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The Second of Four Questions For a Frontline Manager …

May 16, 2023
You’re a frontline manager leading a ‘people-based system’ producing a product or service and your front line leaders can easily and consistently identify any difference between WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING and WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING. What’s next and necessary for system stability?

Four weeks ago we proposed four questions a frontline leader can ask in order to drive strengthening the system. They were:

With respect to our daily work, how easy is it for Leaders to identify any difference between WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING and WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING? (This one was discussed at length two weeks ago.)

How is our (potential) problem/risk of ‘don’t know, can’t do’ being considered and addressed?

How is our problem/risk of ‘does know, can do, but isn’t doing’ being addressed?

How is our daily work being planned, reflected on, misses noted with recurring issues being addressed?

We will now have a look at the second one above in detail.

Firstly, what are symptoms of ‘don’t know, can’t do’? They include common service or production delivery problems of:

  • Delays.
  • Scrap or rework because of mistakes or calculated best guesses based on ‘experience’.
  • People getting hurt or having near misses.

Remember, we now have work standards because of working on a strong answer to the first question above. But is the content of these standards known, understood, and being applied? Leaders in a good system will not assume ‘yes’ to this question. Instead they will ensure the counter measure skill of ‘training’ is being applied.

Let’s be clear, ‘training’ is a skill. From a workplace perspective it is the flow of ‘knows and can’ from one person to another (who previously didn’t know, couldn’t do). What is necessary for this ‘flow’ to be effective and efficient? Three very clear ‘training quality elements’ being applied …

  1. A good training plan. (This is not to be confused with records after training has occurred.) Who is to be trained in what, by who, by when will be very clear.
  2. A good ‘recipe’ – the script the trainer will follow in teaching the learner. It is a ‘minimalised’ set of prompts for the trainer. Note, this will not be the SOP, it contains far too much detail.
  3. A consistent pattern of delivery (with the above ‘recipe’ as the script) when the trainer is with the learner.

If the above three ‘training quality elements’ are present, i.e., the skill of training is being applied, we’ll be effectively mitigating the risk of ‘don’t know can’t do’ and continually pressing toward ‘does know, can do’. The answer to our frontline managers second question will be robust.

One way of developing the skill of training is to learn then deliberately practise the pattern of TWI Job Instruction. (There may well be other ways of course.)

If you have questions re any aspect of that above, please email Oscar (