To teach the foundation so that empathy is built

The Snippet

Once upon a time there was a company that uncovered a continued education need for their employees. Communication breakdowns lead to rework and lost opportunity cost. The simplest of mistakes were made due to lack of understanding and appreciation of other roles within the company. The staff in house didn’t have the time nor the approach to teach the array of personalities within the company. Left Hand Learning is a program that addresses these problems. By focusing on The Why, The What, and the How of the business, Left Hand Learning provides a comprehensive understanding of how businesses operate and why they operate this way. Becoming aware of their actions creates Technical Empathy in context with the mission and vision of the company. 

The Full Story

How is Technical Empathy built? Meet Cartoon Charlie- The Technical Empathy facilitator- and his story.

By 2030 there will be 40% less people to manufacture the same amount of goods1. As technology progresses, employees’ job descriptions will be more dynamic; less people to cover more work. What drives you to stay at your current company? Traditionally it’s money, responsibility, and time away. Tomorrow, however, it will be your company’s culture. Education is the foundation of this culture and imperative for survival. The goal is to invest in your team so they stick around, improve communication, feel empowered, and prepare for tomorrow’s manufacturing world. 

Bill and Karen storm into Bob’s office Tuesday morning. It’s the week before 4th of July. There seems to be some       tension between the two. Sensing this, Bob asks, “What’s going on?” Bill, member of the inside sales team, jumps in and explains that he promised one of their best customers delivery of parts two weeks earlier than the standard lead time. Karen, the production supervisor, interjects and says, “There’s no way we can meet this. Bill knows better. On top of this, we’re about to implement a capital improvement project. Our line will be down for a week! We’ve been planning this for months.” “Missing this order can seriously hurt our relationship with the customer,” Bill explains.

Bob pauses, gives the situation some thought. He’s been here many times. He takes all the variables into account and proposes a solution. The problem is, this isn’t how he wants to run the business. Bob wants his team to feel like they have the know-how to solve this problem. Karen brings an interesting point to the conversation, “Bob, we’re all great at our jobs. Where I see a gap is when we have to coordinate between different departments.” Bill then adds, “Yeah, I work closely with Jimmy in outside sales and comprehend what he does. But, now that I think of it, I do not know any of the challenges Karen faces in production.”

With that comment, Bob cracks a smirk. He knows just what to do. “Have you ever heard of a program called Left Hand Learning?” Bill looks at Karen and shakes his head no. “What’s it about?” “Well,” Bob explains, “I met a guy named Charlie who runs the program. He looks at the business from an engineering standpoint to actively understand ‘Why’, ‘What’, and ‘How’ the business functions the way it does. From there, he teaches the employees across all departments these concepts in a digestible, engaging, and interactive manner. What does it do? It Improves understanding and communication.

I think Charlie says it best…

“Before we talk to the class,” Charlie explains, “Left Hand Learning (LHL) needs to actively understand your business. We’ll jump into each department, learn how it runs, and apply it to our curriculum.  We do not intend to be experts at your craft, but merely facilitators who provide engaging real world examples and metaphors to foster a team learning approach. We re-examine situations showing how simple errors have lead to drastic second and third order consequences. For example: when Carl ordered the wrong Kanban parts, the ramifications of this mistake, and how we change the approach to mitigate future mistakes. 

“Class, welcome to your first day of Left Hand Learning. Throughout the next few months we’ll be going on a journey, a journey of learning the ins and outs of your company. Our goal for this class is simple:

Provide an environment for employees to understand how and why each role in this company is critical.”

“It’s called Technical Empathy.”

“How do we build Technical Empathy?” someone mutters. Charlie smiles, “It all starts with a foundation of understanding. We each were hired for specialized departmental roles. A silo represents a department. As companies grow, like Karen and Bill, we lose touch with people in other silos. What if we were able to peek inside? I like to use the metaphor of flying in an airplane. At 30,000 feet we make high level connections and learn WHY the business is laid out in this  orientation. While in flight, we can peek into each silo and get a glimpse of the weeks ahead.

“Each silo has its own runway. On approach, we learn WHAT each department does. What does product development do, why does it matter, and what tasks are unique to our company? Upon landing, we dive into each silo learning the nuts and bolts of HOW this silo functions. How long does new tooling take to develop?” Charlie pauses. “Want to know my favorite part? When we’re down at the ground floor we’ll uncover tunnels to other departments, passageways you may have never known existed. These tunnels will represent communication, awareness, understanding and proactivity.

Technical Empathy is fostered by bringing the group together and subsequently triggering deep learning by all. While   exploring a new silo, we connect the WHY, WHAT, and HOW of this week’s silo, or department and its relation to the   others. This will happen in hands-on, interactive sessions. Limiting each week to one hour and repeating them weekly maximizes retention.

Every ‘ah-ha’ moment is a light bulb turned on and becomes catalyst for curiosity, awareness, and understanding.

Rather than reacting to mistakes, we will become proactive by identifying potential issues before they become a real problems. Understanding the repercussions of our decisions in our respective silos promotes accountability and affects the company as a whole positively . 

This will make us a more dynamic unit ready to adapt to the evolving manufacturing world. 

Bob wakes up in a cold sweat. It’s Monday morning, five minutes before his alarm clock. His house is quiet. He rubs his eyes peering out the window looking at a fresh blanket of snow. A weight is lifted off his chest, “Phew, glad that was a dream. We can’t afford to make a mistake like that and lose a valued customer,” He thinks. With a groan, he gets out of bed and mutters, “Better go shovel the driveway.”

Coffee in hand, Bob walks into the Monday morning production meeting. Everyone seems more chipper than usual. “What’s with the spunk?” he asks the team. “Well Bob,” says Karen, “Bill and I were thinking. We’ve got an idea. One that will greatly impact the company. Have you heard of a program called Left Hand Learning?” Bob smiles and says, “You won’t believe the dream I had last night.”

The Support 

Making sure this is the right approach can be tricky. Are leaders of the business associated with the Growth Mindset? If they are, the style of teaching performed within Left Hand Learning matches up. Research, analogies and metaphors all back the reasoning in this story. Follow  the link below to ensure that this is the right fit for your company and why investing in your employees will lead to a profitable and sustainable future. 

The Future

Education is the foundation to prepare for what’s to come. The link below paints the next portion of the story. Where will be in ten years? 

Whether it’s an appreciation refresher for of co-workers and their job roles or laying the baseline for a change initiative, Left Hand Learning is critical to companies wanting to grow together, increase profitability today, and be sustainable for tomorrow.

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