Moving decision making down the line
A British Steel case study

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Page 4: Key objectives

In creating the training programme, two objectives had to be met:

  1. To increase operators’ product/process knowledge, problem-solving and decision making skills. Operative competency was traditionally based on technical skills. It did not include the problem solving/decision making skills and product/process knowledge which would reduce time spent by operatives referring to management for help.
  2. To improve management style and expertise, thus making the programme effective. The new empowerment based approach could only be effective if it was fully understood and supported by all managers.

The Cold Mills Development Programme (CMDP) was designed and launched. Llanwern selected nine Lead Unit Trainers on the basis of job knowledge, communication skills, self confidence/ assertiveness, perseverance and a sense of humour. There were a number of steps involved in training design.

Step 1: Developing a Cold Mill operator profile:

  • Analysis of job demands. This consisted of a questioning approach - studying operator jobs and interviewing shift managers, supervisors and senior operators. It enabled unit trainers to gauge key demands, competencies and behaviours which, although not directly trained for in the past, nevertheless differentiated very good operators from those working to a demonstrably lower standard.
  • Identification of competencies using psychometric assessment. After job analysis, a further study was carried out on two distinct groups of current operators - one of perceived high level performers and one of lower performers. This provided an overview of the typical skills, abilities, behaviour attitudes and personality characteristics which separated the high performers from the under performers. The analysis generated an ‘ideal operator profile,’ allowing management to focus on the characteristics of an ‘ideal’ employee.

The aim was to encourage existing employees to recognise the ‘right’ characteristics, as well as using the profile for recruiting new employees. The profiles concentrated on job specifications (objectives, duties and responsibilities, job skills requirements) and personal specifications (physical characteristics, social factors, abilities and personal qualities). In general terms, more successful operators had developed an understanding and familiarity with customer specification, the product/process and end-use and were more sociable, stable and intellectually effective.

Step 2 - Competence matrix development

British Steel 3 Image 5The nine Lead trainers were introduced to the programme during a three day workshop, which enabled them to write comprehensive training manuals. Unit trainers then produced competency matrices (detailed outlines of the competencies individual employees would need) for each production unit within the department, based on the traditional method of assessing newly identified skills to pre-defined standards. The required level of job skill and knowledge was indicated for each competence. Manuals were rigorously checked, amended and finally approved by management, to ensure that training design was appropriate to the changes that were being introduced.

Step 3 – Supportive management development skills programme

The next important stage involved training the managers to support the new initiatives. Managers needed to develop:

  • the managerial skills to support the benefits of shopfloor training; team building, delegation and co-ordination, setting objectives and evaluating performance
  • an understanding of the complementary relationship between training for personal empowerment and TQP/team building
  • a culture (i.e. way of doing things in the organisation) in which the central importance of customer/commercial considerations was of overriding importance
  • state-of-the-art knowledge of current cold mill technology.

Having established the nature, purpose and procedures for the delivery of the training, it was then possible to implement the training programme. Training manuals were used to assess all operators individually, to identify competency shortfalls and consequent training needs. Managers and supervisors followed a series of modules to develop their understanding of production management, supply chain management, process and product technology. They also visited major customers and took part in competitive edge workshops.

British Steel | Moving decision making down the line