When training employees, which do you think is more important?
- Teaching the process – what and how to do the individual tasks and steps that make up whatever it is that needs to be done, or
- Teaching the logic – not only the what and the how but also the why – why things are being done the way they’re being done.
Before you answer, let me submit some points to consider. The value in teaching the logic – the how, what and the why – is that employees are better able to deal with things that are outside the norm because they understand the reasoning and thus the implications of taking atypical actions. However, teaching logic takes much longer than just teaching a process. It’s far easier to give an employee a step-by-step task or instruction list that they can follow every single time. This instruction list can then also be placed in a “desk binder” or equivalent reference source for employees to consult every time they need to. In fact, this process orientation is the foundation for many well-recognized (and well-regarded) quality management standards and systems. The thinking behind this “process” approach is that once employees master the process, then understanding the reasoning behind the actions and decisions can come later.
I pose this question because of an informal discussion I had last week with a group of leaders at a large multinational client organization. Over the past few years, they have been actively centralizing many of their “routine” operational activities (such as contract set-up and administration, accounts payable, and first-level telephone customer service) to lower-cost corporate locations outside North America and Western Europe. To simplify and fast-track the transitions, they chose the “teach the process” approach. However increasingly, sometimes even two to three years later, they are finding high levels of errors, due mostly to employees executing transactions without fully understanding the logic behind them.
So, the question is – process or logic? Where is the balance (and how does one achieve it)? Have you had first-hand experience with such a situation? Please share!