Most organisations of repute have a training calendar with mandatory training programmes and a fairly exhaustive portfolio of useful training courses. Programmes with the greatest value, have training embedded in the work way. By this I mean that the training programmes focus on the skills and tools necessary to support day to day operations and have an institutionalised system of facilitation and review in the course of daily work. This was true of the Xerox Leadership Through Quality Programme that established the quality movement in Xerox in the late 80’s and 90’s and lead to Xerox earning the title of the American Samurai.
The Leadership Through Quality (LTQ) Programme had at it’s core ,rigorous training conducted by excellent trainers ,for each Family Group i.e. a Manager and all employees reporting to him . Topics covered among others were, Meeting Principles, Communication skills, Problem Solving skills etc. In Problem Solving we understood the importance of defining and agreeing to the problem statement, some thing that seems obvious but in practice group members are left groping with different perceptions of the actual problem .After establishing what is the problem,then going on to where is the problem, since when and how grave is the problem etc, backed by data analysis leads on to likely causes of the problem ;and the Five Why Method helps establish the Root Causes .
Likewise we were trained on recognising the next in line customers and the importance of understanding the “customers’ specifications” and establishing “suppliers’ specifications”. A process of two way communication between “customer” and “supplier” establishes a mutually accepted understanding of all deliverables for the task on hand at the very beginning and ensures getting completion right the first time. All these look mundane, but look around you and see how frequently these simple rules are flaunted leading to rework and wastages. In Xerox the class room training was continually re-enforced by a network of Quality Specialist groomed from within each team ,who ensured all meetings and group work followed the LTQ principles. Every manager was expected to be a role model in application of the LTQ principles and was, as a practice , reviewed by his Manager in the application of quality tools in the course of his work.
Such a regime enabled the quality principles to be ingrained in an employee’s work way and was not restricted to just the quality network. In fact Operations Mangers often turned out to be the most proficient in the practical use of quality tools. One of my team members went on to earn a Six Sigma Black Belt, just one of 30 or 40 odd in the Xerox Global Team and was deputed globally for Six Sigma training and project inspection. Quite commendable, for a person with limited education and command of English. He went on to become the Exec Director heading the Customer Care Operations, a position I once held in Xerox.
Likewise the training programmes around the Self Managed Work Group (SMWG) programme was grounded in the tools and processes required of a self managed group to function effectively in day to day operations. Managers of SMWG teams were taken through an intensive programme titled Manager As a Quality Leader. A programme designed to convert a Manager from control orientation to a Facilitator of Self Managed Teams. Team members were taken through a programme , called very appropriately in UK as “Hot Housing” and just Team Development Programme in India , and were trained in tools they would use in empowered work groups.
As in the case of the LTQ movement, the SMWG movement dramatically increased the quality of the work way and enabled team members to be groomed for higher responsibilities. In retrospect the SMWG movement turned out to have far reaching impact on the lives of the employees and many of them went on to take positions of responsibility not just in Xerox but in several other companies in the IT , Office Automation and Telecom sectors . Such is the power of training embedded in the work way .