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Use Hands-On Apprenticeships to Create Breakthrough Performance

Apr 10, 2008
Once you have identified the skills and determined who in your firm already has them, you now need a way to create a continuing expansion of those important skills. The best way to do this is to transfer them from those who already have them to those who need them. With the proper approach, you can rapidly multiply how many people are learning and shorten the organization's learning period.

Begin by converting your most skilled people into learning facilitators. Then encourage them to stay involved with those they have helped, both as mentors and as experts.

Here's how to do this. To start, have a skilled person work for a month, for at least an hour a day, on a variety of your irresistible force issues with the someone who needs this skill. As the first learners, pick highly admired people in the organization who are good at working with others to expand skills.

The purpose of the daily hour or more together is for the experienced person with the skills to coach, advise, and counsel the person who is learning. The learner should first focus on getting the necessary background from the skilled person, and then applying that knowledge to the issues.

The learners should have this as a full-time assignment for the month. Whenever possible, rotate these learners to work with two or three skilled people on the same area during the same month. This rotation allows the learner to get the benefit of being exposed to different communication styles, which will facilitate learning.

During the following month, continue the process with two or three other skilled people for the same learner, continuing to work on irresistible force shift issues. Continue this process until the learner has developed all of the necessary skills.

Your next step is critical: These first learners become coaches and get together to create a one- or two-month learning experience for everyone in your enterprise. This work, too, should be a full-time assignment for each learner. The difference for this next tier of learners is that each person will learn all the skills he or she needs during the same assignment with one skilled person. Also, instead of having many coaches, each learner will have only one. This setup allows each coach to work with three or four people (or three or four work groups) simultaneously.

After the second group of learners has finished the process, they, too, become coaches, keeping their original coach for up to an hour a day to coach them on how to coach others. Much of this time together is for going over problems that individual learners are having.

Then the third group of learners becomes coaches as well, for a fourth set of learners. The third group of learners retains the second set of learners as coaches for their coaching efforts, and so on.

Essentially, you are creating an apprenticeship system for irresistible force skills. Like an apprenticeship, the emphasis should be on the effectiveness of the learners rather than meeting a rigid timetable. Some learners will require more time, and some will require less. Be sure to be flexible in providing the right length and amount of learning assistance.

This process may seem slow to you compared to traditional training methods, but it will actually increase your operation's benefits the fastest. The first learners will get tremendous experience in the skills as well as in helping others to learn. They should eventually be able to improve the process enormously, especially if your most able skill users are able to concentrate on exercising those skills, serving primarily as expert resources.

The second and subsequent learners will also be serving their apprenticeship as they coach others, and can be included in direct assignments related to irresistible forces after they develop the necessary skills.

Many businesses have learned that they can gain a great deal by having all employees involved in constant learning activities. The time required to pursue the process described here can simply come from using the regular allotment for learning. Otherwise, the firm's leaders should make an explicit time commitment for learning.

You'll have created a waterfall that begins by cascading from expert to learner. The initial learners become coaches to new learners, who will in turn eventually become coaches, and so forth. Each cascade of sharing drives the learning deeper and more broadly across the irresistible growth enterprise.

Using this process, you should be able to expand the necessary skills throughout your company in less than two years (for all but the largest firms where it will probably take three to four years). In addition, you'll create a lot of adjustments to irresistible forces along the way as you practice the new skills.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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