How to keep TWI alive at your company

Mike Micklewright
Tags: business management

Training Within Industry (TWI) could easily die within your company if your company structure, systems and practices are not based on principles that will support and sustain TWI. Take time to evaluate your company’s principles before another good tool comes and goes. 

So, what did make TWI go away the first time?

Born Out of a Crisis
The U.S. government created the TWI Service in 1940 as a means of supplying the Allied Powers with a weapons arsenal to defeat Hitler. The Great Depression had just ended, and unemployment was still high while production capability was low. Supervisors and lead men were in short supply because they were enlisting or being drafted. The world was in a crisis, but most Americans did not want to join the war because of this weakened state.  

The purpose of TWI was to increase productivity and allow the U.S. to become, as Franklin Roosevelt said, the “arsenal of democracy.” He thought this would win the war without having to enter the war. Of course, we did enter the war, and by 1942, about 6,000 new workers were entering the U.S. workforce daily to supply this required arsenal for all Allied forces, including that of the United States.

In 1945, the crisis was over. The United States had the strongest and largest production facilities in the world. The U.S. government disbanded the TWI Service when the war ended.  

The companies themselves had no incentive to keep to the ideals and practices of TWI, or at least they saw no incentive. After all, TWI was developed out of a crisis, and was not part of the private sector. It was not based on a company’s principles and culture; it was based on the TWI Service’s principles. If companies had adopted the principles behind for the sake of their own profitability and long-term survival, then perhaps TWI would have survived within these organizations. 

Your Company’s Principles and Practices
So, what are your company’s principles? Many companies have not determined them, although all companies should do this before choosing improvement tools. 
My motto: “Principles 1st, Culture 2nd, Practices 3rd, Tools 4th!” 

Ideally, prior to using lean management principles, Six Sigma, ISO 9001 or TWI, a company should have determined its principles, established its culture, ensured its business practices support both – and then develop its own tools or finds tools that support all of the above. 

If your company has already established its principles, do the company’s practices support them? Are your principles and practices aligned with the principles of TWI? If not, TWI will die another death at your company if you choose to use it. 

Where would a company find principles that support TWI? I’ve always said that if you copy anything from Toyota, copy its principles, and then develop your own culture, practices and tools. Your company could copy Toyota’s 14 Principles as were so eloquently laid out in Jeffrey Liker’s book The Toyota Way. Or, your company could copy the 14 Principles of Dr. W. Edwards Deming as were so descriptively defined in his 1982 blockbuster book, Out of the Crisis. After all, so much of what Toyota learned was from Deming. 

When determining your company’s principles, it is important to understand that “principles” are fundamentally accepted rules of action or conduct that are generally inarguable depending on one’s purpose or goal, such as raising a family, playing a sport or building a business. 

Dr. Stephen Covey, in his landmark book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote: 
“Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value. They’re fundamental. They’re essentially unarguable because they are self-evident. One way to quickly grasp the self-evident nature of principles is to simply consider the absurdity of attempting to live an effective life based on their opposites. I doubt that anyone would seriously consider unfairness, deceit, baseness, uselessness, mediocrity or degeneration to be a solid foundation for lasting happiness and success.”

Once you’ve determined your company’s principles, then as Thomas Jefferson said, “Be flexible in style, but unwavering like a rock, in principle.” 

TWI’s Principles 
If your company has already received some TWI training, reflect (hansei) on what is being taught and why. This should be done with employee input. 

The following principles from other sources may give you some ideas as to what you might determine are the principles behind TWI.  

1)  The Two Pillars (Principles) of the Toyota Production System  
Pillar 1: The respect and involvement of all people 
Pillar 2: The constant focus on the elimination of waste

2)  Toyota Way Principles that are also TWI Principles 
Principle 5: Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time. 
Principle 6: Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment. 
Principle 9: Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy and teach it to others. 
Principle 10: Develop exceptional people and teams that follow your company’s philosophy. 
Principle 12: Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation (genchi genbutsu). 
Principle 14: Become a learning organization through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen). 

3)  Deming Points (Principles) that are also TWI Principles 
Point 5: Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
Point 6: Institute training on the job. 
Point 7: Institute leadership. The aim of leadership should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. 
Point 11a: Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership. 
Point 12a: Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. 
Point 13: Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.  

Internal Practices That May Not Support TWI 
The benefits of TWI and lean itself and the all of its tools (i.e., 5-S, value-stream management, quick changeover, work cells, TPM and TWI) will never be sustained unless the company adopts the principles, culture and supporting practices behind lean. Principles, such as “respect and involvement of all of the people” and “process focus rather than department/objective/goal focus,” need to be in place.

If your company has started down the path of TWI, it may die once again (within your company) if the following practices are in place, creating a culture of blame and silos.

  • Performance evaluations
  • Employees being chastised, written up or dinged for defective product (“operator error” causes)
  • Departmental objectives, organization and focus
  • Hiding problems (from auditors and management)
  • Problem solving by green and black belts, not by everyone
  • Egotistic management
  • Supervisors of all levels managing by numbers, rather than being “at” the process
  • No monitoring/watching of TWI training – no feedback on the process
  • Micro-management style vs. leadership
  • Hiring kids out of college to be production supervisors
  • Supervisors not working the job for a extended period of time before training others
  • No TWI or any training during the last week of the month or year due to an order from above to ship as much as possible (short-term thinking)
  • Mass inspection by another department (QC)
  • Buying materials, components, gages, tools, equipment from lowest bidder, regardless of quality and total cost
  • Continual improvement activities (i.e. once a month kaizen events/blitzes) rather than continuous improvement activities (i.e. every day, by everybody)
  • Supervisors not ensuring standard work is being completed
  • Layoffs
  • Excluding certain people from improvement activities
  • Production quotas
  • No preventive maintenance of equipment, etc.
  • No allocation of training resources or time

What to do? 

  • Have an outsider assess your organization on its principles, culture and practices to determine strengths and weaknesses in supporting TWI and lean principles and practices. Report results.
  • Determine your company’s principles and proclaim them.
  • Develop/modify the culture and practices to support the principles.
  • Ensure the tools used now, or in the future, support and are aligned with the principles.
  • “Be flexible in style, but unwavering like a rock, in principle.”

About the author:
Mike Micklewright (, is a speaker, actor, Deming impersonator, author, business and quality consultant, and trainer based in the Chicago area. He writes his own column in QualityInsider, an online magazine, in which he is known as the Whys Guy. Mike is also a Midwest board member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME).

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