Knowledge versus Performance
In the automotive industry, painting cars is a critical and exacting process. So much so that the technicians don’t actually paint the cars, they coat them, a subtle but important difference. Of course there’s paint involved, and that paint is sprayed onto the cars—and that is the source of a key lesson about knowledge versus performance.
Within the training required of the paint-booth operator was a somewhat lengthy course on paint viscosity. It turns out that different colored paints have different viscosities leading to different spray characteristics—different enough that imperfections in the finished paint job could result if the operator wasn’t careful. Hence the course in viscosity. It was naturally thought that an operator who understood viscosity thoroughly would be better equipped to anticipate and eliminate any possible issues. In other words: superior knowledge would bring superior results.
To confirm this hypothesis, interviews were conducted with the operators who consistently produced the best results in the paint booth, such as fewer imperfections and higher quality finishes. If the hypothesis about superior knowledge was correct, those top operators would also be the most knowledgeable about paint viscosity and the potential implications in the paint booth. Imagine the surprise when just the opposite was discovered. Those top operators not only didn’t have superior knowledge about viscosity, they claimed knowing more would not help them in any way. But how could that be?
Instead one of the top operators pulled a simple cotton swab out of his pocket and said, “What I know a lot about is when and how to clean the nozzles to get the best possible results.” In other words: superior performance trumped superior knowledge!
Which would you prefer among your top performers: superior knowledge or superior performance?
Question to ponder:
- Are you training your people to have superior knowledge or superior performance?