Comparison of Methods and Results
In this final installment, we will compare the process and results achieved by the TPD method to that presented by Parker and Kleemeier in Human Relations in Supervision. Parker and Kleemeier present a qualitative approach adapted from the “Training within Industry Report” published at the end of World War II. Despite the time elapsed since its publication, it is quite similar to the approach to training plan development taken by many to this day. Contrasted with the TWI approach is the pseudoquantitative method of Training Plan Development via Task Assessment. Development of a truly objective, quantitative assessment process is not practical, if it is even possible; the rating method of TPD provides the next best thing.
A diagram presented by Parker and Kleemeier best summarizes the approach to training plan development that they endorse:
As can be seen from the diagram, task difficulty is ranked on the scales of five “progress factors.” If the progress factors cited are not redundant, they are at least overlapping. Care required in handling could be used interchangeably with surface quality required, for example. More – or fewer – and certainly different factors, or definitions thereof, could have been chosen. The TWI example demonstrates that tasks can be evaluated on any number of qualitative, or quantitative, spectra. To minimize overlap and provide an efficient technique, the task assessment process presented uses only three rating factors that account for a much broader range of potential impacts than the TWI example considers.
Redundancy of the progress factors considered may explain how all five increase in unison for the task sequence given. This seems to be a special case or, more likely, an oversimplified one. In fact, this condition is a “red flag,” indicating that the most informative progress factors may not have been selected for consideration. If this were not the case, however, the subjective method of sequence determination could not be applied directly. Tradeoffs among progress factors would have to be considered; these tradeoff considerations would also be highly subjective, based on unguided expressions of “gut feelings.”
Dividing the tasks into four levels suggests that each job listed at that level is of approximately equal difficulty and, therefore, interchangeable in the training sequence. However, Parker and Kleemeier seem to indicate that no such flexibility exists, that the sequence presented is the only appropriate sequence. This method’s inherent shortcomings limit its value in application; this mixed message can frustrate use of the tool, further limiting its utility.
In contrast to the TWI/Parker and Kleemeier method presented, the Task Assessment method proposed aims to utilize a set of assessment criteria that are representative of the total impact of task performance on the organization’s production capability. Subjectivity cannot be eliminated from the assessments, but it is severely limited by focusing the assessor on a small set of well-defined attributes that are not required to be in synchronicity. The lack of synchronicity of “progress factors” allows tasks to be differentiated on each scale independent of the others. That is, each factor is assessed without need for tradeoff considerations; the tradeoffs are addressed directly by calculating the Training Plan Priority (TPP). The Task Assessment method also provides for more objective evaluation of the potential impacts of the adoption of new product or process technologies or other changes in the task environment.
Direct comparison of the results of the two training plan development methods illustrates the value of a rigorous analysis of operations guided by the Task Assessment process. The table below summarizes the comparison of the two training plans developed for the TWI/Parker and Kleemeier example of manufacturing optical glass reticles.
While the two show some agreement in the early and late stages of the training plan, the sequence recommendations for the majority of tasks is quite different. This result is not surprising; the TPD sequence is the result of reasoned analysis, while the P&K sequence relies on snap judgments that can be easily tainted by recent experience.
In addition to a logical training sequence, TPD also provides a wealth of information that is unavailable in the TWI/P&K method. Note that two tasks, grind bevel and grind to diameter, have equal TPP and, therefore, are interchangeable in the training sequence. This is expressed by indicating both sequence positions 5 and 6 for each task, providing flexibility within the training plan without increasing risk to productivity. The ambiguity of the P&K levels is eliminated. Availability of qualified trainers or at-risk production requirements are common “tie-breakers” in this scenario.
Inclusion of TPP information in the training plan also informs decisions about modifying sequences during execution to accommodate operational circumstances. When a qualified trainer is not available for the next scheduled task, TPP can be used to determine if it is acceptable to move to a subsequent task. For example, a trainee may have mastered the block up task (#7, TPP = 105), but no trainer is available for fine grind (#8, TPP = 150). Sending the trainee on to fill in etched lines (#9, TPP = 168) may be deemed acceptable, but etch (#10, TPP = 240) would not; the increase in the level of risk is too large. If no trainer was available for fill in etched lines, the training plan would be suspended, and the trainee assigned other work, until a qualified individual became available.
Although it is not presented in the table, TPD has another significant advantage: preliminary training schedules are agreed upon in advance. This allows lower anticipated productivity to be incorporated into production plans, providing an estimate of its duration. This information also allows the effectiveness of the training program to be evaluated and improved.
Analysis and comparison could continue, but it becomes increasingly granular, while the aim of this post is to provide a higher-level overview. For those interested in granularity, feel free to leave a comment or contact JayWink Solutions for further discussion.
[Link] Parker, Willard E. and Kleemeier, Robert W. Human Relations in Supervision; McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1951.
[Link] War Manpower Commission Bureau of Training. “Training Within Industry Report, 1940-45;” U.S. Government Printing Office, 1945.
Jody W. Phelps, MSc, PMP®, MBA
JayWink Solutions, LLC
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