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Look Before You Leap into a Learning Solution

leaping man


Most learning professionals have the can-do spirit of superheroes. Got a problem in the call center? Let’s run a class! Lab techs not following safety protocols? Let’s make an elearning course!

And it’s not just learning pros. How many times have department managers poked their heads in your office and said “I need a training course!”

Now, I’m going to share something and you may not want to hear it, but if you do, it will hugely accelerate learning in your organization and possibly your career as well.

Ready? Here it is….

Stop it. Just stop. Do NOT leap into action the moment you sense a need for learning.

Instead, follow the Lean Learning Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle.

The PDCA Cycle

PDCA is a powerful method that will guide you in creating or improving learning solutions. It helps you follow a logical process to continually improve until you meet the goal.
PDCA graphic

PLAN: The PLAN quadrant is where you figure out the root causes of the problem and if there’s a learning problem at all. There may not be. When you’re in this quadrant, you develop a problem statement(s), map the learnscape, create SMART goals, identify training waste to be eliminated and learning values to be added. Most importantly, you identify meaningful metrics to assess progress and gauge success. Your ultimate goal is mistake-free on-the-job performance.

DO: Now you can go ahead and create that workshop, elearning course, simulation or mobile app. The DO quadrant is where you create and deploy a new learning solution or make changes to fix one that isn’t working. If the learning is needed by a lot of employees, i test it on a small subgroup first, then proceed immediately to the CHECK quadrant.

CHECK: The CHECK quadrant is where you measure and study your results. And by results, I don’t mean “butts in seats” or how many smiley faces your instructors got on their evaluations. What you want to study is: did your learning solution achieve the goal, i.e., mistake-free performance? Were your assumptions correct? Did other factors get in the way? Or why did things go so well?

ACT: If you met the goal, HIGH FIVE! Roll it out to a bigger group of learners. (And after you do, it’s a good idea to check results again just to make sure that new variables haven’t been introduced.) If your solution did NOT meet the goal, that’s okay. Just go back to the PLAN stage and run through the cycle again, as many times as you need until you get the results you want.

The Lean Learning Bottom Line

The PDCA cycle is the key to Lean’s most fundamental concept: continuous improvement. So, don’t lose that superhero enthusiasm for solving problems with learning solutions. Just direct that energy equally across all four PDCA quadrants and in the right order.

Let’s Ride!

Todd Hudson, Head Maverick

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