Lean generates powerful results because it orients all learning activities around what we call the Four Pillars of Lean Knowledge Transfer. They are:

Pillar #1 – Learner Focus

Traditional training makes it all about the trainer, and even though a lot of pros are making the shift, the concept of fire hosing learners is still pervasive. Lean demands that the focus swing around until it’s solidly on the learner.

To apply this principle, when you’re designing learning solutions, ask yourself these questions:

  • What does the learner REALLY need to know?
  • What does the learner ALREADY know?
  • How does the learner learn best?

Pillar #2 – Speed

With the velocity of change in today’s workplace, you don’t have the luxury of spending a ton of time creating learning solutions. (And as soon as you do, the learning needs will change, right?) Learners are impatient. They don’t want to struggle while they wait for you to create a learning solution.

To apply this principle, ask yourself:

  • Do you measure how long it takes you to solve learning problems?
  • How long does it take you to respond to a learning need? Weeks? Months?
  • How are you decreasing the time it takes you to respond?

Pillar #3 – Simplicity

People only want to learn precisely what they need, at the time they need it. They want the fewest steps and just enough information and they don’t want to search for it or sit through hours of training.

Simplicity implies learning solutions that are the most efficient and effective. And note that, to achieve Pillar #2, Speed, you must achieve Simplicity.

To apply Simplicity, ask yourself:

  • What steps can you eliminate from your instructional design and delivery processes?
  • How can you make the learner’s experience free of training waste?
  • Are you overreaching? Or are you delivering content in small chunks that people can consume in small bites during a busy work day?

Pillar #4 – Mistake-Free Performance

When you focus learning solutions on creating mistake-free employee performance, you will deliver measurable results, not just learning content. And, yes, we know this is a stretch, but if you set a high bar, you’ll try new things and find solutions you never dreamed existed.

One other comment about mistake-free performance. If your organization has already implemented Lean in other areas, you’re no doubt aware that the ramifications of mistakes in Lean environments are more serious. Lean systems don’t (and shouldn’t) tolerate mistakes, which show up right away and “stop the line” (andon). As a training professional, one of your most-valued skills will be your ability to help eliminate and prevent employee mistakes through learning.

To apply this principle, ask yourself:

  • What are the key performance indicators and outcomes in your organization? How does management measure success?
  • How can improving learning positively affect those key performance indicators?
  • How will you measure and ensure that employee performance has improved?

Apply the Four Pillars and Watch Learning Accelerate

This article is, of course, a greatly simplified version of the Four Pillars of Lean Learning. Our Black and Green Belt Lean Knowledge Transfer certifications offer much more detail along with specific action plans and Lean tools.

Examine every last detail of Lean Knowledge Transfer and you’ll see these Four Pillars in every aspect, from eliminating Training Waste to adding Learning Value, from designing a small Lean Knowledge Transfer project to retooling your organization’s entire L&D function.

If you adopt them as your own and apply them well, I promise you’ll see a huge acceleration in learning performance.

Let’s Ride!

Todd Hudson, Head Maverick