It’s a term I first heard used by John Seddon and it seems, to me, to become a more common title.
A “Toolhead” is somebody who has been on a short training course to learn how to use a particular tool and then looks for problems he/she can use it to solve – of which they will find many. It’s like the apprentice joiner who is given a hammer on his (to her) first day and, for a while, every problem is a nail (or can otherwise be solved by a good whack!
Most businesses will opt for training opportunities that tie up staff for the shortest time: a half-day course will usually be preferred over a two-day course, even if it’s the same price. The former can pass on information to the trainees but give them much less opportunity to test it for themselves. But that’s not the main concern – the issue lies in teaching just the tools.
Students who embark on a longer course of quality education (say, a diploma or masters) will learn about a wide range of tools. In fact, they will probably spend less time learning the intricacies of most than they would learn on a two-day course specialising in just one tool or technique. However, they will have a much better understanding of how and where each tool can be best used – or, more to the point, which tool to select from their toolbox to address the current problem.
There’s big market in root cause analysis (RCA) training, especially in the HSE sector. Identifying the root cause of a problem is essential if the best solution is to be found. However, it’s often the case that the courses focus on a restricted set of tools and techniques (perhaps just one) and the trainees leave with their “hammer”. Also, RCA is just part of the process to solve a problem. The complete quality professional will recognise that there is a lot of work to be done in understanding the process and problems before getting down to identifying causes.
I’ve told some of my own quality diploma students that their development doesn’t stop when they graduate. They will still need to go on courses to learn more about the tools and techniques they will need to employ – but they will be learning them from the basis of understanding their application.