TWI Job Relations could help GM and UAW

The first nationwide strike in thirty years is finally here. I'm surprised it wasn't sooner than this to be honest. See this NPR article for the full story. What caught my eye was the following excerpt:

"They are losing money every day the strike takes place. Very shortly it will paralyze their Canadian and Mexico operations," Shaiken said.

But the longer the union stays on the picket lines, the more it could encourage GM to ship more jobs abroad.

"They are globally integrated like they have never been before, so they have an option whether to invest here in the U.S. or invest in other places," said David Cole, an industry analyst. "They have basically said that if we have a contract that enables us to be competitive we will invest; if not we will disinvest in the U.S. and use our money where we think we can get a better return."

One has to ask if anyone at the UAW is minding the store, it sounds like GM is at least keeping an eye on their investment return, like any well run corporation should. If they were to simply evaluate the facts first, with a little forward thinking, we see a short and likely bitter demise to the UAW if this goes south on them:

"The 73,000 auto workers now on strike at General Motors now face the prospect of getting by on only $200 a week from the union. If a deal is not reached, the workers' health insurance will cease on Oct. 1."

This is acceptable to the workers? Is it not time to weigh the facts of a modern global economy against the ideals of an outdated management methods, on both sides of this bargaining table?

GM: change your management methods. Work with your employees towards improving your business with a promise of job security. In other words, help your people help themselves.

UAW: what benefits can you bring to the table in that you work with management, not against them? If growth of both organizations is the goal here, how is a combative relationship going to smooth out the process of getting there?

There was a testimonial letter in the TWI Archives about how an AFL-CIO representative negotiated the entire union contract and collective bargaining while sticking to the four step method of Job Relations.

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Chasing Rabbits

Sometimes we do things we think are right, when in fact, we are really chasing a rabbit down an endless trail. Have you ever tried to catch a rabbit? It kind of brings out the kid in you. During our last family vacation in Orlando my sons were fascinated with the rabbits all over the resort property. Being boys and all, naturally, most of our time was spent trying to catch a rabbit and not waiting in endless lines at the theme parks. It was a lot of fun to watch at first, the rabbits rocketing through the bushes and darting in directions faster than the kids could comprehend. It’s a wonder nobody twisted an ankle. In the end though, the kids ended up with a good dose of frustration and dirty knees and elbows, since they don’t have the ability to change their direction ninety degrees at lightning speed. In short, the kids used up a lot of energy, had some fun doing it, but never came up with the prize. When it comes to leadership training we see much of the same thing.

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of buzz about empowerment and workforce training, with the idea that it is critical for a successful “lean transformation”. Many studies and surveys are available on the topic. What troubles me about all of the training that is occurring is that much of it is not related to the work we do. For example, a 2004 IW/MPI study found that “more than one in four plants in the U.S. have a majority of the workforce empowered”, with empowerment being “a cornerstone of North American H.R. best practices, ensuring employees’ ownership of day-to-day activities as well as the authority to improve their roles on a continuous basis and incrementally impact the bottom line.” My question is not about whether these people are truly “empowered” or not, but what skills did they learn in the training itself that they use on a daily basis that impacts the bottom line?

If you have been to “empowerment” seminars like I have, you have been likely told a couple of things:
1. You will have increased autonomy
2. You will be more fulfilled
3. You will be improving the business
4. You can make a difference

All of this is true, if you are taught the skills to do so and are supported everyday in practicing those skills. The problem with the myth of empowerment is that the training doesn’t show you how to be empowered; it just tells you that you need to start being empowered. The managers that still manage the old way don’t know how to be empowered, and certainly don’t know how to support empowered people. My guess is that those one in four companies have successfully completed some level of empowerment training, but have yet to see the results. In short, many companies chase empowerment down the rabbit trail, feel good while they are doing it, but come back a few years later empty handed.

If you study formal proposal systems such as Toyota’s Suggestion System, it embodies true empowerment, yet ironically, doesn’t advertise it as such. Study this system; you will find that by teaching people the three basic skills a leader needs: 1) how to teach, 2) how to improve methods and 3) how to lead people, supervisors and team leaders can achieve empowerment without being told to do so. Isn’t this what the empowerment proponents really wanted anyway? How do the survey respondents in the IW/MPI study quantify the success of empowerment training? Frankly, they don’t. They simply state that a certain number of people are trained. But with TWI, the success of your training is measured by the actual proposals generated through the Job Methods program. At Toyota, the JMT thinking is now taught through the kaizen/standard work training. The result, in a forty year period, Toyota’s employees generated 20 MILLION documented, well thought-out, implemented ideas. The fact that they can report this is amazing in itself, yet proof that management supports this form of empowerment by encouraging people to use the simple skills they have learned, not by just telling alone. That my friends, is how you catch a rabbit…oops, uh, twenty million rabbits.

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Achieve Stability through TWI - Practice, Practice, Practice!

How important is the past in learning about how to handle the future? Specifically…I think that the saying, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’ is especially true in the realm of lean manufacturing and improvement initiatives. For example, Lean Mfg has its roots grounded within the Gilbreaths’ work, Fredrick Taylor, Deming, Juran, Ford and even in our WWII production ramp-up programs such as ‘Training Within Industry’ where supervisors were taught three critical business improvement skills: 1) how to instruct standard operations, 2) how to improve operations and 3) how to lead people. Do you think, if we brought ourselves back around to the basics, that we could be more successful at the local, regional and national economic levels if we just practiced, ‘the basics’ of management?

If you haven’t been to the link to my LinkedIn question above…I will try to summarize the answers I received below for your convenience. I received ten answers in all and the answers paint a very diverse picture of what I thought was a fairly straightforward and simple question:

My favorites: “It’s only important if you want to succeed.” and “Absolutely. Keep it simple.”

Another response was a bit counter to what we normally hear in lean circles, essentially stating that “there is no such thing as ‘basic management’”.

On a side note: I find the approach of treating management like an art form intriguing and would like to know if others in the Lean community share similar convictions as the person responding to my question does, or does that mean something else entirely than management as pure art?

I ask this question about the past because a theory I have is that North American management theory doesn’t stress the “basics of management” in the way we get at attacking problems with Lean thinking. I personally attribute many lean failures to “lack of know-how” at all levels of the organization, but not for lack of trying.

The prevailing answer I did receive from the group was that we should “learn from the past so as not repeat mistakes already made.” A simple answer; and our intuition tells us this is may be the “right” answer, if there is such a thing. However, do we heed this advice over time? I, for one, don’t think so and feel that it is a major factor in continuous improvement failures on a grand scale. Here is why…

So, why do lean initiatives fail? The most common answers are: backsliding, lack of mgt support, resistance, etc.

Top management support goes a long way towards countering many systemic problems in an organization. For example, as people feel that top management support is feeble, we tend to see more backsliding, flavor of the month, and lack of recognition of the improvements. In other words, lack of top management support amplifies other systemic problems. Why is this? The answer lies in investigating why management support wanes over time. First of all, ask the opposite question: “why does management support build over time?” My opinion, in North America, is that managers like a winning team, and who doesn’t really? When things are going well, we tend to repeat whatever it was we did as it brought favorable results. So, if this assumption is true, then we can assume that managers will abandon something if it didn’t get good results. The problem with this relationship is that at some point in time, managers’ support is going to be weak, because not everything is as successful as we experience in the past. In other words we have a tendency to jump around the management toolbox, looking for the winning combination every time. It just so happens that a popular toolbox right now is full of lean tools.

We cannot “blame” people for this naturally occurring phenomenon. Why can we not place blame? Because our world is full of incentives! Unfortunately, the incentive in this relationship is not to fail or you won’t get management support. When the incentive is “not to fail”, we tend to not take risks. When we don’t take risks, we tend to get complacent in making improvements because “lack of management support” is now an entrenched culture and usually only supports a “sure thing”. The natural result is that we tend to not bring up problems. To make a very long story short this is why "lack of know-how" goes hand in hand with "lack of management support". This is why creating a learning organization is so critical for success. If people aren't supported and encouraged to practice their improvement skills, we can probably expect to see some level of management apathy.

Fortunately, there is a way to provide management support…indefinitely. However, it requires adopting an inverse relationship of the factors recently discussed. In other words, managers must support people who embrace problems and reward them for participation in solving those very same problems regardless of size, rather than supporting those people that have the most highly valued successes. If sustained, this concept doesn’t suffer degradation over time. Why? Because there is always a problem to solve! Where success is sometimes fleeting, a problem arises to be solved. Now, how can “basic management” from the past help us here? “Success” rarely has time for the basics such as training, problem solving, workplace organization, etc., as we are busy moving on to the next best thing. However, an environment where problems are embraced is in dire need of constant training, problem solving, and workplace organization by everyone in the organization. Management needs to institutionalize problem consciousness in everyone, everyday, as part of their work. How is this done? Through a kaizen event?

I suggest to you that the Training Within Industry program, with the fundamentals of 1) JIT, "how to teach", 2) JMT "how to improve methods, 3) JRT, "how to lead people" are sufficient to teach these skills to your front line supervisors. The trick for your management team is how to institutionalize this thinking in your organization

Think about the basic 4Ms: huMan, Machine, Materials and Methods. A person coached by a member of management on methods improvement alone can solve problems related to 5S, Standard Work and ergonomics. Do a “basic” time & motion study sometime with an operator and then review together. How many problems do you find using the 5 whys? With relentless support, many ideas can be generated by employees that will solve real problems afflicting them and others every day. Are they large successes? Absolutely not. If the solution to a small problem doesn’t work, is management less likely to abandon the improvement initiative if there are 1000 other proposals of similar nature in the idea pipeline? I think it is worth finding out. Small improvements are not sophisticated or sexy like a big, well scoped and sponsored kaizen event where people’s names are in lights for weeks afterwards. But small improvements can save companies millions of dollars year after year, where it seems the precisely opposite, formula of big Lean kaizen blitz thinking may cost us more than we think.

If you want to read more about small improvements I would suggest 40 Years, 20 Million Ideas: The Toyota Suggestion system, and Kaizen Teian I, II and The Improvement Engine, all by Productivity Press, but unfortunately out-of-print.

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What is Training Within Industry?

This first post will give you some historical perspective on Training Within Industry, TWI. A WWII program initiated to meet the needs of wartime production, TWI was run by industries best "dollar-a-year" men, led by Channing Dooley of Standard Oil. Mr. Dooley was the director of TWI during the wartime period upon which the program was credited in training over two million industry supervisors in basic continuous improvement skills: how to teach, how to improve methods and how to lead people.

The skill of "how to teach" was embodied in the Job Instruction Training sessions, or JIT, not to be confused with Just-In-Time. This session provided supervisors with a solid, well founded skill of training people in workplace tasks. The thought was that industry must train quickly, correctly for the sake of the war. The supervisor on the front lines of industry, so it goes, was thought to be the best person to deliver the conscientious training needed to get much needed goods into the hands of our soldiers.
The skill of "how to improve" methods was taught through the "Job Methods Training" sessions. JMT gave supervisors a way to make improvements, however small, to the work being done in our war production plants. The thought here is that any elimination of waste in our methods, "must be made NOW, in order to make the best use of people, machines and materials." The result of introducing JMT into production plants was that savings were reported back to TWI HQ, which closely resembles the modern day kaizen teian proposal system currently employed by companies such as Toyota Motor Co.

The skill of "how to lead people" was taught through "Job Relations Training" or, JRT sessions. This skill helped supervisors lead people through ever changing, fast and furious times during the war production period. Not only did people need to ramp up for war production, but many of them were learning how to weld, rivet, assemble, and supervise for the first time in their lives! These critical periods of adjustment required strong front line leadership by supervisors.

The J sessions were delivered in war production plants by TWI personnel. The sessions were comprised of five, two-hour days for a couple of reasons:

  1. Minimal disruption to production needs
  2. Provided reflection periods between sessions
  3. Provided time for participants to work on their real world problems using the skills learned in the sessions

Two other programs existed" JRT for Unions and Program Development. Program Development was targeted at managers in a company, usually a training coordinator. Each of the five programs had a "master trainer" sessions that was forty hours in total. This would be similar to what we call a "train-the-trainer" session today.

Parallels to today:

When we think about lean manufacturing, we think tools. It is easy to think of the TWI-J programs as tools also, and in a general sense they are. But there is something special about them that I feel sets them apart from the "mainstream" lean tools. For one, it is difficult to imagine that people think about a specific tool, for example, SMED (single minute exchange of dies) in their everyday work. The exceptions may be mechanics, or tooling engineers in this example. With JMT however, the tool encourages a person to think about their job in it's simplest elements. This is a skill that everyone can learn, practice and master over time. The thinking behind the J programs was that if, "each and every person in the plant" were to use the skills set forth by TWI, much of our production problems today could be solved. This is in stark contrast to the hope that the few mechanics we teach the "skill of SMED" will use it on a daily basis. This to me seems to be a major sticking point when discussing sustainment of Lean initiatives.

To verify this line of thinking we only need to look towards Toyota. Please note that it is 60 years after TWI was introduced to Japanese industry in the post war era. They are still using JI in its WWII format to this day in 2007. This is sustainment. This is what is taught in the skills of how to teach, how to improve and how to lead.

To learn more about TWI go to http://www.trainingwithinindustry.net/

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