Training without explaining is like trying to program a computer. The computer will only do what it’s been programmed to do. It will not know why it’s doing it and its approach to the job will be limited to what it’s been directed to do. That approach to training staff has become more and more popular, because it’s easier to explain what you want done than why you want it done. Some say anything more is just too much information and not necessary for the performance of their job. This, of course, results in robot-like behavior that is by the book. But your company will pay the price when an analytical or thoughtful decision is required of that person and they are not prepared to make it. In programming, it’s called a bug, but in human behavior it’s called a misunderstanding. Lack of comprehensive training may be a better descriptive.
In our company, we spent hours making sure that each member of our staff understood the “whys” of what we were asking them to do. This extra time and energy spent in big-picture education paid off handsomely with fewer mistakes, less misunderstandings, and more efficiency. And on occasion, new jobs were designed by our own people to improve our customer service.
Like many production businesses requiring distribution, we had a reoccurring problem with out-of-stocks. Sometimes the problem was at the retail store level and our reps would try to solve those. Other times the issue originated with our distributor. But sometimes the problem was right under our noses, in our own company, and we didn’t see it.
A previously “invisible” cause of out-of-stocks was discovered and solved by one of our own people. But, because she understood the big picture, she was able to identify it even though she was working in a totally different end of the business.
One day out of the blue, a woman in our accounting department came to us and said, “You need a traffic officer.”
“A what?” we said
She said, “You need someone to ‘babysit’ the delivery process from your wholesaler’s purchase order to the trucking company and all the way to our warehouse.”
“Isn’t that the distributor’s and trucking company’s responsibility?” we asked.
She replied, “Yesterday an 18-wheeler drove here from Minnesota to pick up a load, but because the driver didn’t have an appointment, our warehouse manager turned him away due to backed up scheduled orders. The truck drove all the way back to Minnesota – without our product! This means the work you put into getting retail placements in Minnesota will be lost.” She went on, “Last week our LA distributor’s purchase order you got verbally was lost in the vacation shuffle at his own company, so it was picked up two weeks late, resulting in run-outs all over LA.”
We made her the traffic officer the very next day!
Because our company policy was to explain the why’s, she went beyond her job description of sending out invoices for orders that were shipped. Because whatever question she or any of our staff asked was met with a relatively detailed explanation starting with the customer and working back to their job and their question, she gained an insight to our overall operation which alerted her to the problem and allowed her to present a solution.
Next time we will share some of the ways you can give your people a better conceptual understanding of the big picture so they can make better decisions and improve your bottom line. It’s not just what they do, but why they do it!