Sit on your hands: It’s about experiencing the learning

By Richard Kunst   

Industry Production Manufacturing Lean learning manufacturing

Slow down, guide and coach as the trainee performs the methodology.

Learn, apply, audit. PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK

There’s no cookie cutter solution for the application of lean methodologies. The speed of learning can be hampered by plant culture. Live by the philosophy, “learn, apply, audit” when deploying training. And sit on your hands.

Here’s why.

After university, I got a great job working as a field system engineer for a dairy farm equipment provider. One of my duties involved assisting and training dealers with the installation of milking equipment.

A farm in California was installing a sophisticated milking parlor, and ran into an electrical issue. The problem was simple to fix. It required the installation of a jumper in the electrical junction box. I asked the dealer rep if he understood what I did.


“Yes,” he said.

My boss, who was present during this operation, offered me some valuable advice. “Richard, you are going to have to learn to sit on your hands.” He noted that with me at six and a half feet, and the electrical box at the same height, there was no way the dealer rep saw what I did. “If you had instructed the dealer rep to conduct the procedure, he would have learned and understood the process.”

I had an opportunity to be reminded of this lesson later.

My son was taking a high school math course and needed to create a pivot table in Excel. He asked me how to do it. But I was tired so I made the pivot table and asked him if he understood what I had done.

“Yes,” he said.

When he needed to make another pivot table, and asked for my help, I sat on my hands. I provided instruction as he did it himself. It took longer but at least he understood how to do it. The learning process occurs through three channels: visual, touch and orator, and you develop training that covers at least two of these attributes.

In some cases show the learner how to do it; let the leaner do it, or hand over the manual.

This quote illustrates just how important it is to provide ongoing training to your employees. Question: What happens if we train our employees and they leave? Answer: What happens if we don’t train them and they stay?

Employees are responsible for gaining new insights (say 80 hours worth a year) but employers must provide the right kind of training. Those who don’t train are on the path to obsolescence.

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based Kunst Solutions Corp., which helps companies become more agile, develop evolutionary management and implement lean solutions. Visit E-mail

This article originally appeared in the July-August 2019 print issue of PLANT Magazine.




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