As you are embarking on your Lean Construction, one of the most important and challenging things to do is training your team. In large organizations, there may be only one or two lean experts in a company with thousands of employees. The traditional training model puts too much pressure on the lean champion, is not scalable, and takes far too long to develop capabilities.

In this blog post, I will explain what is the study action team (SAT) method, how it differs from training that most companies are using today, and how you can use it with the existing FREE library of content from the Lean Construction Blog to support your team’s learning.

What is a Study Action Team (SAT)?

Study Action Team is a powerful method for learning and improving as a team. Although there are different ways of using this method, they typically involve:

  1. Reading a booking and discussing each chapter.
  2. Doing regular semi-structured meetings to discuss ideas and learning.
  3. Organizing site visits to learn from other teams.

What are some problems with the current training model?

The current training model used by most companies takes far too long and requires too much time from the Lean Champion. Lean champions are a rare resource and there is a massive shortage of people with the skills and experience needed to coach teams and projects. Some of the problems with the current training model include:

  1. Lean champions spend a large amount of their time creating content and giving presentations. They often present on a few topics over and over again.
  2. This model is based more on lecturing and less on hands-on learning. Even with hands-on simulation, the ground that formal training can cover is limited versus what can be learned as a team.
  3. This can be boring for some people, especially for people who work in the field that do not like lecture based education.
  4. This puts a lot of pressure and time demand on lean champions who already have a limited amount of time. I have seen some lean champions run several training sessions throughout the year. They might train a few hundred people a year but it consumes all their time to do this. Before each lecture, they spend far too much time preparing and optimizing their slide deck.

What does an effective SAT model look like?

  1. Get a commitment from a small team of 10 to 20 people. Typical commitment is 4-6 months. A 4-6 month commitment allows you to get buy-in without the burden of a long commitment.
  2. Meet for 1 hour every week or every other week. Put this time slot in the calendar at the very beginning. Use the same meeting time for all your sessions. Usually Friday afternoons work better.
  3. Before each meeting, the whole team reads one article from the Lean Construction Blog. Articles take 10 to 15 minutes to read. The Lean Champion can select the article for the team to read and can change the articles based on the interest of the group. I recommend reading a blog post rather than reading a book. The main reason is that reading full books as a team takes far too long. Some books are too complicated and most people are not accustomed to reading long chapters. Blog posts are short and to the point.
  4. First 30 minutes is devoted to summarizing the article and key takeaways.
    • What are some of the key ideas from the article?
    • Do we agree with them or disagree with them?
    • What are some ideas that we can try?
  5. Next 30 minutes is devoted to discussing how the team can use these ideas on their project and within the company.
  6. At the end of the SAT program, spend a day on a graduation ceremony and reflect on the last 4-6 months. A good SAT should have a start and end date similar to a military tour. People can sign up for another tour when their SAT ends.

Why are SATs superior to lecturing?

  1. It takes the pressure off of the lean champion. A lean champion can simultaneously run several SATs at the same time. If a lean champion runs 4 SATs at a time, they can train 80 people over a 4-6 months period while requiring only 8 to 10 hours of time per month. Using this metric, SATs are even more efficient than one-on-one mentoring.
  2. SATs allow the group to learn complex topics and learn ideas that they are actually interested in. Everyone gets a say in the articles to read. The articles and topics of discussion are flexible and can accommodate the problems that people are facing on their project today.
  3. SATs allow people to be self-sufficient and give them the means to continue their training and education AFTER the program ends. Once the program is over, they would have read 8-24 articles and have enough understanding to continue reading and learning on their own.
  4. SATs allows for any company to rapidly scale their training and deployment of Lean Construction.
  5. SATs are cost effective. The materials are already available and we have over 300 articles that are high quality and well vetted. There is enough variety and depth from the Lean Construction Blog to support any SAT team. You can start a SAT internally without the need of an external consultant or a budget.
  6. SATs promote learning in bite-size chunks rather than in big batches. They encourage discussion, build trust within a team, and help the team have a shared vocabulary and understanding of LC. By going slower and focusing on only one blog post every 2 weeks, you can get people to think more deeply about each topic and you can get people to actually think of how they can apply what they are learning. Learning without application is a waste of time.
  7. After a SAT team ends, you can take a few weeks off and then start the next cohort. Once you finish your first SAT, each of the SAT members are equipped to run their own SAT teams. This allows you to start 1 cohort today and in 6 months you can have 10 cohorts running in parallel. Within a year, you can have 100 cohorts running in parallel. There is no other training method that can allow you to scale training to thousands of people after just 1 year. The growth using this model is organic and scales up exponentially.

Conclusion

As more and more companies buy into Lean Construction, one of the limiting factors is effective training. Using the SAT model in combination with the FREE blog posts available on the Lean Construction Blog allows you to train more people, get richer team-based learning, and truly scale up your internal lean training program. One of the reasons why we started the Lean Construction Blog was with this model of distributed team learning in mind. Only through scalable materials can we help millions of people in the construction industry transition to a better way of delivering projects.

This method has proven to be highly effective and low cost. It is far superior to lecturing and how companies currently train their employees. Using this method, you can start and sustain your company’s Lean Construction training program within less than a year. It would not and should not take a decade or a century for your company and for the industry to change.

Is the Study Action Team the only method you should use for training? No. It is a powerful method but it should be combined with: 1) mentoring, 2) structured learning courses, 3) conferences, 4) webinars, and 5) in-person learning events. Teaching Lean Construction is a complicated topic because there is a lot to learn. The field is wide and it takes a long time to have a sufficient understanding of how to apply LC.

Teaching a few people is easy. Scaling up your training to thousands of people is much harder. The SAT method helps solve the scaled learning problem.

If you haven’t started an SAT yet, why not? You can get started with little to no approval from upper management. You don’t need a budget or any fancy software. As long as you can get 10 to 20 people that want to learn and are committed to getting better, you have all the requirements needed to start and run an SAT.

Remember that the key for success with an SAT is commitment. If people show up late or do not show up to the SAT meeting, your team-based learning deteriorates. As a result, you should start an SAT with only committed members, take attendance every week, and have an attendance goal of over 90% each session.

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Doanh specializes in Lean Construction with an emphasize on Target Value Delivery (TVD), Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), Choosing By Advantages (CBA), and the Last Planner System (LPS). He helps capital projects (100M to +1B) improve decision-making, productivity, cost, and schedule by 20% to 45% through Lean Construction methods and technology. He has worked with and studied under the founders of Lean Construction in order to develop a holistic understanding of LC methods from both a practical and fundamental theoretical perspective. He is an editor of the Lean Construction Blog, a leading online resource for Lean Construction. The LCB has over 300 articles on LC, over 150,000 unique visitors each year, and over 1M page views. The Lean Construction Blog's mission is to democratize and advance Lean Construction around the world.