What if surgeons learned the skills necessary to operate in the same way we attempt to develop problem solving skills in our people?
“Good morning. My name is Dr. Gross and I will be operating on you today. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands. My day job is in accounting, but I was recently hand-picked by my management to pursue a Green Belt in surgery because I’m told I’ve got ‘potential’. I have completed more than two weeks of classroom training where I learned from some of the most expensive surgical consultants in the world. Rest assured, I am willing and able to use each and every tool in the surgical toolbox.
Today, I’ll be using the standard, 5-step surgical framework known as DMAIC, which stands for Don’t-Move-And-I’ll-Cut. Unless, of course, something goes wrong in which case I’ll insist that we follow PDCA – Please-Don’t-Call-Attorney! That’s just a little surgical humor. You look tense. Shall we get started?”
Developing strong problem solving skills throughout the entire organization is critical to building a lean culture. Yet, most organizations never come close to achieving this “everybody, every day” ideal. One reason is that most of us know little about how people develop complex skills like problem solving. How learning works is a black box in which we find ourselves feeling around in the dark, looking for a way out.
Thankfully, cognitive development scientists do know something about this. Research illuminates our core learning mechanisms for processing new information and developing new skills. We can think learning as something we’re already quite comfortable with in the lean community: as a process that can be continually refined and improved over time.