“In the early days, we had no choice but to hire rejects …. Nobody else would come. But we trained the hell out of them, and they became great.” Employees who’ve graduated from top business schools such as Harvard and MIT are incompetent when it comes to making profits, Nagamori [CEO of Nidec, polled by executives as the best CEO in Japan] has said, so he started an internal business school for his workers. OK, Ready For Work Again!!!, Bloomberg Businessweek, July 20, 2015.
The constant complaint was that the people we were getting simply didn’t have the skill and experience to do the job. This was the US Air Force and we were doing software maintenance and development. We had people rotate in and out on a two to three year cycle and we had no influence on who we got. Every two to three years we had a complete turnover of people. Because of this, we had lots of folks sitting on the sidelines doing minor jobs while the few “supermen” who had figured things out, were working night and day to keep things together. It was chaos with unsurprisingly low quality.
We made a few simple changes. As people came in to the unit, we already had lined up some of the smaller, less critical, tasks we needed for someone to do. These small programming tasks became the first task the new person did coming in the door. They were partnered with a more experienced person and their purpose in getting the initial software change done was to both complete the task and to learn the software maintenance and development tools and process. As they finished each effort they then were given a slightly bigger effort to take on next. We had a system and they were expected to follow it and not to get too creative on their own, at least not at first.
We went from having people sitting around reading newspapers to everyone working on things that needed to be done. Productivity and quality in the unit skyrocketed. The only collateral damage due to the change was that those folks who thrived on chaos, the “supermen,” didn’t have the chaotic environment to ride to glory and promotion. Instead, we just got the work done with the “ordinary” people we had, who turned out to be extraordinary when given the chance.
For more see why Successful Projects Are Boring
Training up the people we have is often a better strategy than striving for and competing for what are considered the “best” people. A fancy degree or an impressive resume is rarely a good substitute for a well considered in-house training program. Good training will help make everyone better and will also help our “best” people actually perform to their potential.
How good is your training of new people coming into your project?