Fifteen Is The Magic Number

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.


There is an old saying I heard back in my Air Force days, “To be early is to be on time.”  And, the sentiment is true.  If you want to show people that you care, show up just a little early.  It shows the people you are meeting with that you care about and honor the time that they are giving you to work with them.  This courtesy that you extend others is not overlooked and is remembered by those who receive it.

Being late to an appointment or to deliver a product, whether it is the premier item you develop or a free daily blog, is also remembered. Although, not in a positive way. No matter how you work with, and what you do for the customer, there is always one trait that they always look to have. Consistency.

The best consistency you can have is the consistency of keeping clients informed. If you know you won’t be writing a blog for three days because you’re going to be out of town, let your readers know that you won’t be publishing for those three days. You do not have to tell them why you just need to let them know how the results affect them.

We all realize that we live in a world that is sometimes a little unpredictable. We are also all creatures of habit. If there is something that is going to prevent you from doing something you were supposed to do for someone in a timely fashion that you’ve either agreed to do or usually provide, the best advice is to let them know beforehand. And, if there is a small token of appreciation you can add, that is always remembered and goes far towards keeping a valued customer.

I have heard a story about a salesman who sold a suit to someone going out of town on business. The suit did not come back from the alterations department in time. The salesman promised to ship the suit to the hotel where the salesman was staying and have it there before the date the salesman needed it. Not only did the suit arrive at the hotel before the meeting, but the salesman had also picked up two ties which worked well with the suit and sent them along, as a thank you. The customer was delighted and assured many of his friends heard about these good deeds.

There may be over 7 billion people in the world, yet finding customers that appreciate you and are buying precisely what you’re selling is much rarer. We need to honor and recognize the customers we have. And I need to tell you now that I genuinely thank you and all those who read my blog. We need to honor and do the best we can for one another.

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

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