Perfect takes practice

Post date: April 24, 2017 by Grace Bourke

Feeling adventurous, I went ocean kayaking. Having paddled before, I thought I was capable. As the professional instructor demonstrated the correct way to hold the paddle, I learned that my grip and arm position were wrong. Adjusting, I was ready to learn to paddle. I struggled with the correct movements, especially a flip back of the left wrist which I kept doing as a forward twist. The instructor coached me a few times before saying, “You’ll get it when you’re on the water.”

On the water, I got it for a little while, but then I drifted back to my old way. This pattern of catching myself doing it wrong, doing it correctly for a little while, and then drifting back to the old way continued all day. Even though my head understood the process and my heart was dedicated to doing it correctly, the old habit reasserted itself.

This pattern applies in general to learning new skills or activities. I’ve seen teams design new standard work that was rolled out with enthusiastic support, but it didn’t become the new habit. My kayaking experience suggests that in addition to training, learning takes practice. Learning a new skill takes an understanding of and commitment to the correct way, an awareness of drifting away from the correct way, and the ability to self-correct. Given this approach to learning a new skill, how can we better coach teams in learning the routine of new standard work?