The Training Within Industry Job Methods Program: Encouraging Innovation for Continuous Improvement


TWI Job Methods (JM) Program Image

The Training Within Industry Job Method program provides a method for making more products, of the same or higher quality, in less time and/or with fewer resources.

As author Donald Dinero puts it: "TWI (and Job Methods) helps organizations make the best use of available resources to produce GREATER QUANTITIES of QUALITY PRODUCTS in LESS TIME. What is less obvious is that it does so by leading employees to critical thinking, i.e., by developing a learning organization."


Let's take a step back before we begin.

Training Within Industry, or TWI, was an American job training program that originated around the time of World War II (and has deeper roots in American job training programs back to World War I). It's also at the roots of what's now known as Lean Manufacturing. Training Within Industry had four programs: Job Instruction (JI), Job Methods (JM), Job Relations (JR), and Program Development. Job Instruction, Job Methods, and Job Relations are commonly referred to as the J programs.

This article is one in a series of articles we've written looking at Training Within Industry. Other articles include:

In this article, we'll focus on the Job Method (JM) program. We find the Job Method program especially exciting because it's a great way to empower workers and their supervisors to be creative and innovative at work. These are skills that are increasingly important in the modern workplace and will be even more so in the workplace in the future (dominated by advanced manufacturing, Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, etc.). So while the TWI Job Method program began in the past, we think it has a lot of value for manufacturing in the present and future.

Before we begin, you may want to know we also have an article that essentially introduces lean manufacturing (What Is Lean? Introducing Employees to Lean Manufacturing). And in particular, the Job Method program has a lot of similarity to Lean's concept of kaizen for empowering employees to reduce waste, increase value, and improve efficiency, so you may also be interested in our articles What Is Kaizen? and What Is a Kaizen Event? Plus of course we have courses on lean manufacturing.

Finally, in a bit of a coincidence, a lot of the spirit that underlies the Job Methods program and Lean's concept of kaizen is also covered in our recent article on Motivating Workers to Innovate (And How Your Management Techniques May Be Stifling Innovation), which is based on the book Drive by Daniel Pink. So you may want to add that to the old reading list as well.

And with that said, let's dive into our introduction to the Training Within Industry Job Method program.

(Credit where credit is due: This article and all articles in our TWI series are largely based on the EXCELLENT Shingo prize winning book Training Within Industry: The Foundation of Lean by Donald A. Dinero. As the saying goes, run don't want to a bookstore near you to buy a copy and read the whole thing for yourself.)

What Is the Training Within Industry Job Methods Program?

The Job Methods program is a program to teach workers and their supervisors how to improve job processes at work.

What's unique about the JM program is that it was an intentional break from having engineers at a workplace be the only ones (or sole deciding voice) as to how things are done at work and what work processes can be changed.

In that sense, as we'll see below, Job Methods is similar to Lean's kaizen, in that they're both focused on letting workers (and/or their supervisors) make changes at work that reduce waste and increase value and efficiency.

To learn what the Job Methods Program is, let's take a step back. is that if a worker sees something that can be changed at work to make work more efficient and reduce waste, the worker should be able to do that. As different workers make small changes, they communicate with and observe other workers, who may also be making changes. As a result, the effective ideas are spread and adopted throughout the workforce. And, the cumulative impact of those multiple small changes is quite large for the company as a whole.

Side note: This idea of workers learning from communicating and observing from other workers is also incorporated in the 70/20/10 workforce learning model, and our article on that may be of interest to you as well (in particular, the "20" part of 70/20/10).

The paragraph above could happen in any workplace and it explains something very similar to lean's kaizen.

But in some cases, a change is too big or complicated for a worker to implement it alone. That's what the Job Methods Program is intended to help with. The Job Methods Program provides a method for a worker, group of workers, or supervisor to follow when recommending a bigger change like this.

How Does the Job Methods Program Work?

At the heart of the Job Methods program was a four-step process for recommending those bigger changes meant to improve efficiency. And to make that even easier, they created a four-step form people should fill out in order to recommend the changes.

The idea was to make sure the idea was well thought out before it was advanced for consideration. Here's how Dinero puts it in his book:

From the outset, TWI recognized that for a job improvement program to be successful, the employees (supervisors or workers) must present complete, well though-out our ideas for approval. If any employee presents an idea that is incomplete, unworkable and easy to dismiss, management (or any party authorized to judge the idea) will not accept it. The program will surely fail because no one will use it. A key requirement then was to have the employee look for flaws in the suggested improvement and not present the idea until it is complete and workable.

Source: Dinero, Training Within Industry: The Foundation of Lean, p. 129

The JM 4-Step Method Training Card

The Job Methods Program (how Job Methods works, at least) is really captured by the JM 4-Step Method Training Card, which Dinero's prints on page 126 of his book (and which Dinero sources as coming from Deitz, Learn by Doing, p. 18).

We've listed the four-step method below. You could use this "as is" or modify it for your own purposes at work.

Step 1: Break Down the Job

List each step and detail of the job as it's currently performed. Be sure to include all aspects of material handling, machine work, and work performed by hand.

Step 2: Question Every Detail of the Job

Review the list of job steps and details and question each one. Ask questions like:

  • Why is this necessary?
  • What's the purpose?
  • Where's the best place to do it?
  • When is the best time to do it?
  • Who's the worker that's most qualified/most appropriate to do it?
  • What is the best way to do it?

In addition, question every other detail related to the job task. Consider things like:

  • Materials
  • Machines
  • Equipment
  • Tools
  • Product design
  • Workplace layout
  • Work process flow
  • Safety issues
  • Housekeeping

Step 3: Develop a New Method for Performing the Job

Propose a new method. To do so:

  • Eliminate unnecessary steps and details
  • Combine steps and details when possible
  • Put steps into the best sequence (order)
  • Simplify all details.
  • Work out and review your ideas with other workers
  • Write up new proposal

Step 4: Apply the New Method of Performing the Job

Begin process of getting change approved and implemented:

  • Pitch supervisors/managers/"the boss"
  • Get approval based on considerations related to safety, quality, quantity, and cost
  • Implement change
  • Make sure people involved in proposing change get due credit/recognition (see discussion of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation below for more on this)

Also, although this isn't included in the original form, I'd argue that it's important to monitor/observe/measure/track to confirm that the change is truly an improvement. This is just a reminder to use the Deming P-D-C-A cycle.

What Are the Primary Benefits of the Job Methods Program?

There are three key benefits of the Job Methods Program:

  • You get input from workers about how to make work processes and job tasks more efficient. This is helpful because workers typically know the job better than anyone (they do it, after all) and often have the best ideas about how to improve it.
  • You get an orderly manner for proposing, evaluating, and potentially implementing larger changes
  • You tap into the workers' intrinsic motivations, which research shows is more effective than trying to use external motivations. More on that below.

To put this into slightly different language, TWI and the Job Methods Program help organizations become "learning organizations." Here's how Dinero puts it in his book:

The point is, what is clearly visible is that TWI (and Job Methods) helps organizations make the best use of available resources to produce GREATER QUANTITIES of QUALITY PRODUCTS in LESS TIME. What is less obvious is that it does so by leading employees to critical thinking, i.e., by developing a learning organization.

Source: Dinero, Training Within Industry: The Foundation of Lean, p. 128

Extrinsic Motivations and Intrinsic Motivations for Job Performance and Innovation

We want to shine a little extra light on this notion of intrinsic motivations and extrinsic motivations and how they influence the performance and productivity of employees in the workplace.

That's partly because we think it's important, but also because we recently wrote about Daniel Pink's book Drive, and what Dinero is saying in his book about motivating workers so closely mirrors what Pink is saying (see our article about Motivating Workers to learn what Pink has to say).

Here's what Dinero has to say about the importance of tapping workers' intrinsic motivation at work (which is so in line with kaizen, kaizen events, TWI, Job Methods, and Pink's theories, and all of which is supported by data and research):

It is well documented that rewards (attempts at extrinsic motivation) are not a motivator for change or productivity. They not only decrease creativity and productivity, but they can also be counter-productive...Research shows that the person being "motivated" does only what is expected (if that) and no more...there is no creativity and because the goal is definitive, the person does not exceed it...Job Methods [is a form of] intrinsic motivation because the person making the improvement is doing it to make his or her job easier...the motivation for improvement comes from within...creativity is nourished and there is no defining boundary. This allows for continual improvement.

Source: Dinero, Training Within Industry: The Foundation of Lean, p. 128

If you're particularly interested in following up on these issues of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and how they affect worker performance and innovation, you may want also want to check out the behavioral economist Dan Ariely. Check our article Improving Employee Performance with More Informed Management based on Ariely's book Predictably Irrational.

How is the Job Methods Program Related to Lean's Kaizen?

We already touched on this above, but here's the general idea.

If a change on the job is small enough that a worker can do it on his or her own, then that falls in the kaizen bucket.

On the other hand, if a change on the job is too much for a worker or group of workers to change on their own, and if a supervisor is required, then that falls into the Job Methods bucket. Job Methods provides a method (and even a form to fill out) for recommending these larger changes so they can be considered and possibly implemented.

Keep in mind that the Job Methods Program and TWI as a whole were created before Lean.

Interesting in Lean? Why Not Start with an Online 5S Course

If you're interested in learning more about lean manufacturing, a great place to start is with 5S. In fact, many companies begin implementing lean by adopting 5s first.

Our online 5S course is a great way to begin the lean journey. We've included a short sample below.

And although this idea isn't exclusively related to TWI, JM, or Lean, the emphasis of removing waste to improve efficiency that TWI, JM, and Lean all focus on is directly related to operating cost management, as described in our Understanding Facilities Costs online course. Check the sample below.

You may also want to check out our online manufacturing training courses, our learning management system (LMS) for administering and managing manufacturing training, and our custom manufacturing training capabilities.

Here's a short video sample of our online manufacturing and manufacturing safety training courses.

And here's a brief overview of our learning management system (LMS) for manufacturing training.

Some Interesting Additional Notes about the Job Methods Program from Dinero's Book

Dinero's book is a really impressive bit of scholarship and historical research and if this kind of thing is up your alley, you should check it out.

We've focused in this article on trying to give you the basics of what the Job Methods Program is about so you can implement it at work, but we figured we'd use this section to give you a head's up on some of the cool additional stuff Dinero covers. So, in brief:

  1. Dinero offers an interesting criticism of traditional "workers-submit-improvement-suggestions" systems on page 60.
  2. For the TWI/Lean "nerds" out there, Dinero provides an interesting time-line of the Job Method creation process and roll-out in chapter 7.
  3. Dinero points out that the JM program was intended to lead to "improvements to increase speed [that are] process oriented." The point here is it's not just about getting out a whip and lashing workers to do more in less time. See page 124.
  4. In a similar way, Dinero points out that JM was intended to be a method in which organizations could learn to "improve production with available resources." Meaning, be more efficient with what you've got. See page 127.
  5. The JM program training sessions were held to teach supervisors how to bring JM to their workplace. So the focus of the JM training programs themselves were to teach supervisors to take the basic method back to their workplaces, and the supervisors (plus employees) could use the method to make operational improvements. The JM program is NOT itself a method to make a specific operational improvement. See page 130-131.
  6. Dinero addresses the notion of what happens if a new efficiency means a worker is no longer needed for the improved task on page 133.
  7. Dinero notes that JM kind of "upset the apple cart" by allowing people other than industrial engineers to suggest work processes. See page 124.
  8. Dinero also notes that the originators of JM were aware of what we might call "workplace politics" today between engineers, operators, and supervisors. As a result, they intentionally "marketed" the JM program as one for supervisors, although there's no reason operators/employees couldn't do it as well. See pages 124-125.

The Job Methods Program: Use it to Unleash the Creativity of Your Workforce

Hope you found this helpful and interesting.

Do you have experiences with TWI or the Job Methods program? If so, let us know about them in the comments below. Plus, check out any of the articles below:

You might also want to check out these articles on lean:

Also, let us know if you've found other ways at work to allow employees to offer suggestions, make changes, and help your company innovate. We'd love to hear about them.

Don't forget to download the free manufacturing training guide below, too.


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