Avoiding “Death by Powerpoint” when teaching Lean

Automotive, Blog, Capability Development, Construction, FMCG, Healthcare, Lean Leadership, Manufacturing, Public Sector, Retail & Hospitality, Service, Supply Chain, Tools & Techniques, Transformation

“Death by PowerPoint”. Those immortal words every trainer/facilitator dreads when delegates are asked to feedback after a session – and how likely are they to have remembered anything? We have been wrestling with this problem and experimenting with a different approach to teaching and coaching and getting those delegates to quickly do the same with others.

In Spear’s book “The High-Velocity Edge” he describes four key capabilities successful organisations develop in their people to fast track their operational excellence activities and improvement results. One of those capabilities is “Leaders as Teachers” – getting Leaders to teach and coach their subordinates, on the job, to develop capability. There are several benefits if you can achieve this level of self-reliance. You are not dependant on one function to cascade the learning, scheduling of the activities is easier as it can be fitted in and around everyday work commitments in smaller bites and the learning can be set at the right pace for each individual. Furthermore, it is a much more powerful learning experience when it is your leader teaching you – servant leadership at its best.

This is all well and good, providing you can get the leaders to do this and that is the challenge especially when your materials are 100-page PowerPoint presentations. After several trials, the best solution we found was to use what we call teach posters to replace the traditional slide deck. Essentially, they are a visual representation of the topic distilled down on to one piece of paper – rather like an A3. Simple images are used primarily over text as they can be used for other topics to convey the same thinking/concepts. This helps breeds familiarity and confidence for both the teacher and the pupils but also makes translations into other languages quicker and easier which can be a challenge for global organisations.

The posters are broken into sections to simplify the structure and provide a sequence or flow to follow when reviewing. The upper section explains the purpose, process and people element of the subject. “Purpose” positions the subject and why it is important, “process”, the conditions and considerations required to apply it and “people”, the behaviours and skills necessary. The lower portion deals with how to do or the method to apply and again is broken down into manageable steps.

Using the posters is very much a low-tech high involvement activity. Ideally printed A0 size (33” x 47”) and positioned in the room to allow delegates to stand around them whilst the concepts are discussed. Standing up tends to mean the group is more engaged and focussed than sitting down and the teaching is done is short bursts following a facilitation guide and script. By combining the teach with a practical activity or case study prevents fatigue and maintains interest but more importantly embeds the learning as you learn by doing.

Using this style and approach we have found that leaders are willing to teach others either in a class or on a one-to-one basis. The feedback has been that because the story is already laid out in front of you on the poster it is much less daunting than a long slide deck. Also, you do not need any specialised equipment other than a wall and some space to review and discuss it which makes it easier when cascading it through the organisation at the gemba, for example. The facilitation guide is simple and easy to follow covering the important steps, key points, and reasons for each of the images to get the message across. Interestingly, after running the sessions we found that some of the delegates wanted to take the posters back to their own workplaces immediately to use as a visual prompt and discuss with their teams – something we’ve never experienced with a PowerPoint presentation!

At LEA we are using the poster approach with our teaching and coaching materials both face to face and online. Our goal is for customers to become self-reliant on their lean learning journey and developing leaders as teachers is fundamental to that. We have started with problem solving as it not only supports a further two of the four capabilities highlighted by Spear, but in our opinion is the number one Lean skill to have. Solving a problem not only develops capability but provides a business benefit at the same time. Check out our problem-solving poster and online course here.