Welcome to Part 4 of Writing Amazing Job Instructions. By this point you’ve learned to explain why the task you’re training matters to the customer, and you’ve had some practice writing Important Steps.

Today, in Part 4, our focus is Key Points. This is an important enough topic that we’ll spend two sessions on it.

Key Points are the things someone absolutely has to know to do an Important Step correctly. In general, if someone messes up on one of the Key Points - ignores it or tries to do a shortcut – the result won’t be good enough to continue with the process. In some cases, as you’ll see, ignoring Key Points can be just plain dangerous.

There are four kinds of key points. You need to know them because they provide a great checklist to make sure you’ve covered everything before you start instructing.

  1. Safety – Safety matters are always key points. If there is the possibility that someone could get hurt or equipment damaged, and there is a known corrective action, it should be described here. We’re not talking about general safety matters. For example, there will be general safe operating practices for any kind of machinery. But when this particular process has something unique, for example a specialized jig to hold a part in a saw, that will get included as a key point.
  2. Make or Break – These are the things that have to be done “just so” for the step to succeed. Examples include a specific wiring pattern, or using five bolts to attach something, or a minimum reading on a gauge.
  3. Tips and Tricks – These are the specialized knowledge that make it easier to do the job well and quickly. For example, when doing a weld, a good weld “sounds” a certain way, and when you are teaching someone to weld, you can help them become a good welder much faster if you bring that to their attention.
  4. Tolerances – These key points tell the operator what is “good enough”. You don’t want someone trying to get a mirror finish when all the customer needs is no burr. Another example is the quality of a paint finish. At a plant I ran, we worked on the “arms length” rule: if you saw no flaws when the part was at arms length, it was OK.

Developing the key points helps someone learn the essential elements of the task faster and better. It will let them get up to speed faster and make fewer mistakes.


Last time you wrote the Important Steps for the task you will be instructing. Your homework this time is to start developing the key points. Try to develop key points for each Important Step. Next time we will go over some key points that will help you refine what you do in your homework.

Thanks so much for participating in this 7-part course. I hope you’re learning something and are starting to see these elements as you go about your work.

See you next time. In the meantime, if you want to have a conversation about how the performance in your organization can improve dramatically by increasing the skills of your supervisors and front-line managers, please click here.

Good training!

Hugh Alley
First Line Training Inc.

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