sometimes the expert wants to go on vacation, so it is nice when another expert or two can step right in and do just as well. 

The real benefit of this was a long list of people capable and willing to teach others. It is said that the ultimate compliment you can give any organization is that it is a "learning organization". To achieve this, we need to build a population of people who are constantly learning AND teaching. 


  1. Bill,
    Great definition of the word Standardization!
    "the best we have so far", perfectly captures the need to continuously improve. This exemplifies the innovative spirit that a well-tuned Lean environment fosters.

    Hope you don’t mind, but I am going to “steal” this wonderful definition.


  2. Thank you so much for that Lance. You can steal it as long as I can keep using the Wayback Machine thinking!!!!!
    Best regards!!!!!