– through the TWI basic needs model

Written by: John Vellema, Partner and Senior Enabler at Business Through People ApS, Joakim Bjurström, Partner and Senior Enabler at Business Through People ApS and Denis Becker, Director and High-Performance Coach at Supervisor Academy.

This article was first published by: Lean Frontiers, Inc., January 2021 - find it here.


Results are not achieved by accident. Companies get results through people. Good results have a strong foundation in the skills, habits and engagement of front-line teams and their supervisors. If leaders take care of the needs of their supervisors; supervisors and their teams will take care of the results.


Level up!

The model of 5 basic needs of supervisors has always been part of the TWI training, but through 10.000s of applications it became evident that supervisors have more fundamental needs than just the original five. As the TWI Master Trainers traveled the world spreading TWI, more needs where discovered and more skills programs created, alongside updates of the 5 Needs Model and the Trainer Manuals.

The “Gateway to Efficient Production” introduced in the UK after the war as part of the world-wide expansion of TWI, recognises the need for a supportive and safe environment that enables the supervisors to reach their full potential*.

*Training within Industry for Supervisors: the Origin. Perkins, F H. The Architectural Review (Jan 1946)

We have updated the original gateway, to reflect 80 years of TWI learning and the real needs of supervisors in today’s organisations. In this article we discuss the needs of 21st century supervisors using our updated model we call:

"The Gateway to great People, who deliver great Results"

This article is part of a series we will be publishing to share our learnings with you.

So what are these needs?

To better understand the supervisors’ needs, it is useful to separate Foundations (basic conditions that must be in place), from Knowledge (what supervisors should understand) and Skills (what supervisors should be able to do).


The basic needs of supervisors and their teams can only be satisfied in a supportive and safe workplace. Let’s look at Management commitment and Safety, the foundations supporting all efforts to sustain and improve production or service performance.

1. Management commitment and support. Management has the role of ensuring an effective learning process that builds and maintains well-trained and flexible supervisors. In addition, management ensures the right conditions for supervisors to fulfil their roles and responsibilities and achieve the business objectives. This includes providing direction, training, coaching and support.


2. Healthy and safe working environment: Without a healthy and safe environment, people cannot focus on their work, trust their leaders or perform to the best of their ability. A well organised, safe workplace is a pre-requisite for an engaged workforce and good, sustained results. As well as a foundation of the gateway, health and safety is a critical supervisor skill. Accidents don’t just happen, they are caused. Skill in job safety enables supervisors to engage their people in creating a healthy and safe work environment. Supervisors skilled at job safety are able to identify and prevent risks in things and people and, through this, break the 'chain of causation' of accidents and injuries.

Without these foundations in place, the gateway - and good results - cannot be sustained.


Once strong foundations are in place, leaders are able to quickly build up the pillars - the knowledge of their supervisors. With knowledge of their own and their people’s work and responsibilities, supervisors and their teams are able to make a strong contribution to their organisation’s success.

Let’s review each pillar of the gateway separately.

3. Knowledge of work refers to the work we and our people do. It is obvious why you need knowledge of your own work. As a supervisor, though, you also need good knowledge of the work of the people you supervise. This enables you to support, collaborate with, coach and challenge your people.


4. Knowledge of responsibilities refers to the responsibilities and authority we hold as supervisors. This knowledge consists of company rules and regulations and expectations, as well as values and customs. Without the knowledge of responsibilities, you will not be able to fulfil your own responsibilities or support your people in fulfilling theirs.

By clearly defining knowledge of work and responsibilities, leaders ensure everyone understands what is required of them to achieve the business objectives.


Leadership and improvement skills enable supervisors to improve performance in their department. Supervisors that routinely motivate their people and develop their work environment deliver above-average results. Let’s review the essential skills all supervisors should have.

5. Skill in improving methods enables supervisors to use materials, machines and people more effectively. With this skill they are able to study each job in detail and improve it by eliminating, combining, rearranging and simplifying its details. This skill provides a strong foundation for continuous improvement.

6. Skill in instructing enables supervisors to develop a well-trained and flexible workforce. By applying this skill, supervisors achieve the required level of quality and service, improved output, fewer accidents, and better process stability.

7. Skill in leading improves supervisors’ ability in working with people and obtaining their cooperation. This skill, when applied daily, enables you as the supervisor to prevent many people problems from arising and solve the ones that do arise. It is the keystone of the gateway, holding it together and enabling supervisors to apply their knowledge and skills to get results through people.

It will be much easier for supervisor to deliver good results every day, if they have strong foundations and the needed knowledge and skills. By putting them to practice in their everyday work, supervisors are able to deliver continuous improvement in people, processes and results.

The Training within Industry J programs (Job Methods, Job Instruction, Job Relations, Job Safety) develop these foundational skills and enable other improvement, learning and management methods. They are a starting point for developing great people who deliver great results.

Your next step could be:

If you have any questions to the content in this article or to Training Within Industry (TWI) in general, you are most welcome to ask them directly to one of our Enablers, or by calling us. 

No matter what you do, it all starts with you daring to take the lead. 

About the author

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