The Yin and Yang of Standardized Training

The Yin and Yang of Standardized Training

Quiz time:  What significance does the yin and the yang have in discussing standardized training?  I suggest that you pause and guess …. and then read on for the answer… 

OK, we all get it, standards are a part of our lives in the business world and they are gaining more and more focus as companies become leaner.  Some of you may be aware or use of any of the following terms:

Standard Work

Standard Work Sheet

Standard Work Combination Sheets

Leader Standard Work

Many of you are also familiar with management systems standards like ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 which have the purpose of ensuring that all companies subscribing to these standards will have the basic foundational management systems to ensure quality, environmental responsibility and employee safety, respectively.  Many of these standards encourage the use of standardized processes, procedures, control plans, and/or work instructions.

We fundamentally believe that standards ensure consistency.  If this is true, then why don’t we standardize on a robust method of training fellow employees?  Many people seem to think that as long as we develop standard work of one variety or another, that consistency should automatically result.  This is simply not true.

This is wherein we make a bad assumption.  We assume that all people can pick up a piece of standard work and follow it verbatim.  We assume that people are standard and that we all can learn this way … but we can’t and we don’t.  Some people learn best visually, some auditorily, some tactilely … and then again some people are dyslexic, some have ADHD, some have special needs, and some do not primarily speak in the native tongue of their employer. 

A robust standardized training methodology is necessary to ensure that a standard process is followed by people who are not standard.     That robust process must address two key parts:  the standard document and the standard training process – the yin and the yang of standardized training.


The symbol for Yin Yang is called the Taijitu.  The word Yin means “shady side” and Yang means “sunny side”. 

The yin and yang are two halves that together complete wholeness. Yin and yang are also the starting point for change. When something is whole, by definition it is unchanging and complete. So when you split something into two halves – yin / yang, it upsets the equilibrium of wholeness. This starts both halves chasing after each other as they seek a new balance with each other.


When one splits the two halves, the equilibrium of wholeness is upset.  In other words, one cannot “train” employees effectively by only allowing them to read or refer to a standard document and one cannot “train” employees effectively by training them without the use of an easy to refer to standard document.

Training Within Industry Job Instruction  

Without going into the history of Training Within Industry (TWI) and specifically the module of Job Instruction, it will suffice to say that many people consider TWI to be the foundation of the Toyota Production System. It, along with other influences such as the teachings of Henry Ford and Dr. Deming, initiated what we now all refer to as Lean.  TWI was based on developing leadership qualities at the supervisory level and respect for people.

The Job Instruction (JI) Module of TWI teaches supervisors how to teach others effectively and respectfully, in a standardized method.

Yang – Standard Document  - the Job Breakdown Sheet

The yang of JI, the standard document, is called the Job Breakdown Sheet, and basically looks like this:

What: A logical segment of the operation when something happens to advance the work How: Anything in a step that might:
  1. Make or break the job
  2. Injure the worker
  3. Make the work easier
Why: Reasons for the key points

It is not a detailed work instruction as it refers to documenting “important steps” in the first column. It is easy to read with bulleted statements/phrases and eliminates non-value added words. It should be easy to reference as one is training. This is the document the trainer will use when s/he is training other people. It is their standardized “cheat sheet” that is used each time a new employee is trained. “Key Points” are critical to the training process and are emphasized. The third column is the “respect” column in that it is used to explain “why” key points are important and does not allow us to only explain what a person is to do, but why it is important. This information honors one as a thinking human being.

Yin – Standard Training Process – the seven iterations

The yin of the JI, the standard training process is based on using all of the senses (visual, tactile, auditory), respects each person’s learning capabilities, and is based on learning part of the process, application, learning more of the process, application, etc. and repetition so that people can learn methodically and build up knowledge and skills over time.  The process takes on the following pattern as such:

Trainer (with the JBS at his/her side and using it to reference at all times)

  1. Performs the operation and verbally states the “Important Steps” in column one.
  2. Repeats the process above and this time also states the “key points” in column two.
  3. Repeats the process above and this time also states the “reasons” why they are key points.

Trainee (with coaching by the trainer)

  1. Performs the process silently (the trainer corrects any errors).
  2. Repeats step 4 and this time states each “important step” as they are doing it.
  3. Repeats step 4 and this time states each “key point” as they are doing it.
  4. Repeats step 4 and this time states each “reason” for each key point.

The trainer and trainee can determine at this point if any more repetitions are necessary to ensure competency and complete understanding.

Now, of course, what I have provided you with is a simplistic explanation of the power of TWI JI, which emphasizes the importance of not only having standard documents, but also the importance of having respectful training processes that are robust enough to ensure competency and understanding for all (non-standard) people.  TWI JI has many more aspects to it than just what has been written in this article, including a standardized method of training folks in JI through active demonstration and feedback. In other words, one should seek out a source to receive proper training in TWI JI, before attempting to deploy based on this article. One such source for offering TWI JI training is the Kaizen Institute.    

For more information regarding TWI JI in video format, click here.

The key principle is to not disrupt the wholeness.  A standard document by itself will do no good without a standard robust and respectful training process.  The standard training process by itself will do no good without an easy to read simplistic standard training document (JBS). The two must remain as one for true training effectiveness.

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