Why lean learning is important for agile organisations

Lean learning focusses more on eliminating overburden, unevenness and unproductiveness.

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Toyota Production System (TPS) is a classic success story in manufacturing process, which enabled the Japanese automobile Company to eliminate seven kinds of wastes found in manufacturing environments called Muda.

The TPS is based on lean manufacturing or lean management system which translates into speedy flow of work by cutting out waste from the whole process. This means, taking out all the unproductive activities from the system.

The principal of lean management system is now being applied in learning and development (L&D) processes in companies and that’s yielding some great results.

Sushil Barkur, AVP-L&D, Alkem Laboratories, shares with HRKatha how the pharma company recently transformed its L&D system through digitisation, to majorly align with the lean learning system.

“This has really brought down our content curation time. We can give relevant information and knowledge to our employees on the go in small bytes,” says Barkur.

In fact, it’s become important for every organisation to focus on delivering fast content to its employees.

Pratibha Saraswat

“My focus is usually on giving relevant knowledge to our people without any delay. In the retail industry, new products keep on entering the market, and it becomes necessary to give information about those products to the people” 

Reliance Digital’s L&D processes also focus on fast delivery of content and knowledge to its employees.

“My focus is usually on giving relevant knowledge to our people without any delay. In the retail industry, new products keep on entering the market, and it becomes necessary to give information about those products to the people,” explains Pratibha Saraswat, head-L&D, Reliance Digital.

She adds, “At Reliance, we focus on giving small bytes, liberal content and fast delivery of content.”

In today’s world, the most challenging situation in the L&D spectrum is the retention of knowledge.

According to the Forgetting Curve Theory, people forget 75 per cent of the knowledge if they do not apply the skills or knowledge acquired within six days.

As part of one of the principles of the lean learning system, employees are allowed to apply their knowledge to their work and new challenges.

“We focus on giving monthly refresher quizzes to our employees with feedbacks from the senior leadership. This helps them retain the knowledge and apply it to their jobs,” shares Barkur.

At Reliance Digital as well, bytes are used as small refreshers. “The need of our industry makes us focus on action learning and fast delivery,” mentions Saraswat.

Sushil Barkur

“We focus on giving monthly refresher quizzes to our employees with feedbacks from the senior leadership. This helps them retain the knowledge and apply it to their jobs”

The principles of the lean learning system focus on offering relevant learning, at the right time to the right audiences, by cutting out the waste, that is, all the unproductive activities.

This results in giving faster and better knowledge and skills to the employees.

There are three dimensions to this system. An organisation wishing to incorporate the lean learning system, say, in its L&D department, can definitely do so by introducing the necessary interventions into its processes keeping these dimensions in mind.

Three dimensions of the lean learning system

Support learners and sponsors: Focus on eliminating ‘overburden’. The L&D managers should lessen the burden on their stakeholders, such as learners and sponsors. This can happen by getting rid of the unwanted activities, such as cumbersome training equipment, inconvenient location of classrooms, dangerous tasks, and uncomfortable pace of learning. These unwanted elements are best discarded because they force learners to go beyond their natural limits, which results in a burnout.

Streamline L&D products: Focus on eliminating ‘unevenness’ from L&D and ensuring fast learning deliveries. There can be delays in the process because of scheduling. Therefore, it is important to concentrate on Just in Time (JIT) delivery of content. This allows one to locate hidden problems that slow down, and enables to take steps to add value.

Simplify the L&D process: Make the L&D process simple by eliminating ‘unproductiveness’. The making of a product or service results in consumption of resources. While creating a product or service, if more resources are consumed than required for the end user, then waste is generated. Though L&D practitioners have learned to be efficient, they tend to miss out on ‘overburden’ and ‘unevenness’.

To make the L&D process productive, agile and result oriented, lean learning is what organisations will need.

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