Lean Learning: Aligning Practice with Preaching

Applying Lean Six Sigma Methods to Lean Six Sigma Training

March 09, 2009

Question: Why do Lean Six Sigma consultants continue to deliver training using an inflexible batch method that also carries the highest cost?

Some might argue that classroom training works better. However, a substantial body of evidence now exists which indicates that e-Learning and classroom training are equally effective (see citation below). These data, which were summarized in a recent meta analysis conducted by the Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Laboratory of the Department of Defense, also indicate that blended learning (combination of e-Learning with classroom instruction) is significantly more effective than classroom training alone.

The study results have also been confirmed by the actual experience of organizations using blended training for Lean Six Sigma training, such as Quest Diagnostics and The Ohio State University.

Note that the meta-analysis looks at the average effect, so it does not indicate that ALL blended training is superior to ALL classroom instruction - and certainly there are world class instructors who engage and inspire students to achieve superior results. The problem is that Lean Six Sigma training is not necessarily delivered by these world class instructors. Nobody experiences anything "on average", so as usual, the variability is what really hurts.

There are many opinions on this subject. Some informed, some not. But the DATA are clear and convincing. Classroom training is NOT the most effective method, is NOT the least expensive method, and is NOT the most flexible method, requiring large batch sizes, physical facilities, longer lead times, and usually travel.

So why is it still so widely advocated? Maybe it generates the most revenue for the provider? If a "consulting" firm offers to help a company deploy Lean Six Sigma using a high-cost and inflexible batch training model that is also not the most effective, are they truly consulting or just selling?

Reference: Sitzmann, T., Kraiger, K., Stewart, D., & Wisher, R. (2006). The Comparative Effectiveness of Web-based and Classroom Instruction: A Meta-Analysis. Personnel Psychology, 59, 623-664.

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