You don’t have to be a car factory like Toyota to use the Lean principles of continuous improvement. The Lean methodology and its techniques are applicable to various sectors.
For example, I use some of the techniques when teaching in evening school. I’m a teacher for ICT courses like “Starting with VBA”, the Ms Office packet, but also for some energy and environmental courses.
Feedback after the facts
The IT courses in most cases take three to five evening slots of 2,5 hours. So, we’re spending a lot time together. After the training course, the participants get an evaluation form and the results get to me after about a week. There are some problems with this questionnaire. To begin, the questionnaire is taken in the last 5 minutes of the last lesson. People are rushed to get home and enjoy the rest of their evening, so not much time is taken for getting into details. Also, the survey is taken after the course. So all feedback & tips that are given to me can be only processed after the course and be used for the next batch of trainees. The added value of the evaluation has no effect on the current trainees, so they know they are not going to benefit from putting in a lot of work into the evaluation.
This implies that the current customer feedback (i consider the trainees are my customers) is only lagging. Which results in quick written evaluations of shallow depth with no direct added value for the writer.
Make customer feedback leading
With the mindset of continuous improvement in my head, i decided to move the evaluation moment forward to the end of the second or third evening course (depending on the number of evenings). When the feedback is requested in the middle of the course, the trainees will see the added value and give their full participation.
Also we are not using the standard evaluation form for this survey. To get the most out ot the group we did a SWOT analysis (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats). The strengths will be kept and build upon. Opportunities that match strengths can be exploited so there’s extra advantage taken from the strengths. For the weaknesses an action plan needs to be developed: you got your feedback, so what are you going to do with it? The threats should be handled like project risks and a mitigation strategy is needed to avoid hitting the wall.
Because the company needs the input in standard evaluation forms, the survey is kept and can be used as follow-up to see if the actions did have the expected result.
By letting your customer give intermediary input, you can steer together the remainder of the course into the road of success.