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Case Study (Procedures): Working in Teams

Submitted by  on January 15th, 2014

team work written on red tilesIn my previous blog posts, I shared two examples illustrating the importance of getting your organization’s procedures right if training program participants are going to apply their new skills back on the job. (See harassment prevention and inventory management examples.)

In this blog post, I want to share another case study to illustrate my Six Lessons on Integrating Policies and Procedures into Your Training Program. My intention in putting up these six lessons is to help organizations maximize the impact of their training programs. Much training resources are wasted because organizations neglect to support the training effort before, during and after the program rollout.

One way that training goes off the rails is by ignoring the importance of policies, procedures and systems for enabling training program participants to apply their skills once they return to the workplace. In particular, I want this case study to illuminate my Lessons 3 and 5.

Procedures is one of eight factors in Leslie Allan’s PRACTICE Approach™ for improving the impact of training. Find out more and get Leslie’s high impact training guide.

This case study concerns the owners of a large mechanical repair shop. The two owners want to reorganize the work of mechanics and support staff into self-managed work teams. The intention is that each team is to comprise of five mechanics specializing in particular types of motorcar, a parts inventory clerk and a scheduler.

By dealing directly with customers, scheduling their own work, managing their own performance issues, selecting and recruiting new members, and so on, the owners are expecting improved customer focus and increased efficiency. Each employee is scheduled to attend a Working in Teams training program over a two week period.

Think for a few minutes about what needs to happen outside of the training program. If the program is to be a success, what must the repair shop owners put in place to ensure that employees will progress to the new way of working in self-managed teams? Think about my Lesson 3 in particular. This lesson urges organizations to put in place business rules, systems and procedures before training starts.

No doubt, many day-to-day operational procedures will need to be redesigned to accommodate the new way of working. These could include how to book, track and close off jobs, how to purchase, store and dispose of parts, how to track employee leave entitlements, and so on.

How about the team aspect in particular? Once employees return from the training, being responsible for their own and their peers’ work will be new to all of them. Procedures related to working in teams that need to be documented may include:

  • how to induct a new team member
  • how and when to agree and set team objectives
  • how and when to rotate team leadership
  • how and when to conduct team meetings
  • how to make team decisions
  • how to review the effectiveness of the team

This list is not necessarily complete, and I’m not saying that all of these procedures apply to every scenario. However, without some kind of team structure and operational procedures set up, the team can quickly disintegrate. When decisions need to be made and with no decision-making process in place, anger and frustration can quickly reach boiling point as disagreements flare.

In this case, the two repair shop owners decided not to write the procedures prior to the roll out of the training program. The owners accepted the advice of training specialists and organized facilitated workshops with the trainees following the program to flesh out the new procedures. With this project, setting up team practices in the workplace became a natural extension of the training program.

In this way, they followed well the message given by my Lesson 5. With this lesson, I urge organizations to either include the actual documented procedures in the training program’s content and trainee exercises or get program participants themselves to design the procedures during facilitated workshops. This method not only uses the people most familiar with the work to write the procedures, it also has the advantage of engendering greater commitment from the employees as they have a hand in the outcomes. This is the well-known “principle of participation” at work.

This case study, along with my two previous examples, highlights another factor that is crucially important for ensuring our training programs are effective. This factor is the communication and clarity around changes to the roles and responsibilities of program participants. In fact, these two factors, procedures and roles, are the first two factors I include in my PRACTICE Model™ for high impact training. In future blog posts, I will illustrate the roles and responsibilities factor with some more case studies. Stay tuned!

High Impact Training Guide

If you want to create the right learning environment for effective transfer of training to the employee’s workplace, then check out Leslie’s high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.

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