Unconscious competence

Training myth: People do as you say.
Training reality: People do as you do.

Training is a big subject that gets minimum attention. We all know it is a necessity, but quite often it is treated as a necessary evil.

How often have you heard “Training is easy. Just have each person trained by his or her immediate supervisor.” This concept can be called the “trickle down effect.” It is a viable training technique, but not as a standalone function.

Quality training requires defining goals to be accomplished by organized plans. It is necessary to define the core competencies you want each person to possess and then design a training program to make this happen. Make sure you have a means to measure the success of your training program. Did your people achieve these core competencies and how well did they do so? What is the difference between Mabel and Malcolm? How do you determine the validity and importance of that difference? Train for tangible results, for that is the final judgment of how good your training really is.

Most organizations use OJT: on-the-job-training. A supervisor trains the people who work for him or her, and this concept goes up the line of management, or down the line depending upon the organization. You can choose to use “trickle up” or “trickle down.” Someone somewhere has to have a comprehensive understanding of each job's impact on every other job in the team, group, division, company, organization: The Big Picture.

Unfortunately for many organizations, training is a staff job, not a line job. It does not have bottom line responsibility, but it should.

How often have you been in a restaurant or fast food place and been sure you could run that place better than its current management? I bet that today's tight labor market reinforces your opinion of your superior restaurant management skills.

Click here to enlarge image

Can you cook so that everyone's menu selection is ready at the same time? Can you carry eight plates at the same time, clean or dirty? How do you like second-hand smoke? How well do you cope when one-half of your help do not show up for work? Do you know the Heimlich Maneuver?

Are you prepared to run your cleanroom operation under similar circumstances? Who is qualified to do what? Who is not? Who will train them? What skills do they need in what order? Are they prepared for an emergency?

Anne Marie Dixon, managing partner, Cleanroom Management Associates, who has trained cleanroom operating personnel for years has an expression that is appropriate for all of us. She trains people to achieve a level of unconscious competence. No, that is not an oxymoron. Think about it. Does it apply to how you train your people?

Hank Rahe, a CleanRooms magazine columnist, suggests that you should find the simplest, easiest procedure to get a job done, because if you do not, your people will find and do it anyway. Part of your on-the-job training goal should be to make sure you do not pass your bad habits on to your trainees. Remember, people are much more likely to do as you do, not as you say.

We retain only about 10 percent of verbal information. When visual aids are used, our retention goes up to about 50 percent. But when people participate, their retention goes up to 90 percent! Your challenge is to be sure that what they retain is what is best for the job to be done-its core competencies.

Given the fact that the best training is by example, how do we make this happen? Have clear and specific objectives. Have the ability to measure and evaluate the results of your training efforts.

Go into any cleanroom today and you will find a polyglot of language and culture difference. Yet the product being produced must be the same from unit to unit, hour to hour, shift to shift, day to day.

Training is a continuous job. A line job. It is not just a classroom session once in awhile. Such sessions are beneficial and supportive, but they should not be standalone functions. Internal and external training sessions are valuable, but daily interface helps achieve “unconscious competence” much more effectively. Training must be an on-going effort, especially in today's tight labor market where cleanroom personnel turnover is high, the work environment confining, and the labor force consists of varied cultures and languages.

Those who have served in the military will remember boot camp like it was yesterday. Certain skills were ingrained in you. Do you remember being marched into a closed building, being shown how to don a gas mask and then experiencing a cloud of tear gas and the scramble to get your gas mask on properly and quickly? Other life-long skills are taught in boot camp, such as how to fight fire, how to clean latrines, how to clean, wax and buff floors, how to take care of your buddies, how to survive.

It is easy to become complacent. I have been in professional sales for more than 40 years. I always make a list of items to discuss with a client before I see him. Recently, I relaxed and thought “I'm good, I can wing it.” I had one shot at this client. I goofed. I accomplished only a third of what I should have. The old adage “make a plan, work the plan” applies to every endeavor, no matter who you are or how long you have been there.

Those of you in the healthcare industry already know that the #1 reason for FDA recalls is deviation from current GMPs. This can be avoided with proper training and attention to detail.

Improved performance and productivity come from enhancing skills. This is particularly true in the confining environment of a cleanroom. Expensive cleanroom space and production equipment are a waste if the personnel are not able to optimize their skills. Training with a good roadmap provides this optimization. Make your training a bottom line responsibility.

Be sure you pass on the good habits of “unconscious competence.”

Richard A. Matthews is founder of Filtration Technology Inc. (Greensboro, NC) and president of Micron Video International.


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account. Comments won't automatically be posted to your social media accounts unless you select to share.