Learning by Doing – Everyday Teaching Moments

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As I was waiting for the coffee to brew in the office this morning, I was greeted by the “Bagel Supply Chain” process we have posted by our coffee station.  The morning bagels are long gone (since we are all on diets) but the posted process is a daily reminder that everyday examples can become very powerful teaching tools.

The Bagel Supply Chain (Read Article) was The Mpower Group’s way of helping our summer intern (a college business major) learn Supply Chain management.   It seemed ridiculous to all of us at first but it became a VERY effective way to teach supply chain.  Even those of us that are in the profession, struggle with a definition of a supply chain or supply chain management.  This is especially evident to us as we approach prospects from a sales perspective because a Supply Chain organization in one company can and usually is very different from another company.  So we decided that instead of just providing definitions (which we did), putting her through a class (which we did), we would let her experience first- hand a real Supply Chain.  It worked!!  I bet Caitlin, if asked, could tell you more about a Supply Chain than most people working in that profession.  Success!!!

We have been working on a model for the last two years that focuses on adoption (AEIOU) of training, processes, technology, innovation, etc.  Adoption of training is where I would like to focus.   There is no doubt that practice makes perfect (almost?).  We see it in sports (look at what happened to Tiger Woods when he dropped out of golf for a while), in politics (looks like Romney practiced for the debate), and we see it in our everyday lives.  Kids are given homework – to practice.  Music lessons are followed by practice (you really don’t learn piano unless you practice – I know).   Cooking requires practice to really get good at it.   None of these examples are one off events; they all require continuous repetition to become competent (Personal Best).

At The Mpower Group we do quite a bit of classroom training.  During our sessions we give participants an opportunity to practice BUT we know that unless that practice is repetitive (over and over) the learning will not stick.   The notion that competency is created through practice is not new to any one of us.   YET, organizations spend billions of dollars on training and provide NO means for employees to practice.  Without practice the learning will not stick, there will be no increase in competency and therefore no return on investment.   So how do we solve the training adoption dilemma?  Here are a few tips:

  • Before you provide any training, develop a plan for adoption (plan before do)
  • Use a training provider that focuses on adoption – there will be no ROI without it
  • Consider using coaches to help the adoption process (e.g. Tiger, Mitt, me – my piano teacher)
  • Find creative ways, using everyday examples to provide spontaneous learning moments like the Bagel Supply Chain – these are the ones your people will remember
  • Foster a culture of learning – create a learning environment (make it FUN!)
  • Reward employees for adopting new skills

We use some crazy exercises in our training that, on the surface, feel like they have nothing to do with what we are teaching but we creatively draw the connection.  These are actually the exercises that most students remember and it really helps the learning stick.   In addition, structured follow on projects and ongoing coaching also helps.  These simple methods can increase retention tenfold.  There is nothing more powerful than a competent workforce so make an investment in adoption and there really will be a return!

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Anne Kohler
Anne has been leading consulting and financial management organizations for over 25 years. She has extensive expertise in Strategic Sourcing, change management, contracting & contract management (both the buy side and sell side) organizational design and supply chain management. Anne has a passion for collaborating and educating her clients while helping them to uncover hidden value in their organizations. In addition, Anne has been named by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as a “Top 100 Provider Pro to Know” every year since 2007 and a 2013 Top Female Supply Chain executive.
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