As you know, there are two operating philosophies that are common to many successful organizations—whether the enterprise engages in industrial manufacturing, service, distribution, finance or any other kind of business—Total Quality Management (TQM) and Just-In-Time (JIT).

Total Quality Management seeks to develop a dedication to the customer, a predictable process of manufacturing, operations, or service, a climate in which employees strive for continual improvement and the desire to get to the root causes of problems. TQM places quality as the primary objective for the organization — a change from the more traditional management objective of maximizing production while controlling costs. The TQM philosophy involves people at all levels of the organization. It is a day-to-day operating method which succeeds through shared information, where data is gathered at many key points both inside and outside the company to monitor manufacturing quality, service quality, and customer satisfaction. This information can be used to improve methods, cut waste and respond to customer requests.

Just-In-Time fits well with TQM because it has a consistent operating philosophy of problem solving, continuous improvement, techniques aimed at eliminating waste and achieving excellence while producing only the right amount and combination of parts at the right place at the right time. JIT requires that everything be done right the first time, so “Quality at the Source” must be implemented to prevent defects before they occur. This works best in an atmosphere of employee involvement where everyone embraces the philosophy that wastes result from any activity that adds costs without adding value.

So it is, as well, with the training vendors you encounter. Get them to answer the following questions in order to ascertain whether their offerings will help you meet your TQC/JIT commitments:

Can you provide me with a list of other organizations within my market segment that are currently using your training programs? (It never pays to play the role of guinea pig. You should also ask for a couple of names and phone numbers in order to do your own due diligence — before moving ahead.)

How does your organization select the program topics you choose to produce? (You’re looking for an answer that tells you that the vendor has responded to customer-driven topic selections — and, not just to their own research department.)

How are your programs actually produced? (The best training courseware is produced internally using the vendor’s own Instructional Designers, programmers and customer-provided SMEs. The production process should also include beta-reviews by actual customers before the vendor’s solutions are released for sale. You definitely do not want to purchase from vendors that use an off-shore sub-contractor that operates only in a template environment.”

Is your courseware created in the “Learning Culture” of the Twenty-First Century? (Because we all know that 40% of our workforce does not assimilate information beyond a 4th Grade reading level, it is critical that the training solutions you purchase are: a) video- or simulation-based and, b) have optional full word-for-word audio.)

Have your programs been submitted to a “Reading Level” analysis? (You should expect that the vendor’s answer refers either to the Flesch-Kincaid and/or the Flesch Reading Ease score. You would like the vendor’s answer to indicate that the written language used in their courseware tests out to a 4th Grade reading level or, at the very least, a 6th Grade reading level.)

How did you produce the video scenes used in your training programs? (The vendor should be able to assure you that the video was shot in real plant environments, using real plant workers and real plant equipment in order to simulate what your workforce will actually see later when they’re on-the-job.)

Of course, there are other important design factors to consider when making your evaluations but, for the moment, the above six will give you a very good idea of the credibility of a training vendor to fit into a TQM/JIT environment.

More on Tuesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning (Tuesdays & Thursdays)