Posted by: Knightbird | June 6, 2011

Visual Job Instruction

This guest blog is written by Chugachmiut’s Lean Coordinator, Kert LaBelle. The article below presumes the reader has some knowledge about Training Within Industry.  If you would like to learn more, please visit

At Chugachmiut we use Lean tools to make improvements to processes.   We found that improvements faltered when a training component for a new or updated process failed or was non-existent.  Upon research, we discovered that Training Within Industry (TWI) could help us.  With TWI we could realize the potential of improvements and sustain them. We started TWI Job Instruction (TWI JI) with what we call Core Skills, those processes that everybody does as an employee at Chugachmiut: Timecards, Travel Requests, Purchase Requests, how to use of office equipment, etc. As a natural progression, the skills that Program Managers need are also standard and staff should be trained to that standard.  To reach that goal we formed a Program Managers Skills Training Team who determined what should be trained, who should be trained and with what materials.  The Team met once a week and drafted training materials like Job Instruction Breakdown Sheets and one sheet visual instructions for trainee takeaways. As we got close to implementation we began testing the TWI Job Instruction method on Program Manager Skills.  We performed test training on Team members and on sample Program Managers.  We found much to our dismay that TWI JI didn’t work!  It was successful with our Core Skills so we naturally expected big results with Program Manager Skills.  It turns out that TWI JI is not so great at imparting knowledge. The Team discussed the failings of the method for our uses, what worked and what we should do to make it better.  The repetition helped but without a physical component, it was difficult to have the trainee try out performance; they were relegated to merely parroting the steps back to the trainer (if they were able to take copious notes on all of the steps, key points and reasons).  Some Team members said that they were visual learners and that was the “aha!” moment for us…we use visual management of our processes.  We use process control boards for departments and shared space like kitchens or supply closets.  We represent processes visually using value streams.  If we can visually represent processes to improve them then we can visually represent them for training.

Each step in the Job Instruction Breakdown Sheet was written on a light pink Post-It note, just as we would put on a value stream.  The steps flowed from left to right instead of from top to bottom.  The next colors were arbitrarily chosen but key points were in yellow and reasons for key points were in blue.  These were placed under each step that it modifies.  As per the TWI JI method we went through each step, then each step and key point and then each step, key point and reason for key point, posting them across a large sheet of paper on the wall.  After taking down the Post-Its, the trainee would then do the same process: posting each step, then each step and key point and then each step, key point and reason for key point, explaining along the way in their own words.  It works amazingly well.

It is a small step but we were able to use TWI Job Instruction to train people in a knowledge based process.  We presented this at the TWI Conference in Orlando this year.  We have our work cut out for us.  We have to train our Program Managers.  We have to continuously improve the training and that which we train.  It is a start.  We train to our Core Skills and now we train to standard Program Manager Skills.  We will continuously strive to improve our services to our patients, clients and beneficiaries.


  1. I’m curious why the writer feels that TWI Job Instruction “didn’t work” and that “TWI JI is not so great at imparting knowledge.” The transfer of knowledge is EXACTLY what TWI JI is meant to do! And trying to train someone using Job Instruction without having the “physical component” is not a failure of Job Instruction, because that’s not how Job Instruction is supposed to be used. You MUST have the physical component (i.e. the actual task or work) in order to use the method properly. Without it you’re just “telling” and “showing” and that’s NOT TWI Job Instruction.

    As for the Post-It Notes I don’t know what the process was that the learner was being trained on but, again, if this is not the actual physical process or work then this was not TWI Job Instruction.

    Having trained several hundred people to use Job Instruction, on both physical and “admin” processes, I can state without hesitation that the method works on any process – it just has to be used properly. Perhaps it was in this case, but I don’t see that from what’s been shared here.

    If it’s possible I’d be happy to review the Job Breakdown Sheets to see if I can pick up on something that may have resulted in the learner not learning the task.

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