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Lean Tools, Training, and Systems

TWI Training Within Industry

One of the historical roots of lean — which is still very relevant today

TWI Training — History of TWI

In the early 1940's, the United States government formed the Bureau of Training War Manpower Commission to help industry quickly and reliably re-train workers to ramp up for World War II.

After the war 1, the U.S. government exported their TWI program to Japan to try to help them rebuild their peaceful industrial base (with the goal of preventing World War III). Interestingly, while U.S. companies returned to "business as usual", Japanese companies embraced the TWI teachings in a big way.

Why TWI is still very relevant today

The results were impressive, with almost 100% of participating firms reporting at least 25% increases in production, and 25% decreases in training time, labor hours, and employee grievances.

The Job Methods teachings served as one of the foundations upon which Toyota eventually built the kaizen teachings that have now grown into the legendary Toyota Production System. 2

The Job Relations teachings look a lot like the dozens of popular managerial problem-solving skills teachings of today (which are still all-too-frequently ignored, at great cost, both financial and emotional).

And most impressively — the TWI Job Instruction teachings have survived to this day almost completely unchanged. The pocket card carried around by Toyota supervisors today is almost identical to the original pocket card distributed by the U.S. government in the 1940's.

TWI Training

TWI Poster — from the 1940's

TWI Poster


A Supervisor's Five Needs

The Training Within Industry TWI program is all about training and coaching supervisors.

The term supervisor is broadly defined as "anybody in charge of people or who directs the work of others".

They identified the five needs of a supervisor.

As a foundation — every supervisor needs:

  1. Knowledge of the work
  2. Knowledge of the responsibilities of the job

These vary so greatly between industries and jobs

that it was believed that they required each company to find their own ways to pass on these two bodies of knowledge.

In recent decades, however, we have made great inroads into standardizing best practices to pass on these types of knowledge.


Front-line not side-line involvement

A huge insight of TWI (that was neglected by Western companies for decades) is the requirement for front-line, not side-line supervisor involvement.

In sharp contrast to the Management By Objective approach espoused by so many MBA programs even today, lean supervisors (and second line supervisors all the way to the top of the executive chain) are required to understand the actual physical work being done by the front-line workers.

How can a supervisor supervise if he or she doesn't understand what the worker is doing?

How can the supervisor help solve problems if he or she doesn't understand what problems the worker faces?

How can the supervisor bring in helpful outside resources if she doesn't understand where the process fits within the value stream?

In a lean organization, the top-level executives roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty — problem-solving and brainstorming shoulder to shoulder with their "subordinates".


The Training Within Industry TWI program focused most of its energy on...

The 3 'J programs' 2

  1. JI — Job Instruction Training — to train supervisors how to train employees to quickly learn and consistently remember how to do any job correctly and safely.
  2. JM — Job Methods Training — to train supervisors how to lead teams to quickly improve job methods
    to produce more in less time, making the best use of resources.
  3. JR — Job Relations Training — to train supervisors how to lead people in ways that prevent
    and quickly resolve problems.


Each of the 3 programs were delivered in 5 consecutive days of training

for 2 hours per day — with ideally a maximum of 8 supervisor participants per class.

The first day or two consisted mostly of instructor training, and the remaining time consisting mostly of coaching the supervisors to use their new skills with their own real-life problems in a 'learn by doing' format.

Today, there are several consulting firms that still teach the time-tested and field-proven TWI methods in formats that range from 1 to 5 days per J program.


Each of the 3 programs was broken down into 4 major steps essentially corresponding to the 4 steps of the scientific method.


Steps Job Instruction Job Methods Job Relations Scientific Method
1 Prepare the worker Break down the job Get the facts Observe: define the problem
2 Present the operation Question every detail Weigh and decide Hypothesize
3 Try out performance Develop the new method Take action Test
4 Follow up Apply the new method Check results Interpret conclusions


And each of the 3 programs was boiled down to a small pocket card
that the supervisors could keep handy whenever needed.


TWI Tools

Get your own editable TWI Pocket Cards

TWI Job Instructions Pocket Card

Included with the Systems2win Lean Training templates are templates that makes it easy to quickly make your own TWI Pocket Cards.

You can easily personalize your company's TWI Pocket Cards, then print, cut out, laminate, and distribute to your supervisors as part of their TWI training.

Each card is perfectly sized to be the exact same size as a credit card.

There are pocket cards for:


The Sixth Need: Systems

The TWI founders released a Statement of Policy for How to Get Continuing Results from TWI Programs 4, which itemized six fundamental systems that an organization needs to put in place in order to succeed with continuous improvement:

  1. Systems to assign responsibility for results
  2. Systems to adequately train a large percent (if not all) of the supervisors
  3. Systems for coaching
  4. Systems for reporting, monitoring, and responding to results
  5. Systems to give encouragement and credit for results
  6. Systems to warmly receive new ideas, and efficiently approve (or disapprove) proposals for continuous improvement

And they noted that it is not enough to just design the systems, but they must be supported, maintained, and continuously improved with adequate staffing (and more today than 70 years ago — IT support).

two bikers

Not just templates.
Not just training.

But also systems
that you won't outgrow

The Seventh Unspoken Need

Although the TWI founders eventually added a training program and a pocket card for second line supervisors, they never reformulated their pie chart to illustrate this "seventh need" of every supervisor:

So many decades of additional case studies have made it glaringly obvious that this seventh need is actually the most important.

In fact, it is not an overstatement to say that...

If your company does not have an effective Change Agent, then the best you can hope for is "pockets of excellence" with one individual or small group applying best practices within a limited scope

Without an effective Change Agent, your chance of success for organization-wide change is not just close to zero — it is zero

That's how important a Change Agent is.


Suggested Reading
and Resources for TWI

More Suggested Reading


  1. TWI arrived in Japan with the Army, but active training did not start until about 1947-48, and official American trainers arrived in 1950.  Part of the Army format was to have the Japanese establish a formal government department that was responsible – this fell under the Ministry of Labor.
  2. Toyota pioneer Taiichi Ohno used JI and JR heavily when establishing the foundations of the Toyota Production System, but found JM not suitable for training the engineering trainees. This is where Shigeo Shingo entered the picture – to teach a basic Industrial Engineering program. JM was deliberately NOT an IE program. JM was one of the early foundations of kaizen, but the Toyota Production System evolved far beyond it, and the entire body of Lean best practices has evolved even further.
  3. These are the 3 most popular. They actually also developed additional training programs for a JR version for union environments (UJR), and Program Development (PD), each with their own Pocket Cards. Another pocket card was developed for the 2nd line supervisors to coach the 1st line supervisors. There also were programs that were given only to TWI staff: Follow-Through and their ‘sales’ procedure.
  4. Training Within Industry How to Get Continuing Results from TWI Programs in a Plant — Statement of Policy to be applied nationally. 1944. Public domain. Transcribed from the National Archives by Mark Warren.

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