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Workplace experimenting- THE essential pre-requisite skill?

November 9, 2023
Might the ability to conduct a practical workplace experiment be a) vastly overlooked and b) absolutely essential to improvement or even just change? We believe so; our evidence follows.

Pat Geary, Chief Operating Officer of Story Construction Iowa contacted me (Oscar) about a month ago. He said (and I paraphrase) ‘we have some new ground to cover early next year so we need the people who are going to drive this to have done the ‘Practice Workplace Experimenting Quest.’

What was important in Pat’s statement to me and why?

First – ‘… new ground to cover …’ People were going to be asked to go where the company hasn’t yet been. Story senior execs were clear (enough) on the goal, but they couldn’t direct the path as it is simply unknown. The only way to the goal is to experiment.

Second – Pat knows skills are developed through deliberate practice of a routine. So, before he throws this group in the deep end, have them first deliberately practicing a routine (to develop their workplace experimenting skill).

(Story’s ‘Practice Workplace Experimenting Quest’ is an action, feedback, trigger coached and blended [on line and live] learning system. This group covering the new ground in the new year commenced the Quest very recently. It will take about 10 hours of their time over 4 weeks.)

More evidence …

We’re working with a large intensive pork producer in central NSW. Our role is to develop Section Leader capability in 4 areas of frontline leadership. I meet with the Leaders once every two months to review their learnings and agree on next steps based again on an action, feedback, trigger model. Which two Leaders are most embracing and benefitting from the program? The two who ‘workplace experiment’ most comfortably.

In mid October I met with Robert. He’d documented (1 simple page) and completed an experiment aimed at speeding up the moving of pigs onto a truck. Nothing they tried worked. Was I disappointed? No way, not at all. Robert and his two workers had learned from what didn’t work, and that is OK. Based on this, Robert knew what he was going to try next. I’ll never ask for more than such a cycle.

Likewise, I met with Greg. He’d structured (and documented) a simple experiment associated with bird damage to air lines (in a mechanised area of the operation). His experiment provided learnings that he’s now extending across the whole of that part of the operation.

More evidence …

Now that I’ve been awaken by these happenings above, if I look back over our helping Leaders establish TWI Job Instruction in their areas, those who’ve done it best took what they learned in the ‘training’ and applied the principles in their world. They could only have done this one way (although both them and I probably didn’t realise it) – through practical workplace experimenting.

It is very likely Story Construction will commence applying Job Instruction (JI) principles next year. Such is not common in construction. Will they need workplace experimenting skills alongside to make JI work for them? For sure.

For more information on establishing a practice routine for workplace experimenting and/or a Quest for your company, contact me please –