NOTE: This article is part 5 of our series on creating Learning Flow by cutting Training Waste. To see a list of the entire Lean Knowledge Transfer Waste Series, see "Previous Posts" in the right sidebar.
How much training could you do if you had a sci-fi transporter beam?
It would be so cool. You could zap trainers and materials around the world (okay, and stop for a quick lunch in Paris). Zap trainees in and out for half-hour learning opportunities. Even zap an expert from Geneva to Chicago to give a five-minute demo.
But (sigh), no beam.
Instead, what we have is Lean Training Waste #5: Transportation.
Transportation Waste is created when we unnecessarily move people, materials and equipment around the world or even just around the corner in the process of helping them learn. The waste happens when:
- Learners travel to receive training.
- Instructors travel to give training.
- Printed materials and teaching aids go from the printer to storage to the training site and back to storage again.
Transportation incurs extra steps. It costs money and time. Airfare, hotels, rentals, cars, meals and freight charges add up quickly. Then, there's all the work hours needed to make these arrangements, get approvals and actually take the trip or ship the materials.
Being away from the office creates its own waste as people reschedule or miss meetings, delay activities and decisions, write trip reports, fill out expense forms, get signatures for reimbursements and argue about the cost of that big steak dinner.
Transportation is the waste that companies focus on reducing most often. Travel budgets and time away from the job are very visible and receive a lot of scrutiny all the way up the org chart. Reducing this waste is a frequent justification for implementing elearning and mobile learning technologies.
How Can You Eliminate This Waste?
Your organization may have already tried to address Transportation Waste by simply forbidding travel or reducing travel budgets. But simply forbidding all travel doesn't address the learning need.
The best way to eliminate transportation waste is to have clear criteria about when travel is needed for the most effective and efficient method to learn.
People should travel to learn when:
- The skills or content being taught require group dynamics or interactive teamwork: e.g., public speaking, negotiation or medical operating room procedures. In these cases the learning should be as interactive as possible, maximizing time immersed in the situation or practicing skills. Lectures should be minimized and people should be studying learning content before and after the event.
- The cost of potential business defects outweighs the costs of transportation if alternate methods fail. For example, when I was employee #44 at a new semiconductor fab, our Chinese parent moved 100 engineers (and their families) to the US for two years to teach us how to start up and run the fab. This was a $1.7 billion investment and the transportation costs to bring these experts to us, while high, were minuscule compared to the potential losses if the startup didn't succeed.
- The needed learning is emotional, physical, experiential and/or immersive: e.g., flight simulators, cultural skills, fire fighting, mountaineering.
In all of these cases, the people who are traveling should have clear learning objectives tied to business goals and a plan to leverage what they learn on their return.
Until we get the transporter beam (or at least, flying cars), this is one waste we should all continue to work on.
Stay tuned for the next article in our Training Waste Series: "Inventory."
Todd Hudson, Head Maverick
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