You've had what you feel is a successful launch of your Lean initiative. You've held company wide meetings to explain the what, why and how; you've conducted training sessions on Lean, identified what your customers consider to be value; created value stream maps and identified areas for improvements; and have held a few successful continuous improvement projects.
Despite all of these positive steps, your Lean initiative seems to have stalled. Lessons learned are not being carried over to other areas; employees are sliding back into their old, wasteful habits; and everyone is thinking the same thought: One more flavor of the month is going down the drain.
If this describes your current or past Lean or continuous improvement initiatives then take heart – you're not alone. As I've said in previous months, it takes more than using a few tools to make a company Lean.
So how do you prevent this from happening? Well, have you heard about TWI? No, I'm not talking about a defunct airline. TWI, or Training Within Industry, is an instructional method that's coming back into use in the Lean community.
Charles Allen's idea
At the outset of World War I the United States urgently needed large numbers of ships, but there was a problem. Many of America's best and brightest were enlisting in the armed forces, which led to a shortage in skilled laborers. At the time, the US had an agricultural economy, as had most countries. The skills possessed by people in the farming industry were not easily transferrable to the shipyard.
Charles Allen, an instructor by training, had developed a four-step process for training that emphasized direct, hands-on instruction. Using these methods, the US was able to quickly and successfully train and develop the workforce that was desperately needed.
These four steps were: Preparation, Presentation, Application, and Testing.
Preparation involves getting both the student and the instructor ready for the training session. Planning the setting, method of instruction, time, and visual aids are crucial to the remaining steps.
Presentation: How you tell something to someone is as important as what you tell him or her. Presentation involves more than just telling someone what to do. It also involves actually showing the student how to do a task, key points to each step, and why it's important to do the task in the prescribed manner.
The key takeaway is that the job or task is broken down into manageable steps that can be thoroughly explained and demonstrated.
Application: Here the student tries what she's just been shown, with the instructor correcting errors along the way. The student needs to demonstrate each step, state the key points for each step and the reasons behind the key points. This process is repeated until the student clearly demonstrates proficiency in the task.
Testing: Now that the student has demonstrated proficiency it is time for him or her to begin work. It is imperative that the student knows whom to turn to for assistance and that the instructor (or the designated go-to person) checks on the student frequently to ensure that he continues to demonstrate proficiency.
Those four basic elements became the basis for the Training Within Industry program.
The Four Horsemen
Prior to America's entry into World War II the War Production Board created the Training Within Industry Service, which had at its top four men who had come to learn and use Charles Allen's four-step method. These four – Channing Dooley, Walter Dietz, Mike Kane and Bill Conover – became known as "The Four Horsemen."
Dooley, Dietz, Kane, Conover and many, many others took Allen's four-step process and developed three basic training courses. These were Job Instruction, Job Methods, and Job Relations.
Job Instruction is most directly related to Allen's four-step method. Job Instruction involves breaking the job or task down into basic steps and using Allen's four steps to instruct the student.
Job Methods takes what is essentially the Plan, Do, Check, Act process (PDCA) and applies it to the development of the training method and materials. In Job Methods it is the supervisor's or instructor's task to look at the process and develop a plan to utilize the manpower, machines and material that are currently available to produce the greatest amount of product in the shortest amount of time. To do this the supervisor must break down the job into specific work elements, determine what can and should be eliminated, create a new method and apply that new method. Sounds like kaizen, doesn't it?
Job Relations teaches supervisors how to deal with the everyday issues that arise in the workplace. When we look at today's supervisor, he or she is usually a top performer who was promoted with little or no training on how to be an effective supervisor. We just assume that, because they were very good at their job, they're going to be very good at being a supervisor, and nothing could be further from the truth.
TWI and Toyota
At the end of the war it became apparent that new methods of manufacturing were going to be needed in post-war Japan. The workforce lost many skilled laborers, there was a scarcity of raw materials, and there was little to no capital to invest in new equipment. TWI was the solution.
The United States brought TWI instructors over to Japan and the Job Instruction, Job Methods, and Job Relations courses were taught en masse. Over time these methods were modified and one company, Toyota, used them as the basis for what has become known today as the Toyota Production System.
From TWI to Lean
So, back to our original conundrum: How to sustain the gains made through continuous improvement or kaizen events.
At the conclusion of each event a report should be issued detailing the counter-measures and new procedures that were developed to reduce or eliminate one or more of the eight wastes (defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized people, transportation, inventory, motion, extra processing).
The reason many Lean initiatives stall is that these counter-measures and new procedures are not broken down into manageable, teachable elements and then taught to everyone else in the work area. Most companies simply issue a new standard operating procedure, tell everyone about it, and then expect it to be followed. There's no knowledge transfer, no standardization, no follow through to make sure that the new procedure has been learned and is being implemented effectively.
Using the TWI method a company can avoid having its Lean initiative stall out by planning for how the lessons learned during a kaizen event will be carried forward throughout the workplace. By showing other employees what to do, how to do it, why it should be done in the prescribed manner, and providing follow up and feedback throughout the learning process a company can ensure that lessons learned will not be forgotten. They will, instead, become the new, better way of doing business, which is what we set out to do with our Lean initiative.
The Training Within Industry method of instruction is gaining traction throughout the Lean community as a way of sustaining improvements, creating a more agile and educated workforce and developing the critical skills supervisors need to become leaders.