Training Within Industry

I made an interesting discovery the other day, while following a link about Lean, that opened up a chapter in the history of well as coaching and consulting.

As the United States entered the Second World War, it became apparent to the federal government that there was an urgent need to rapidly train thousands of men in industries related to the war effort. Thus was born the Training Within Industry Service (or TWI, for short), a training consulting agency that developed and delivered training methodologies to war-critical companies.

Over the war-years of 1941 to 1945, TWI evolved methods for job skills training, job improvement training, and job relations training (known as the "J" programs). By the end of the war, over one million workers had gone through the "J" programs. Then, with the end of the war, TWI was dissolved as a US government department. However, TWI was reborn during the rebuilding of Europe and Japan. And in the latter case, led directly to the concepts of kaizen and lean.

In his paper on the roots of lean, Jim Huntzinger points out that, as part of the Job Relations course, coaching was taught to supervisors:

~ "Coaching only means helping someone to do a better job of what he's trying to do."

And this, Huntzinger points out, derived from Charles Allen's 1919(!) book on teaching supervisors to do job training.

Huntzinger also recounts an important lesson that the TWI consultants made about what made the J programs most effective: management buy-in and support. Huntzinger writes: "Anyone who has worked to implement lean manufacturing understands that to be successful, the absolute support of management is necessary. It has always been necessary for any major change. During the days of TWI, before any training took place, upper management support for it had to be forthright."

If top management, and business unit management, did not sign off and commit to support the training, the TWI consultants packed up and left.

As a Training & Organization Development consultant since the late 1970's, this discovery of the TWI chapter was like the feeling you get when you find a record of a previously unknown ancestor at Ellis Island. It feels so right. And it causes other pieces to fall into place.

I've been doing this work for over 25 years. And now, with the awareness of this chapter of American history, I feel confirmed and reinforced, strengthened in the knowledge that the principles and skills that I have been using align quite well with those of the TWI effort.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, May 1, 2010


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