Training Day

A WWII program is used to instruct project staff

by Cliff Moser

This article was featured in January 2016’s Best Of Back to Basics edition.

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Effectively training project staff and capturing and diffusing the training is difficult within any industry. At my company, Cadforce Inc., we used a forgotten program from the World War II era to help train construction field staff.

Training Within Industry (TWI) was used successfully to train thousands of inexperienced American workers between 1940 and 1945. After the war, TWI became the training program that helped revive the economic infrastructures of many war-torn countries. TWI enabled these economies to reinvent their industrial and manufacturing training programs.

Our project team discovered TWI and its foundational principle, the five needs, while exploring lean tools. We worked with the Lean Construction Institute to develop lean systems for construction services, as well as create standardized work and processes. We found we needed a training program to help diffuse our lean program.

TWI and the five needs

We discovered the original TWI trainers built the program on a knowledge model of the five needs:

  1. Knowledge of work: Information that makes one business different from other businesses.
  2. Knowledge of responsibilities: A company’s policies, rules and organizational requirements.
  3. Skill in instructing: Helping supervisors develop a well-trained workforce.
  4. Skill in improving methods: By requiring trainers or supervisors to identify and list each task breakdown, the trainer and learner identify areas for improvement.
  5. Skill in leading: Helping the trainers improve their ability to work with staff.

TWI supported the five needs with a three-part program of job instruction, methods and relations. The philosophy and rollout of the program was based on training within industry—that is, to coach supervisors within the organization so the newly trained staff can teach other members of the industry.

An example of promoting TWI is the industry estimate that skilled optical glass grinders required three years of apprenticeship before they could successfully turn out an acceptable product. Training sounded similar enough to the architectural and construction industry’s requirements, so we investigated further. We needed to slightly modify the training to make it more adaptable to our professional staff by changing the three-part jobs program to task instruction, task methods and systems, and task improvement.

Tracking tasks

Task instruction stressed understanding the task requirements and created task breakdown requirements, including important steps, key points and reasons for key points (see Figure 1).

In developing breakdown sheets for each task, the trainer, our project manager, had to think through each task’s step and action, and identify the purpose for each before training a staff member in the task. Our training matched the TWI curriculum and consisted of four steps:

  1. Preparation: Help the learner think to help comprehend the new idea.
  2. Presentation: Add the new idea to those already in the learner’s mind.
  3. Application: Train the learner to apply what was presented and check results.
  4. Testing: Test the ability of the learner to apply the new idea alone.

The second part, task methods and systems, identified the relationship of individual tasks to others and systems within the organization. Individual tasks, which had been delineated through task instruction, were measured against the project’s system requirements (see Figure 2).

The third part, task improvement, became the kaizen, or continuous improvement, activity.

By implementing our version of TWI, which we called project staff training, we were able to instruct our site-based staff team more quickly and effectively, as well as help staff assume a productive role in creating and improving systems while developing learned and transferable skillsets.

True to the original TWI philosophy, the team went on to become mentors in the transfer and improvement of those processes to other internal teams and projects, as well as client, contractor and code review agency teams. We have implemented it as a basic part of our skills training program for onshore and offshore staff.

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Online Figure 1

Online Figure 2


  • Dinero, Donald, Training Within Industry: The Foundation of Lean, Productivity Press, 2005. 
  • Graupp, Patrick and Wrona, Robert J., The TWI Workbook: Essential Skills for Supervisors, Productivity Press, 2006.
  • Imai, Masaaki, Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success, McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 1986.
  • Lean Construction Institute, www.leanconstruction.org.
  • TWI Institute, www.trainingwithinindustry.net.

Cliff Moser is vice president of project experience for Cadforce Inc., a global architectural services outsourcing firm in Marina del Rey, CA. He earned a master’s degree in quality assurance from California State University in Dominguez Hills. Moser is a senior member of ASQ and is chair of ASQ’s Design and Construction Division.

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