By Prof. Vicente Falconi, FALCONI’s Founding Partner
I was traveling through South Korea once, during one of our research trips to find the best methods and managerial techniques adaptable to Brazilian conditions. While at the hotel, in the morning, on my way out, I noticed some “singing”, which sounded more like three or four people praying. I was curious and went to find out what it was. The hotel manager and three employees were repeating a standard procedure and discussing it. I asked around and I found out that every day in the morning, if some anomaly had happened in the previous day, the main task of the manager was to discuss the incident and review with the team the standard operational procedures related to the case. The goal was to prevent that kind of anomaly from ever happening again.
Standardization, Operational Training, Supervision, On-the-job Training, and Auditing are the source of operational excellence. In the past 35 years of experience in hundreds of Brazilian companies, it became very clear to us that the origin of all operational problems of a company is the lack of effective training. We fail exactly in that which is cheaper to do.
We noticed, in the course of our lives, that companies have been plagued with all kinds of training, most of which are innocuous, unfocused and only increase spending, leading to an inefficient use of people’s time and not adding value. This sort of thing has reached a point that, still in many companies, people resist to take part in these trainings.
We identified two types of problems associated with these trainings. The first is the concept of focus. It is a very simple concept, but our practice has shown that it is difficult to assimilate. I will give you an example to try to convey the concept. About six months ago we went to a company to have a conversation with the CEO, at his request. To start the conversation, we asked him what were his two or three priority problems (one who has more priorities than that, ends up not solving any). Afterwards, some time later, we realized that each director had their own action plans, which were established without taking into account the needs of the President. We then did, among other things, a written review criticizing the Training Plan.
The HR people reacted badly and said: “How can you be against training people?” To which we argued: “We are not against it, we even think that you could invest twice the current amount. However, we are not sure the current plan is addressed, in a focused way, to the people related to the priority issues of the President, nor that it covers, specifically, the technical issues that will help him solve those problems”. Every Action Plan, in any area of business, should always be designed from the priority goals and problems of the organization, by analyzing the process leading to those bad results. Everything else is a waste of time and money.
The second training related problem is a lack of sensitivity to see the difference between Explicit and Tacit. We explain: Explicit Knowledge is equivalent to giving a lecture on how to ride a bicycle. This is an easy thing that any inexperienced person can do, provided the person is willing to follow a lesson plan, and it is highly profitable for schools and consultancies. On the other hand, Tacit Knowledge can only be acquired by actually riding the bicycle. This type of education has to be done in a person by person basis. It is hard to do, it requires skilled and experienced instructors and has a low profitability. People are either not interested or not competent to do it. Explicit is related to the mind and to concepts (perhaps this is why so many people talk but do not act). Tacit is related to skills. There is a wide chasm between Explicit and Tacit.
In certain situations, and for some people, it is possible to teach the Explicit, and expect the person to go back to the workplace and perform the task, thus acquiring the Tacit. However, in most cases, this does not happen. More often than you think, the company sends their staff for training and nothing happens afterwards. The Tacit is missing.
Every training must be provided with the goal to ensure that the desired results can be achieved. We realized that some time ago, and we have substantially decreased the teaching activities in the classroom (Explicit) and dramatically increased the tutorial activities, i.e., our consultants go to the company and perform the task together with the people, until they are confident to do it by themselves. In addition, to ensure focus, we take the goals of the managers as our own, to assess the performance of the consultant and of our own Organization. This policy of aiming at the company’s priority goals and ensuring the acquisition of tacit knowledge (or skills) is the source of our success and the success of our customers. This was one of the great lessons left to us by the Japanese.
Operational Training (which is provided to a person who is new on the job) is based on Standard Operating Procedures and should be given with special care, if possible, at the workplace and by someone knowledgeable of the function. It is training for Tacit Knowledge. Such training should be comprehensive, simulate the actual conditions of the job, and be audited in a way that ensures the possibility of certifying the trainee.
Still regarding Tacit, after Operational Training, Supervision by the Management (being Directors, Managers or Supervisors) should be exercised in a way that allows operational deficiencies to be perceived and corrective actions taken. These Supervision Activities are not performed by most Directors and Managers that we know.
The true value of On-the-job Training follows from the Supervision Activities. On-the-job Training is that which is performed by the Management, or under its command, and given to people who have already been trained but have committed a mistake (as in the aforementioned case of the hotel). In this case, training is guaranteed to be focused and given by someone knowledgeable of the task in hand. Besides all that, an Audit should be performed to ensure the Management that the procedures are being followed.
A boss should never complain about the actions of a member of his team. He would be confessing his own inability to train this member. He is solely responsible for the skills of the people who work with him.
Our Operational Training is deficient. Almost no Supervision Activity and little On-the-job Training is performed in Brazil. Our companies and the Government lose fortunes due to the lack of understanding that no one is born knowing and that people grow in their ability to perform things necessary to their survival.
Competitive and excellent organizations cannot exist without competitive and excellent people.
Published on July 12, 2016, on LinkedIn Pulse.