Joe was a machine operator in a high-tech manufacturing company. His story is a good example of how the learning process applies in a competitive enterprise.
As a loyal employee, Joe had been running the cutting machine for years with no complaints. Things began to change when the production quota was raised and Joe’s rejection rates started to climb. Whenever one of the quality checkers tried to tell him about the high number of defects, Joe got upset, saying, “This is my machine and no one tells me how to run it.” He continued working in the same old inefficient way.
Joe was unaware of his poor performance, yet his incompetence was obvious to everyone else. He would not accept that there was a problem and therefore had no motivation to learn.
Joe’s situation changed abruptly one morning when he was told to shut down his old machine and help install a new one. The new machine incorporated the latest computer-assisted technology. Joe panicked because he had no idea how to operate this fancy new monster.
Suddenly, Joe understood the need to improve his skills. So, like it or not, Joe was motivated to learn because his job was in jeopardy.
After an intensive three weeks of classroom training and on-the-job practice, Joe was able to run the machine at medium speed. He kept up with the workflow and performed almost error free. By applying his newfound knowledge, he was able to cut mostly perfect pieces and meet the current production schedules.
His familiarity with the new machine placed him in a comfortable state of mind and he felt great knowing he was good at his job.
After a few weeks, Joe began to relax and enjoy his success. Everything was under control. The job had become routine again. Joe’s performance was good enough as far as he was concerned. Operating the new machine with confidence, Joe was not looking for ways to improve.
When the other machine operators had completed their training and practice period, the production pace for was accelerated to the maximum. Joe had settled into a nice, comfortable routine, just like his situation before. As the performance demand increased, it was not long before the quality of his work began to slide. Joe had become incompetent again, but he was not aware of it. He was back where he started.