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How to Fold a T-Shirt

by Josh Howell
November 20, 2013

How to Fold a T-Shirt

by Josh Howell
November 20, 2013 | Comments (9)

John Shook once wrote about "Five Things Missing from your Standardized Work." If you have not yet read this three-part eLetter, I highly recommend it. Shook shares that the need to "practice, practice, practice" is too often overlooked when companies decide to implement Standardized Work. As a way to facilitate effective practice while training, he suggests consideration of Training Within Industry's Job Instruction method. 

The history of Training Within Industry (TWI) is truly fascinating! Check it out. After nearly disappearing from use in the United States, where it was originally developed just prior to World War II, Job Instruction's popularity has experienced a resurgence over the last decade. Today, it is used across the world by companies as diverse as Toyota, IBM, and Starbucks.

Job Instruction is a four-step method that teaches an individual how to do a job correctly, safely, and consistently while meeting all requirements. As you can see on the card at right from the original TWI program, the four steps are:

  1. Prepare the worker
  2. Present the job
  3. Try out the job
  4. Follow-up

The training experience includes seeing the job, hearing the job described, trying the job (hands-on) immediately, describing the job, and being supported until fully competent. The worker benefits by gaining competence quickly. Companies see an increase in quality and productivity.

The trainer relies on a set of notes, if you will, called a "Job Breakdown Sheet." This template breaks the job down into "Important Steps," "Key Points," and "Reasons Why." This information is shared with the worker a little bit at a time, at an appropriate pace for the individual. I've heard this described as "layering" or "just-in-time" training.

I hope you enjoy and find value in the video demonstration below, in which I train my colleague Jikku Mohan on how to fold a t-shirt the LEI way!

Here is a copy of our T-shirt folding Job Breakdown sheet or create your own with this blank template.



Update: An earlier version of the Job Instruction demonstration video did not include a key technique.  The technique, as noted by the commentor Pat Boutier, is to say the terms “Important Step” and “Key Point” as audible cues for the learner to help them organize the information they are receiving.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  standardized work,  TWI
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9 Comments | Post a Comment
Pat Boutier November 22, 2013
3 People AGREE with this comment

I would like to point out that
while the demonstration is great it is not following 'standard work".

One of the keys in presenting the job, and in Try out the Job, is
saying the terms "Important Step" and "Key Point". Which
your demonstrator did not do.

It is important and part of the process for over 70 years and those two statements or phrases provide an audible key for the learner to help his or her physical and mental memory.

Those particular phrases are actually required as they are difficult to say and repeat. They are not often used in 'regular' speech.

It is not intended for the learner to necessarily remember after they have been put to work following step 4, but certainly are required to be said by the instructor, at minimum.  This is stressed when training the trainer and should not be treated lightly.

Otherwise it was great to see a presentation of TWI Job Instruction, and the skills of presenting were well done.

Thank you for keeping this great topic in view.


Reply »

Josh Howell November 26, 2013
Thanks for your comment, Pat.  A quick Google search reveals that you have much practice with Job Instruction.  I appreciate you sharing this insight with me, and with those that visit this post. 

As TWI teachers, we are familiar with the phrase, “If the Learner hasn’t learned, the Teacher hasn’t taught.”  I learned JI, as part of a large group, from an experienced trainer who is deeply rooted in the practice at Toyota.  (He was asked to contribute to this discussion and if he chooses to do so, I will allow that to reveal his identity.)  Anyways, while this part of the Job Instruction Standardized Work may have been taught, it did not stick with me.  So… why?  If you were to survey a handful of my high school teachers, who were not instructing in this way, they may explain that I am simply a bad learner.  Even if that is true, it cannot be an excuse.

I wonder if you might share your experience learning Job Instruction.  Over the years, have you encountered similar “abnormalities” in your own practice or in the practice of others?  Do you have any examples of what caused these defects?             

Reply »

pat boutier July 02, 2015


I appologize as I had not seen your reply on this blog to me.

I'm seeing it now in July 2015! So just in case it comes back to you.

My experience now ammounts to ten years of JI, JR, JM, JS and TWI PS. as to "abnormalities" I think they 'sneak' in if there isn't any auditing of yourself by yourself or by others to just question the why.  TWI teaches us that practice, practice has to happen, and that is the same for us as 'instructors'. Self reflection,  a part of the PDSA is also important.  Then as the 'recen't writings by Mike Rother and others on Toyota Kata bring out repetition makes for better delivery, but it must be the correct pattern.  Unfortunately learning the process has so many nuances that it can be easy to overlook a few.  Doesn't make it 'bad' training, just doesn't capitalize on all the nuances that were built into the original as lack of understanding those nuances can be lost over time.

wondering whether this very late post works??

Reply »

Ben Root March 15, 2014

Hello Josh,

Nice work on the trainig video.  It was clear and easy to follow and I liked how you had the trainee stand facing the same direction as the trainer.  Often we train facing the trainee and thus they learn to do the job opposite of the way in which we are doing it. 

I was trained way back at NUMMI from Mr. Kato, Toyota-Japan.  One of the things that he pointed out was that there are four ways to teach.

1.  Telling - but only telling someone doesn't work because the trainer can easily telll someone too much at one time (we used the knot tying exercise to illustrate his point).

2 Showing - but only showing can confuse people (we used the t-shirt to illustrate this point).

3. Illustrations - like handing a cook a complicated recipe and not tellin or showing them the key points, etc.

4. Questioniong - Open ended so you know the trainee learned. 

The T-shirt is a great way to show people how to do the job.  Combined with telling, illustrations and questioning the trainee is almost sure to remember how to do the job.

Again, nice work!  Thank you for sharing this important training.



Reply »

Rick Bossingham May 23, 2014
Ben:  Would you be willing to share or explain more about the know tying exercise?

Reply »

Ben Root May 23, 2014

Hello Rick,

I would be glad to share my understanding of the knot tying exercise.  Please let me know how I can help.


Ben Root

Reply »

Tim Strickland April 17, 2014
One thing I've noticed in several Job Instruction examples I've viewed is, there never seems to be a reference to the expected time the job should be completed in. Example in the T shirt folding exercise, how long should it take to fold a T shirt, or what is the expectation of how many T shirts should be folded in an hour or shift? Is this expectation deliberately left out of the training method at this point?, if so what is the thought process behind that and at what point is that expectation communicated?

Reply »

Josh Howell May 12, 2014
5 People AGREE with this reply
Great question, Tim, and one that I have wrestled with myself.  While I may not be fully qualified to speak for TWI's original intent or for a company like Toyota that has practiced JI for decades, I will share what I have come to understand through my own learning and practice.  And I will reach out to several individuals who know more about the original intent than I do, requesting them to chime in.

A quick history - TWI consists of three "J" programs: Job Relations, Job Instruction and Job Methods.  Actually, a fourth "J", Job Safety, was developed also but is not much in use today.  Put simply, Job Relations is how to supervise people within teams, Job Instruction is how to train a job, and Job Methods is how to improve a job.  For several reasons, including TWI's limited use of time, Toyota replaced Job Methods (or evolved it?) with what we know today as Standardized Work.  That said, here are some comments on the use of time within JI. 

JI's purpose is to help a worker learn to do a job correctly, safely and consistently.  If a worker effective learns the job, then, and if the job is well designed, including time as part of the training experience may be superfluous.  Including time could, in fact, undermind the training's primary objectives as the worker focuses too much on "efficiency".  Also, doing so might shift the burden of “efficiency” from those who design and/or manage the work onto the worker, who in this case is simply learning the steps.

This is not to say that time is unimportant, nor is it to say that timing expectations should be hidden.  And so to your follow-up questions, when might time be useful and therefore, introduced?  In TWI, and Lean for that matter, time is used primarily for the purpose of problem solving.  Whether time is in the form of TAKT or as a way to “see” abnormal work from normal work, it is used as a way to identify a gap, a problem.  Once identified, the fun of experimenting with various countermeasures can begin!  Including time as early as in the training process may indeed reveal a gap, but the gap will be the worker’s proficiency.  Since the context is that a worker is being trained, a gap in proficiency would be expected.

I hope you find this helpful.  If not, please let me know.  Again, it is a great question and conversation starter…

Reply »

Hasan October 20, 2018

Very useful explanation and video. Thanks

Reply »

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