Organizations provide education for two major purposes: awareness and application. Awareness education familiarizes people with the concepts. Application education helps people apply the concepts. There is a need for both awareness and application education, but which approach you should use depends on your objectives. 

Awareness Education
Public seminars and classes can be effective for creating awareness, for networking, and for sending someone to a nice location as a perk. However, this type of education is not very effective for “making it happen;” that is for creating a team of people with the same vision and with the energy to make change happen safely, quickly and economically. Of course, some organizations send large groups of people to the same public seminar(s) to ensure that everyone has the same vision, but that is very expensive and still not as effective as education specifically focused on your problem at your site.

At first, one should be careful about exposing novices to too much diversity of opinion. Of course some difference of opinion and approach is good, but it is easy for inexperienced people to have trouble distinguishing between minor and major differences. However, once you have hands-on experience, becoming exposed to varying ideas is beneficial. Public seminars, networking, tours, professional societies, and books are excellent sources for this diversity. 

Application (or Implementation) Education
Education to “make it happen” seems to fall into two camps. Let's examine each approach with the objective of implementation in mind.

Focus on the Technology
One of the most widespread approaches to education, with implementation in mind, is to select appropriate courseware, provide education beginning at the top echelons, and then cascade the education down to lower levels. And, then wait for the results.

The advantages of this method are that it:

  • Is easy to administer,
  • Lends itself to people attending public courses as budgets and time permit,
  • Requires only one sale of the program by the provider of instruction,
  • Is profitable for the instructor (if external), and
  • Is easy to measure progress in terms of percentage of people taught.

The disadvantages are that it is expensive, and results are usually marginal at best.

With this approach people are taught first, and then instructed to go find somewhere to apply what they have learned. Mass education may be appropriate for enhancing awareness, but is it very expensive and ineffective for making specific changes happen.

I refer to this approach as the “cowboy” approach. You round up the “critters”, put them into a corral, brand them, and then send them on their way. 

Focus on the Need
Necessity is the mother of invention. It is also the mother of learning. Making change happen works much better if first you establish the need, second form a team to address the issue, and then third provide the technical education that specifically addresses the needs of the team. 

For example, there is little benefit in sending someone to a course to learn the many features of Microsoft Office, then hoping they will buy a computer and apply the knowledge. Even if they already have a computer, there is not much benefit to teach them all of the features at once when most will not be needed for months, if ever. It works best to have a problem, provide the computer, and then offer the education tailored specifically to the need. Teach what is important now and allow time to apply it. Then, as new situations arise, provide additional instruction and learning resources. In other words, teach “just in time.”

Six Sigma Education
Some organizations have an extensive and lengthy Six Sigma curriculum. The potential Black Belt is exposed to dozens and dozens of problem solving tools and several projects. This approach has some merit if the objective is to quickly develop a few broad experts within the organization. Nevertheless, this approach is much like Microsoft Office analogy above. What they had a need to know for their project they will remember best; the rest they will hopefully remember certain tools exist and know where to look them up. 

However, in Dr. Ishikawa's estimation, 95% of all problems can be solved using the seven basic TQC tools, out of a hundred or more of choices. As with Lean, PCI focuses on solving the problem, not implementing all of the techniques whether they apply or not. The quickest and most cost effective problem solving approach follows these steps:

  1. Identify a problem, 
  2. Charter a team to address it,
  3. Tailor the education to fit the need, and 
  4. Have the expert follow-up with the team periodically to ensure they are applying the tools correctly and are making satisfactory progress. 

Over time, the more problem solving teams one works on, the more tools they will become exposed to.

While focusing on the technology may be appropriate for a few people at the outset of the Six Sigma journey, most others in the organization should follow an education path focused on the need. 

With the exception of some public speeches given as a courtesy for professional societies, most of the work done by PCI follows the “Focus on the Needs” approach. The techniques we teach are not an end in themselves. What we teach is selected, tailored, blended, and adapted to help you solve competitive issues. We focus on solving a problem or realizing an opportunity, and in the process you will learn and apply the appropriate technologies. 



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