Nature is not a typical training ground, but, this is not typical training.

Gone are the mind-numbing training courses with boring lectures, warm soft drinks, stale refreshments and uneventful evenings. At boot camps such as one recently formed, which combined the techniques of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, the philosophy is to immerse the participants in the topic by blending content, experiential learning, team building and leadership skills. The Lean/Sigma Boot Camp is not for wimps, but for those who are serious about learning techniques that can give their companies a competitive advantage through the reduction of waste and variability.

Combining training with traditional military regimen, participants start their days with reveille and morning hikes, spend the day learning about lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, participate in class exercises and team simulations, and then apply the teachings to outdoor challenge events.

An interview with Johan Denecke, senior instructor for Lean/Sigma Boot Camp revealed the goals of this camp.

Q: What makes Boot Camp a successful approach to learning?

A: First and foremost, adult learning is much more than watching slides in a conference room. A person has to experience and use the material and be personally inspired by its affect for a significant learning event to occur. Boot Camp is a unique format that blends outdoor experiential learning with the world-class tools and techniques of lean and Six Sigma. It is a total immersion in the subject matter. Participants are encouraged to absorb the change process at every level—intellectually, physically and emotionally. The long hours, mixture of training methods, outdoor activities and secluded environments enable people to have a total, focused experience. It has been said that people don’t attend Boot Camp because they want training; they attend Boot Camp because they want results.

Q: Give us some examples of how Boot Camp participants are challenged.

A: The participants are challenged from the minute they arrive at Boot Camp and are introduced to their schedule for the week. Starting with reveille at 0600 and a morning hike at 0615, our people are in training for 12 hours per day followed by group projects, homework and personal mentoring sessions. We challenge all participants to not only absorb the material and demonstrate success using the tools and techniques, but also to exercise effective team building skills and to execute leadership in the change process.

For example, our rope course is a team and leadership exercise where participants are required to overcome personal fears by climbing tall structures and navigating hurdles. This (fear) is similar to the change process for a corporation and the fear induced in its members by the approaching changes. It is only through strong teamwork and effective leadership that such a fear can be abated and overcome. Our recruits learn to go beyond their limitations and overcome the mental and emotional challenges that accompany new ideas. This prepares them for their new role as change agents within their organizations.

Q: You already have Lean Boot Camp. Why offer a Lean/Sigma Boot Camp?

A: Lean and Six Sigma are two premiere process improvement methodologies that are often implemented as separate entities and yet, the combination of the two provides an unbeatable foundation for competitive advantage and increased profit improvement. Lean focuses on reduction of waste throughout the product and service delivery process, and Six Sigma targets the reduction of variation and improvement in quality to lower costs and optimize value to the customer. Together they provide a strong balanced approach to improving processes and maximizing organizational impact. Reductions of waste and variation have to be done simultaneously in order to provide the customer with the correct product, in the correct quantity, in the least amount of time and with the lowest possible cost. This is best for the client and best for the company.

Q: What makes the approach to Lean and Six Sigma training different?

A: Although Boot Camp features a generic training program, the experience should be as personal as possible. A low instructor-to-student ratio helps ensure that everyone has opportunity for interaction and individual attention. Instructors strive to teach a structured approach that achieves breakthrough results consistently. To enable this, the focus is on the importance of systematic implementation and meaningful change.

Each participant receives a personal mentoring session at Boot Camp. This allows them to really explore the fundamentals of these concepts and methods and discover how they have relevance to their own personal work experiences. These sessions help the participants apply the teachings in a new way and to identify opportunities for immediate improvement. The last part of Boot Camp is devoted to implementation strategies and infrastructure development.

A 90-day implementation plan is developed and follow up occurs every 30 days to help answer any questions or address any issues internal to the respective company. Experience has shown that Lean and Six Sigma can only reshape companies if applied with sustainable results. Boot Camp provides the knowledge and motivation—the significant emotional event—to jump start this process in any organization.

Q: What is some of the feedback you get from the participants?

A: The feedback is remarkable. Most people are a little apprehensive when they arrive for orientation, and by the end of the week they are energized, confident and excited. Boot Camp is a significant learning event and has an emotional impact on its participants. They leave the camp with a clear understanding of their new responsibilities and a structured roadmap for change. This results in a strong sense of empowerment and motivation.