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An Interview with Donald Fisher, Ph.D., ....

MSQPC - The Quality Center - 22 N. Front Street, Suite 200, Memphis, TN 38103  (901) 543-3530.   Fax: (901) 543-3510.


Donald C. Fisher, Ph.D., is currently the Executive Director of MSQPC - The Quality Center (Mid-South Quality/Productivity Center), a partnership between the Memphis Regional Chamber and the Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis.

Dr. Fisher's twenty years of management development experience includes consulting on corporate training and productivity improvement programs for several of the world's largest corporations. His experience and his understanding of the comtemporary workplace and its workers add special insight to the PATS on-the-job training program.

Q - I know that you have developed and trademarked the Process Activated Training System® or "PATS." Would you please describe PATS to our listeners?

The PATS approach integrates training into the workflow - the way you do your normal job. The reason I developed this is as follows. Back in 1987, I started reading about process management and getting a good understanding of it. As a result, I came to the conclusion that I needed to define learning as a process - the way people learn, the way instructors teach needed to be defined as a process. I identified some best practice benchmarks. The first was the United States Navy. I wanted to learn how they trained people on critical skills and tasks and how they did so in such a quick manner.

Then I benchmarked IBM in New York State, focusing on how they taught people some of their critical skills. I came to the conclusion that the most critical form of learning in any organization worldwide was on-the-job training - that everyone really learned, not through text books, or through curriculum developed by well-know authors, but by peers through peer knowledge. I identified those peers, those best practice employees, imparting the knowledge as subject matter experts.

That's how I got the idea of the Process Activated Training System. It identifies about 10 to 15% of employees in any organization as best practice workers whom we call subject matter experts. They're the ones who informally train co-workers in these best practices. What we decided to do with PATS was to formalize an informal process - we formalized on-the-job training. We've also given the teachers an identification - we call them subject matter experts (SME). They're the best practice workers and they teach best practices and deploy these throughout the organization. In a nutshell, that's how PATS got started and how it works inside an organization.

Q- As I recall you benchmarked about 100 different organizations to develop PATS, right? Absolutely. I conduct a lot of Baldrige assessments around the world. I just finished a global assessment for a division of the Swiss Air group. I go into organizations and look at how processes are documented. I look at how employees learn and how employees train. Based on all of this - since 1988 I've been conducting Baldrige assessments - I brought all of this together and developed the PATS system. So that's how this has evolved. It's been an evolutionary process. So within this PATS system we're using the best of the best practices from companies such as Volvo, IBM, Hitachi, and many other companies around the world. It's been a great experience of going into organizations and looking at best practices through the assessment door.

Q - I understand that you even went to the United States Air Force base where they train fighter pilots. Right. I spent ten days there as a senior Air Force judge. They applied for the Secretary of the Air Force Quality Award. One thing I discovered is the way fighter pilots are trained is that they all have different best practices. If they're having a problem, they get some of the pilots together as a team. One of the things they identify is "first step, last step." They could all agree on these two, but couldn't always agree on the steps that went in between. Through that I developed one of the main PATS forms which I call a fast and dirty flow chart. This process worksheet was designed to keep flow charting a process very simple. We found through our research that most workers, especially in the manufacturing sector and service sector get rather intimidated by two things: flow charting a process and seconding when you're using educational or training terminology.

We use only process terminology when describing both teachers and learners and when describing the forms that we use. The process worksheet is a one-page flow chart. With this form, we ask a team of subject matter experts, those who exhibit best practices, inside an organization to complete the form. An example is in a hospital in another state where we've trained over 200 nurses in the PATS system. We had identified about 5 subject matter experts and asked them to collect a blood sample - each of them did it a different way. After this we had them sit down and work together. We had them identify and process and complete the flow chart form for that process. (We have optional software available for PATS.) This information then rolls over to the second form called the baseline assessment of process. This second form gives the SMEs an opportunity to consent on the best practice for a particular process. We only want SMEs writing scripts and curriculum.

These forms and methods help reduce process cycle time and learning cycle time. The third form is called the learning session plan. It's like a teaching script. This assures that teacher (SME) follows the best practice when teaching and that therefore the learner is learning the best practice. This script is done in a show-tell-demonstrate curriculum. We call learners in our system the PAL (Process Activated Learner). In traditional learning you only get a 10 - 15% learning retention rate. With PATS you get a 45 - 55% learning retention rate. Even though they have to stay with the script, the teams can have a lot of fun with this learning. Every script has a behavioral objective base so that we can measure if there has been any change in behavior weeks or months after the training is complete. The first two forms give a standardization throughout the system on the performance of a particular process and the third form gives a standardization throughout the system of the teaching of a given process. I have not seen another system that does this. We designed it as a closed loop system. The training script is a very unique part of this system.

Q - I understand that you have some other forms that are part of PATS system too, right? Yes. It's a continuation of the closed loop system. We have an observation report (which the software prints out automatically). With this form the SME can observe the learner several weeks after the initial training to assure that the learner is actually practicing what he or she has been taught. And 100% accurate performance is the only acceptable score. Otherwise some further training needs to take place with that individual. And there is a reward system association with the observation form. Everything about PATS is very pro-active. Also associated withPATS are SME certification and process certification.

Q - Please tell us the types of customers who have benefited, and can benefit from PATS. United States Postal Service, logistics business, hospitals, vehicle manufacturing, hotel, utility, service, nonprofit, colleges. Any type organization can use PATS.

Q - Why is retaining job knowledge so important to any organization? Any company or organization with high attrition has valuable knowledge walking out the door unless they're using PATS to document and retain that knowledge.

Q - How is PATS associated with ISO 9000 and ISO 9001/2000? PATS is very compatible with ISO and helps organization meet many of the ISO requirements - especially in the area of training and procedures.

Q - How does an organization get started using the system? We have a two-day workshop in which we train about five to six teams of subject matter experts. They work on developing some of their own actual work processes during the workshop and then are given assignments to continue documenting processes after the workshop is completed. Within a month's time an organization can have 60 to 80 processes documented. A hospital with which I'm working has documented about 700 processes within 3 months.

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