PDCA’s Halloween Costume This Year? TWI, of course!

Given that Halloween is in only two days away, I thought we could dress up TWI a bit. Many people look at TWI as an OJT training program only, as described through the most successful and universal program Job Instruction Training. This however is only one-quarter of the story from a practical view. There are four distinct programs under the TWI clothing and all programs work to a specific pattern of thinking:

Job Instruction: how to instruct best methods, or as the TWI directors described it: “a concept of training as a way used by the plant management to solve specific production problems which involves people.”

Job Methods: how to improve methods, “a plan to help produce greater quantities of quality products in less time by making the best use of the people, machines and materials that are now available.”

Job Relations: how to lead people, “a plan to help get results through people by maintaining good relations, treating people as individuals and preventing and solving the problems that affect their work.”

Program Development: how to meet a problem through training, “a means by which management tackles their own production problems with a training plan.”
Within each program is a four step method for purposes of standardization and ease of knowledge transfer. It was highly desirable during the war production period to have as many people as possible using these four programs:

TWI’s four step methods are not unlike the PDCA method we are used to seeing today: Plan, Do, Check, Act. This elicits thoughts about the scientific method itself. When brought to light in management discussions, the PDCA analogy is often met with some indifference, as PDCA has a somewhat haughty air about it. PDCA, I’m told, cannot solve all of our problems, nor can everyone think like a scientist, so why should we expect them to do so? The basic resistance to this program is summarized in this response: “We just want good quality, on-time delivery and low cost. Let’s not pretend TWI is the answer, after all, it is far too easy today to assign a biased weight to Lean tools in this age of management fads. We don’t want to go through that again like we did with Lean, do we? Plus, it is a sixty year old program! Aren’t we a bit more sophisticated than that?”

Will TWI suffer the same fate in the information age? Will people see TWI for what it really is: PDCA built into simple skills for every industrial person? I suspect some will, but far too many will not. One thing to consider in this discussion is how the directors of the program saw the TWI program as a grand industrial experiment, and the future they desired for the program as it moved beyond the realm of the government:

“Much technical advance has been made as the result of research in the laboratory. There, scientific problems are isolated and tackled, and solutions are sought. New knowledge and new methods evolve.

In the field of human relations, the workplace is the laboratory. When people work together, the inter-relationships of job and supervisor and worker introduce many variables. The environment and atmosphere of the working conditions cannot be transplanted for experimental purposes. Change one condition and a whole situation is affected. This means then that future progress will depend upon the willingness of industry to carry on development work under its own auspices, and also to share the results with other plants. The experimenting must be done right where the work is done.

There must be, within industry, people interested in and competent to carry on such development work to meet new needs of workers, of management, and of industry. These people inevitably can do much to increase the effectiveness of industry in making its maximum contribution as a vital social institution in our Democracy.”

The TWI Report 1945, Work Ahead

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