Michael Erickson wrote on 18 Jul 1996:
I find that when most people learn a new thing, they first want to know
"what are the steps I need to take"-or what do I do (or in Winfried's
example-what do I NOT do). This of course is only a minimal understanding
of the subject at hand, and certainly doesn't get you to the WHY is this
so, much less inspire you to do anything.
In the organizational change arena, trying to get people past the minimal
understanding and INSPIRE them is the biggest chunk of the problem. I
have a friend who used to say... "They don't Understand all they know.."
meaning-they know the facts, but their heart doesn't understand.
I've wondered a long time how to get people through the learning curve
from "the list" mode of understanding to "the concept" mode of
=== End of quote ===
Michael raises a very good question. Should we teach people the "Lists"
from which they must operate or should we lead them to understand the
concepts that led to the creation of the lists in the first place? This is
a crucial question for organizational learning, maybe for all learning.
In some cases we cannot afford to wait for the concepts to be understood
and must first start with "lists". In an organizational setting we need to
bring people up to speed quickly so they can contribute effectively to the
purpose of the enterprise.
For example, when I hire a new engineer, I have that engineer spend
significant amounts of time learning the I S O 9000 procedures. If the
engineer does not know the system, with all of its rules, he or she cannot
function effectively in the organization. They need to learn this before
they ever get to apply their academic or professional knowledge to a
problem or project. They will have an opportunity to comment on the
systems later. Every procedure is reviewed at least once a year for
efficiency, effectiveness, and overall soundness. Every project when
completed has a review where project procedures are critiqued and improved
upon, thus creating new organizational learning. But we cannot as an
organization hire an engineer and have him spend one year criticizing the
systems in place. We would get very little done .
I think of the "lists" we create for personal safety. I may explain to my
son that he is not to ride his bike without a helmet. I will tell him how
he can get seriously injured if he falls and bangs his head against the
curb without wearing a helmet. He may argue that he has ridden his bike
many times without a helmet, that he has fallen off a few times and never
cracked his skull. My reply will be that if I catch him riding his bike
without wearing a helmet again it will be the last time he rides that
bike. I cannot allow him to go through the process of cracking his skull
so that he understands the concept behind bicycle safety...
It reminds me also of a mechanic I once supervised in a maintenance crew.
He would refuse to wear safety glasses. I finally told him that if he
refused to wear safety glasses he would have to find employment elsewhere.
All the lectures and reprimands in the world had not convinced him of the
importance of a wearing safety glasses. He then told me, "I quit!". He
started walking out of the shop just when another mechanic wearing safety
glasses was trying to remove a bearing from a shaft by hitting it with a
hammer (an unsafe practice, in that he should be using a bearing puller).
As soon as this mechanic hit the bearing, the bearing cracked open and one
of the steel balls flew right at his eye. The steel ball hit the
mechanic's right safety glass, shattering it in a star pattern, but not
causing any injury. The mechanic who was walking out rushed to his
assistance. After the incident was over the mechanic who was going to
quit, came back to me and said, "Can I have my job back? I WILL wear
safety glasses!". He became a model safe mechanic.
This same individual though, never did understand another safety lesson.
We had in the plant an Off-the-Job safety program, where we taught about
the importance of wearing seat belts in automobiles, and not drinking and
driving. Coming back from an afternoon barbecue, where he had been
drinking, he fell asleep at the wheel -we suppose- and crashed his car
against a tree. The accident was so violent he was projected out the front
windshield, with the steering column and the steering wheel bent over the
windshield wipers. Not only did he die, but so did his wife and two
children. Do I need to tell you how many where wearing seat belts? None!
He didn't have the chance to witness something like this happening to
somebody else so he could learn the lesson. That was the pattern by which
he learned, it had to be experiential, not theory based.
So I believe that yes, a lot of training must start with 'lists" so we
don't have to reinvent the wheel with every inidividual. But it is only
training, technique. True education comes when we get the concepts across,
and for this we must make a continuous effort that leads to individual and
Roy Lyford-Pike SCM Chemicals Hunt Valley, MD email@example.com
Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <firstname.lastname@example.org> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>