Fifteen Is The Magic Number

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I used to be a process engineer and a training instructor for a contract manufacturing facility. We built computers and other electronics for many major brands. Often, it was nearly impossible to free up students for necessary training.

When training people whom management did not want to let go from the build-line to start with, you have to be fast and accurate. I worked my system down to a point where I could train between four and 20 people in 15 minutes on a straightforward task. All training is done on the line where the workers will perform the task.  Any less time and the majority of people would not understand the detail of the lesson. Any more, and they ran the risk of them being dragged back to the lines without the proper training. So we walked the narrow edge.

When you can only spend an absolute minimum of time training someone, you need to work out a few critical issues.  Along with these issues, you have to worry about exactly how the student will retain the information. Students who were not reinforced with correct information regularly will tend to lose those memories. The majority of forklifts accidents do not happen in the first couple of weeks after training. Those accidents will show up six weeks to three months after training when the driver grows complacent with the safety rules.

The most people I ever taught one time were 195 people who I had to instruct on how to sit in a chair. This was required by our management because one of our employees fell out of a chair in our cafeteria during lunch and sued us. I developed a two-page flyer for each person, which included mounting and dismounting a chair. I also added not to sleep in the chair, and to ensure all four legs of the chair were on the ground at all times. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and they understood why we were doing the training. My oldest son, who is a college professor out in Walla Walla, wanted to know when I was going to teach a class in how to breathe.

Teaching people how to use an air vacuum lift or how to measure a newly built, computer unit for shorts to ground, I still hold to the 15-minute rule for on the line spot classes, I just limit the students being trained to either 2 or 4.  This way, I have more control and less interruption with each student.  When training, safety is paramount. Safety gets harder, and the unknowns grow larger as you add more novices to the mix.

The point I’m trying to pass on is, if you want to learn something in 15 minutes, you can. You probably have a library card, get the book. Way too busy to read, go to YouTube, and find a how-to for the skill. Or even better, figure out who you work with who really knows how to do what you want to learn, and ask them to show you. Don’t waste their time, take good notes, and let the trainer know that you appreciate them helping you.

Tomorrow, I will show you how to take a string of 15-minute quick learning sessions and turn them into the knowledge of a much larger, more extended class, just by stringing them together.  This should be interesting.  Join me and see if it can be done.

Thank you for being with me today.  I hope to be with you again tomorrow.

Author: Mike Balof

A retired Air Force Master Sergeant, Mike used to lay in bed at night and worry about what would happen if his plant closed or found himself without a job. One day his plant closed. Rather than panic and hysteria (OK, maybe a little) Mike found himself carried away on the adventure of his life. Mike started with the best job he ever had working at Home Depot. He spent 8 years working with job seekers at a local workforce center, helping them to find employment. He then started his own company developing courses, writing books and urging others to follow their own paths into the future. Mike holds a Master of Arts in Adult Education and Training and a Bachelor of Business Management, earned through the University of Phoenix and an AAS degree in Electronics Systems Technology from the Community College of the Air Force. Mike is a member of the Delta Mu Delta Business Honor Society.

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