Written by: Pia Bettina Sund Bundgaard, Scrum Master, Process Consultant, Jyske Bank and Torben Kjær-Christensen, Senior Enabler, Business Through People ApS.

Training helps create a basis for improvement - by ensuring a stable foundation first.

When we talk about Lean, it means making improvements by developing employees, creating flow in production, eliminating waste, improving quality, etc. Most often in the effort to increase output or improve quality within the existing framework. This framework can be both physical (i.e., space and equipment) and/or employee centric in nature. Therefore, many companies continuously focus on implementing improvements, also called Kaizen.

The starting point for these improvement measures is often characterized by great variance in the processes, either in the form of inconsistent quality level, long onboarding or fluctuating process time, when the employee does not follow, or know, the standard. The 3rd shift has its own methods, the 1st shift theirs, the 2nd shift theirs. Or, perhaps employee Peter knows some tricks he has not taught the others. Maybe a new employee, who needs to learn the process, has just started, and is randomly trained by the nearest employee. The quality of the training will depend on whether it is Jack or Jill who is at work that day. The unintended result is great variance in the process.

In many companies there are examples of improvements made by applying more focus on using lean tools and chasing improvements, rather than focusing on the underlying causes of the unsatisfactory situation. In other words, the improvements are implemented with a focus on reducing the traditional waste, and not with a focus on training and developing employees to be competent in their job.

As can be seen in the graph below, this approach usually provides improvements, at least in the short run. The challenge is that the variance is largely at the same level before and after the improvement measures have been implemented (symbolized by the very different height of the green columns).

The graph shows the performance before and after a traditional improvement effort, where stability has not been created first.

One consequence of this is that employees are stressed and often misunderstand Lean. There are even organizations that work with Lean but have to call it something else to avoid resistance in the organization.

 The risk of focusing on the Lean tools and not on competence development through training, is that the difference in the competence level for the employees is maintained, and in the worst case, the difference increases further. The best-trained, adaptable employees become even better, and those who have experienced inadequate training fall even further behind.

Motivation decreases, frustrations increase, and collaboration is challenged. The management has therefore made it more difficult for itself to implement continuous improvement.



An alternative and far more motivating approach is to create stability first, rather than focusing on time, quality or whatever the point of improvement is. In this way, a uniform basis is created for implementing further improvements that are sustainable.

Break the job down, identify the important steps in the job, and train the employees with a focus on safety, quality, tips & tricks, and thus also on efficiency. Without standing with the stopwatch and stressing the employees. Make the employees competent and confident in the job.

TWI Job Instruction is a simple and highly effective method of creating stability by systematically training employees and thereby ensuring truly standardized work. The variance will be significantly reduced, which in itself provides an efficiency or quality improvement. The most important thing, however, is that you have a standardized method to improve from, which makes your improvement work much more effective, as: 

  • the foundation is standardized work where employees follow the same process
  • the employees are at the same level of competence
  • the employees understand the process and what is important in relation to maintaining quality and method (efficiency) in a safe work environment
  • employee confidence increases, and there will be fewer frustrations and better collaboration
  • the complexity of the process is reduced, and it is made easier to train

The graph shows the performance before stabilization, after stabilization and after improvement.

TWI Job Instruction is the method for creating the best possible foundation for continuous improvements in operation and production. Start your improvement work by stabilizing the processes and get even more value out of your Lean initiatives. By making TWI Job Instruction a regular part of your improvement work, you ensure that the process is continuously stabilized and that the improvements are sustained - this can be seen on the bottom line!

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

Pia Bettina Sund Bundgaard is Scrum Master and Process consultant at Jyske Bank.