Communicating Lessons Learned

The purpose of communication is exchange of information between humans. Communication is important in organizations because it forms the basis of how work is accomplished and directs organization life for workers. Leaders who are not skilled in communication tend to be viewed as ineffective and incompetent; thus, the organization will experience various levels of inefficiencies. The use of communication is not limited to the use of spoken words, but it also involves nonverbal and written words. Frequent, open and honest communication with employees is important for organizations to function effectively. Appropriate communication is key in ensuring success of transporting and implementing lessons learned, especially those that are being imported from outside of the organization. In fact, when considering changes gleaned from external entities, realize that the level of complexities may be increased because of the lessons learned that yielded a best practice is not from within the company. In such cases, the culture of the organizations will evidently be quite different, thus posing additional challenges.

When communicating information that is expected to be retained by workers, the communication methods that would represent the most value to leadership in a work setting is written and visual. Because the rate and mode of retention is different for many workers, a combination of all communication methods - verbal, nonverbal or written - should be considered and used to gain the maximum impact of learning and retention. When using the four communication channels, it is necessary to consider the use of the four paradigms listed in Figure 11.4 to achieve ultimate effectiveness.

Communication paradigm

FIGURE 11.4 Communication paradigm.

In addition to the tips listed in Figure 11.4, additional considerations for communicating lessons learned to employees are:

  • • Inform employees early and completely. Inform workers how their work practices, policies and procedures will change. Communicate the impact to employees.
  • • Request feedback from employees.
  • • Develop and provide training if warranted. If training is not warranted, at least a briefing should be developed and provided to employees to ensure they understand the changes and work impact.

Integrating Lessons Learned to Produce Change

Implementing lessons learned can and will fail if the organization is not prepared for the change. If the culture is not prepared, then the employees are not prepared. A culture that readily resists change is one that is difficult to meet the need of the organization for the future because the one constant in an organization is that change will happen. The culture of an organization provides significant clues as to how members of an organization will act and react when they are asked to change. Change management is not easy and can present added stress on the leadership team, employees and potentially on customers. Some actions that can be taken to assist with change management include communicate completely and early the reason why the change is necessary, know the culture of the organization and what it can tolerate; demonstrate leadership support and engagement; identify and solicit workers that are in support of the change and use them and change agents; and solicit feedback and buy-in from those who will be impacted.

Although change is not easy, management must prepare the organization for the inclusion of the changes that result from a lesson learned. Implementation of new processes systems, practices or policies is never easy, although it is necessary. The same is true with lessons learned implementation. When implemented appropriately and the new process suits the needs of the organizations, there is a great benefit to the employees as well as the organization. Some of the yields will be noted across the entire process.

Applied Learning

The case study below was outl i ned by Alston i n the book entitled Lean Implementation Applications and Hidden Costs 2017 to demonstrate implementation of a Lean project. This project will be used to elaborate on the value of lessons learned: method for transporting and communicating lessons learned. Review the case study and respond to the following questions:

  • 1. What lessons learned can be transported?
  • 2. List and discuss three important elements of the communication plan that should be implemented.
  • 3. Discuss how the communication paradigm pictured in Figure 11.4 can be used in implementing the lessons learned gleaned from the case study.
  • 4. How was process mapping used in implementing the lessons learned? Was it deemed to be effective?
  • 11.5.1 Case Study

This case study involves identifying and implementing a process to track chemicals from cradle to grave. The lessons learned involved implementation of process coupled with technology to track chemicals from the point of purchasing. The previous process used for inventory chemicals required technicians to physically handle each chemical, which subjected workers to hazards that arose from handling a variety of chemicals in varying sized, weight, container configuration and hazardous content. Also, a major lesson learned from utilizing the hands-on practice of conducting the inventory created ergonomic related challenges for workers yielding injuries for several workers. Completing the inventory required workers to lift heavy containers and place their body in stressful positions.

The current process was mapped to ensure a complete understanding of the ‘as is’ state. Process mapping is one of the simplest techniques used for identifying inefficiencies and waste and streamlining process components. To ensure a complete understanding of the issue and integration of the changes in process, workers were interviewed, a job hazard analysis was reviewed and revised where necessary and work observations were performed. The revised process was processed mapped with engagement of workers. The process mapping of current (as is) process as well as the revised process (to be) is showed in Figures 11.5 and 11.6 (Alston 2017).

‘As is’ process

FIGURE 11.5 ‘As is’ process.

Note: Additional information on the case study can be found in chapter 10 of the reference book (Alston 2017). Reading this chapter should provide additional information and expand the considerations for answering the questions on lessons learned.

‘To be’ process

FIGURE 11.6 ‘To be’ process.


Alston, Frances. (2017). Lean implementation applications and hidden costs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

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