In some jobs, experience is critical. I want to be treated by a doctor who has seen every symptom for every disease. I want my pilot to have logged a massive number of flight hours. The few times I’ve needed a lawyer to prepare legal documents for me, I’ve chosen ones with plenty of experience.
In static companies, when a process sticks around for years, experience with a process plays a big role. Those people who have been doing a process for a longer time generally do it better than new trainees.
But in Lean jobs, experience is not as vital. Let me rephrase that. Process experience is not as critical. That’s simply because processes change rapidly and frequently. Yesterday’s jobs are far different than today’s jobs. Experience in the old jobs won’t help much with the new way.
Don’t confuse inexperience with lack of expertise. When a process changes, nobody has any experience in it. A twenty year employee and a new hire both start from square one when a work cell is redesigned. Both have to be trained to be effective.
So, what kind of experience is important to Lean jobs?
General technical skills. Being experienced at welding is important. Being experienced at welding the Widgetmax 3000 is not.
Experience in using the Lean tools. The more adept a person is at using a flowchart, a value stream map, or at developing standard work, the more important they are to the company. Those people become versatile. When a process changes, they simply learn the new process—after all, it is likely well-documented.
Experience at working on teams. Working together is crucial to Lean success. The more a person participates on a project team, the better she becomes at improving her job.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. How have you seen the importance of experience in jobs change as companies improve their processes more rapidly?
(If you are interested in reading more about experience, I dive deeper into the subject in the Lean Dictionary section of the award winning Continuous Improvement Companion. I’ve made some good headway on adding terms in the last few days. We are rapidly approaching a hundred terms—and most are at least a few pages long.)