During World War II, the American government realized that the greatest challenge facing the production of war material was the lack of good supervisors who could train and manage people. Most had only a little more experience than the people they managed. Many of the new workers, women and African-Americans, had no industrial experience at all, but now they were supervising.
The Training Within Industry (TWI) programs were developed to give three key skills to supervisors: instructing, addressing people issues, and improving work methods. The results were impressive. In a study of 600 firms that used the TWI programs
After the war, these same methods were taken to Japan where they were used to train supervisors in the Japanese manufacturing sector. Small companies like Toyota, Panasonic, and Mitsubishi learned these skills. They were at the root of their production systems. Even today, the instruction process at Toyota looks a lot like the TWI Job instruction approach.
In the 1980s when American companies were going to Japan to see what was behind the "Japanese miracle", they rediscovered the TWI methods. Those were brought back across the Pacific, where they continue to be as effective as they were initially.
Hugh Alley started using TWI methods in 2008, and has been a frequent contributor to the TWI community. His book, Becoming The Supervisor, describes how the general manager of a small manufacturing firm teaches her young supervisor the TWI skills as he matures into a competent leader.
By the late 1990s many American companies had tried to "implement Lean", but it was generally acknowledged that 95% of these efforts failed. Researchers were curious about why. Stephen Spear did extensive research. He determined that what most observers had missed was the thinking process of the leaders in Toyota. The Lean tools were simply the current methods they were using to solve problems, but the real power was the scientific mindset that the company cultivated.
"...the key is to understand that the Toyota Production System creates a community of scientists. Whenever Toyota defines a specification, it is establishing sets of hypotheses that can then be tested. In other words, it is following the scientific method. To make any changes, Toyota uses a rigorous problem-solving process... With anything less than such scientific rigor, change at Toyota would amount to little more than random trial and error..." Steven Spear and H. Kent Bowen, Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System.
Following Spear's work, Mike Rother at University of Michigan asked, "Can we design a method to help someone learn this process." From his work, he wrote the book Toyota Kata. Today a community of practitioners around the world is using the Toyota Kata process to achieve superior results and develop the scientific mindset among leaders.
As part of this community, Hugh Alley is active in the practitioner community and a presenter at conferences. You can buy the book Toyota Kata here.
Becoming the Supervisor: Achieving Your Company's Mission and Building Your Team is Hugh Alley's first book. He tells the story of Julie who needs to improve the skills of her young supervisor, Trevor.
Julie, the new general manager is a small manufacturing company, uses a series of business challenges that every front line leader will recognize to teach her supervisors they skills they need. Her approach is infused with the scientific thinking of the Toyota Kata. She uses events like the departure of a key employee, a significant new order, and a shipping disaster to spur new learning. In the course of the book she teaches her charges Job Instruction, Job Relations, and Job Methods.
Very enjoyable read, with ideas that can be implemented quickly in any company.
Paul D. Hill, Manager of Continuous Improvement, Cosma Canada US. A Division of Magna International
A great read, a great story, great lessons, and powerful learning for new and experienced supervisors. I couldn’t wait to see how it ended.
Anne C. Graham, #1 Best-Selling Author of Profit in Plain Sight
You can buy the book at your local bookseller or at Amazon here (Canada) or here (USA).
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