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Simple Skill Training


When we implement standardized work, we face the challenge of training the skills. Here, I want to share what is my approach to skill training. This is not something fancy but something we can try quickly.

1. Video as the self-reflecting mirror

2. Paper, Pencil, and Pictures

3. Personal training

4. Practice

Nothing expensive, but some things to do immediately. Similar to Kaizen.



1. Video as the self-reflecting mirror

A video is a powerful tool for training. Yet, just showing a video won’t develop a skill. I would use video to highlight the difference. If a student sees a video of the coach & himself and recognizes that something is different, it is a win. If he sees the difference and the benefit of that, there will be a desire to learn. I would rather have pull, not push.

In one factory, an operator was called a “lefty.” He was more productive than the rest. Yet, it wasn’t clear why that was possible, so his colleagues called negatively. He was not left-handed, yet people thought he was. When I observed how he worked, I felt something “beautiful.” Then, I recorded all operators and had the show with a pizza. In the first half of the video, people were laughing at each other on the screen. Then the “lefty” was on the screen, and the people became quiet. One of the fastest operators whispered, “he’s very slow.” Yes, he was very slow, but he moved flawlessly and effortlessly to the next steps. He didn't get tired. As a result, he was more productive. The team asked to show the “lefty’s” cycle again and again. And at the show’s end, several people were already trying some of the moves. This recognition of some technics exists to make their work easier helped us to improve our skill level. We rarely allow seeing our work objectively. We might think that numbers will speak for themselves. But the video was far more powerful to reflect.


2. Paper, Pencil, and Pictures

We should document the skills. Video can record, yet just video leaves some guessing for the student. Instead of using computers, I recommend paper, pencil, and pictures when we document. Why? Because flexibility is necessary to verbalize or conceptualize a skill. It is also important to add pictures and hand drawings to supplement words. The location & size of such pictures should be highly flexible to capture the skill accurately. It is try & error process. Do not get me wrong. Once it is well documented and we successfully transfer skills, it is good to digitalize. But during the documentation, use paper and pencils. Even when I see computerized job instructions and standards, I always find manual drawing as a supplement near good operators.

Originally, I tried to document the “lefty’s” skills on a computer. I showed what I made after the video. One of the operators said, what the heck is this? It was not good. I did not capture what they wanted to know. So I asked the supervisor & the “lefty” to document. They initially didn’t want to do it. But as they write, the supervisor was able to transfer the skills better. He was able to pick up the differences among his team. At the same time, the “lefty” started to sharpen his skills. We were learning by teaching.


3. Personal training

Even with a good video and a document, having this direct one-on-one time with a coach is valuable. Without such coaching, a student might develop unnecessary habits. The student might suffer to gain a skill. Having a coach to observe the student and give advice makes a difference. Also, instead of thinking about mass training, direct one-on-one advice seems to impact even if the actual time is less. It is probably because the feedback is more customized to the student’s needs.

In the above case, we asked the “lefty” to rotate between the shifts. This was because we observed a noticeable difference in progress among shifts. The shift with “lefty” was progressing better. Unfortunately, this became too much for “Lefty.” Instead, we asked “Lefty” or other operators to work extended hours so that they could interact. This interaction time became the personal training time. This was hard, but also people saw the value.


4. Practice

Practice, practice, practice. This is the only way to master a skill. Standardized work helps this practice. It defines what the expected outcome of the skill is. Then as we practice, we can check against the desired results. Cycle by cycle, you can test whether you are gaining the skill. If deviation, pull the andon and call for help. Converting every cycle into a learning opportunity is true standardized work.

We did offer “Lefty” to become a trainer, but he refused. He wanted to continue to work to sharpen his skills. We respected his decisions. And, he was touching the truth. Unless the trainer can practice the skills, the skills will rust. Rusted skills mean rusted trainer. We need some rotation so we don’t spoil the trainer’s skills.


Skill training has many similarities to Kaizen. Don’t use money. Use what is available. Don’t batch. Respect the creativity of people. It is a daily activity. So don’t jump to fancy stuff without implementing the simple stuff. And these simple stuff might have an enormous impact than you think.

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