Now we get to the central theme of this series. If I have a procedure whose relevance has been established through task identification, and I have written it in such a way as to enable learning, then it is time to put the procedure to work!
Which begs the question: can a worker learn how to perform a task simply by reading a procedure? In my past, I was very new in a position, writing procedures to describe mixing equipment and performing training classes based on the procedures. One of the veteran operators in the mixing area commented to me, “You know Tim, you can’t just read a procedure and then know how to do the task.”
I was shocked! I was offended!
No, actually, I knew this going in. A procedure in and of itself does not make a training program. Of course I would never expect a new operator to come in, read a procedure (even one I had written) and be able to perform the task. But the procedure is a critical element of training, if it is used appropriately in a training structure.
In my work, I developed and taught what I called a “Seven-step” sequence of training. It is based on the principles of adult learning and also on an understanding of how the method of information presentation affects retention. I won’t detail the Seven Steps here (after all, I have to keep something to sell), but I will state that the first step is to have the trainee read the procedure.
Many of you who are familiar with the statistics on retention will note that reading achieves a retention level of about 10%. This would tend to suggest the procedure-reading step is a waste of time. However, I do not intend or expect the operator will memorize much (if any) of the procedure.
But the procedure serves a vital purpose. For one, it sets the boundaries for training. It also fixes the content of training. The procedure, in a very real sense, forms a contract between the organization, the trainer and the trainee. From an organizational point of view, it states “this is what comprises proper and complete performance of the task.” To the trainee, it contains everything he/she needs to learn to achieve proficiency. And to the trainer, it contains everything I need to teach the trainee.
I cannot emphasize that last point enough. If you have ever been a new trainee in a position, you have likely experienced this. Without a procedure, you are completely at the mercy of what the trainer tells you. If the trainer forgets something, you don’t learn it. If, after you make a mistake, the trainer says, “Oh, gee, I forgot to tell you that,” you’ve likely lost confidence in yourself and the trainer (what else did he/she not tell me?).
So, step 1 of the Seven Steps is to have the learner read the procedure (or a part of it). In the final post of this series, I will conclude by describing why procedure-reading is so vital to the training process.