By Lars Lean, Hofor A/S,
Published at link to article

Training Within Industry (TWI) was originally developed as three training programs: Job Instruction (JI), Job Methods (JM) and Job Relations (JR). It was developed by the United States Department of War during World War II, over 70 years ago, because there was a shortage of qualified and competent personnel in the war industry.
- And the TWI programs actually worked. More than 1.6 million workers were trained in more than 1600 companies during the war. KATA is based on Mike Rother's book "Toyota Kata", written just seven years ago. In the book, Mike Rother explains how Toyota has made their improvement work into a daily routine by working in a targeted way on continuous improvements through Improvement KATA and Coaching KATA. Since the publication of Mike Rother's book in 2010, KATA has been the subject of constant development – for example, KATA storyboards have recently been added, and recent developments are strongly linked to the latest neuroscience research. TWI is also continuing to evolve. Now there are five training programs instead of the original three, as Job Safety (JS) and Problem Solving (PS) have been added.

Passionate for TWI and KATA

Joakim Bjurström is a true "TWI man". This is evident from his commitment during the TWI course at Gram Commercial in Vojens, southern Jutland, held in late May 2017. In the course, Joakim plays the role of operator. He demonstrates to the rest of us how to simplify the final assembly of a refrigerator using the principles of TWI Job Methods (JM).

The fact that Joakim is a true TWI man is also evident from the logo on the front of his light blue polo shirt. Joakim is also Country Manager in Sweden at TWI Institute Scandinavia. But Joakim is also a "KATA man" and after 10 hours of intensive training in TWI Job Methods (JM) while we enjoy our delicious homemade bread at the Gram factory, just before we drive home from some intense and rewarding course days, Joakim simply feels the need to go up to the blackboard and explain to us the Improvement KATA principles. Joakim has translated Mike Rother's book Toyota KATA into Swedish and has had a good collaboration with Mike over the years. So it's no wonder we all so clearly notice that both TWI and KATA are what really matters to Joakim.
     On the back of Joakim's polo shirt there are also two puzzle pieces embroidered - and two figures that are about to put the pieces together. On the first puzzle piece it says TWI. On the second puzzle piece it says KATA. And it is quite obvious that the pieces fit together.

But how do TWI and KATA fit together? And what can TWI / KATA do that traditional Lean cannot?

The problem with traditional Lean and with TWI without KATA

Joakim Bjurström is all too well aware of many of the challenges of traditional Lean work: "The problem is that the improvement work often becomes too random and the improvements become too difficult to maintain. The TWI Job Methods program, which we have just worked with here at Gram, creates a good structure for the improvement work through the job breakdown. And TWI Job Instruction, where the new improved method is practiced, helps maintaining the improvements. The problem with TWI without KATA is that there is a risk that the improvements we create become too random. By combining the structured TWI programs with the targeted KATA method, the result we get is that the company's limited improvement resources are utilized in the best possible way." 

Joakim summarizes it all: "With TWI / KATA, we can improve our way of working, where we are! Rather than just improving where we can. And we can train - and thus stick to - the new and better way of working. We cannot do that with the traditional Lean."

TWI and KATA have many common features

Joakim emphasizes the common features of TWI and KATA: "What TWI and KATA have in common is that both systems contain a number of very clear roles. In TWI, it applies to both the job trainer and the first line manager. And it applies to the Coach and the Learner in KATA. At the same time, both TWI and KATA use reminder cards that you can keep in your pocket. TWI has five cards - one for each program. KATA has one card with a number of coaching-related questions. What they have in common is that you use the cards to practice. So in both systems, the focus lies on structured coaching." Joakim concludes: "Coaching and learning is the engine, both when it comes to TWI and KATA."

TWI and KATA complement each other

Joakim explains how TWI and KATA complement each other: "If you want to get straight to the point, you could say that KATA creates a 'pull system' for the TWI programs. That is, KATA puts the programs in the correct context. All companies have limited resources, so when we spend resources on improvement work, we need to use them where they are needed and efficiently. By using KATA to set up milestones, we know what needs to be improved and why. And with the TWI programs, we know how to improve. In other words, TWI and KATA are a perfect match."

However, Joakim does not mean that traditional Lean is completely on its way out: "Obviously we need to continue to utilize the Lean skills we've used before, but I see them with slightly different eyes today than I did a few years ago. Lean is a learning concept and therefore MUST develop over time. Otherwise Lean will cease to be a learning concept."

"When are we gonna do something about the set-up time?"

A frustrated participant on a TWI/KATA simulation course in the United States, organized by the TWI Institute, bursts out at one point: "When are we gonna do something about the set-up time?".

"When you use KATA to create improvements, you are working towards a long-term goal. You experiment with small controlled Plan-Do-Check-Act cycles. The goal is to remove the obstacles that are stopping you from reaching the milestones that you established. We have designed a simulation game about a value flow where it is obvious that downtime is high. The challenge for the participants is to create improvements that lead to a predetermined sub-goal and not just any improvements imaginable. What made the US course participant frustrated was that downtime was not a problem in relation to the desired sub-goal. Therefore, it was wrong to spend improvement resources on reducing downtime. There were other things that needed to be resolved first before we got to the downtime. And that's the strength of Improvement KATA. You focus exclusively on that which will help you achieve your sub-goal. But the simulation doesn't solely include Improvement KATA. The aim of the simulation is both to practice Improvement KATA and Coaching KATA while at the same time getting a feel for how KATA cooperates with the TWI programs," Joakim explains.

TWI/KATA simulation course

Perhaps you would like to participate in a TWI/KATA simulation workshop with Joakim Bjurström? Of course, you must be aware that not all suggestions for improvement are equally good as you learn and practice Improvement KATA and Coaching KATA. It's the improvements that lead to a predetermined sub-goal that will be worked on first. So you may find yourself in the same seat as the frustrated participant in the United States who so anxiously wanted to do something about that downtime. In return, you will get to experience the connection between the company's vision and the improvement work and that may absolutely be the most important thing. At the same time, you will also get an understanding of the connection between the KATA and TWI programs. The TWI/KATA simulation course is held in collaboration between and TWI Institute Scandinavia (BTP).

Your next step

If you have any questions to the content, you are very welcome to ask them below in the comments or ask them directly to

What could my next step be in learning more about TWI? 

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About the author

John Vellema is Partner and Senior Enabler in Business Through People ApS.