Don't just look at my hands!

Published on
August 7, 2023
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The author shares a story of a training session at gemba that contains some important lessons about the Training Within Industry method.

Written by: Csaba Barhács, Lean coach, Lean Institute Hungary


‍Duringa recent TWI training at one of our partners, one of the employees was given the task of creating a Job Breakdown Sheet for the process of taking samples from the production line for quality control purposes. Boxes on the line move at a rate of 500 units per minute. This makes collecting samples a challenge even for an experienced worker, let alone a new worker.

When creating a TWI Job Breakdown Sheet, three main elements must be considered and defined:

  1. Key steps - What do we do?
  2. Main points - How do we do it?
  3. Explanation - Why do we do it?

What is the problem?

When the first version of the task assignment form was completed, I noticed that there were definitions such as "with one hand," "from above," or "with a quick motion" among the key points.

Since a new employee was also being trained, I asked how he was doing with the work distribution form and with the task itself. I was told, "The new employee isn't really getting the hang of it yet, but that's something that takes a lot of practice."

So I asked the employee to show me the process and also teach me how to perform it. I must admit that my heart was pounding during the learning process: it was so stressful to intervene in a line running at full speed and try to take out one of the 500 boxes that passed every minute. I tried several times, but failed each time. At one point I even had to stop the line because I knocked over a few boxes.


After numerous failures, I asked the colleague to show me how to do it again. I tried to observe as many details as possible. At first, I focused only on their hand, trying to pick up that critical movement that would ensure success. However, I saw no significant difference from my own practice.

Then I noticed what they were looking at, and that was the moment I understood the key to the process. The focus of the worker's gaze was about a meter in front of the extraction point. They looked at an incoming box, followed it with their eyes to the extraction point and then, with the right hand motion, grabbed the box.

Experiments and the solution

I asked if it was true what I saw, that they looked at the box before taking it out. They confirmed this with enthusiastic nods and didn't seem to understand why I was asking such a basic question. To them it was obvious! Then I tried the same exercise: eye contact, following and taking out. Miraculously, it worked flawlessly for me as well.

At the end of the exercise, we agreed that the Job Breakdown Sheet needed to be completed with one additional step and its key point:

Select the box (what) - At about 1 meter from the extraction point, select the box and visually follow it to the extraction point (how).

With these additions, the key points regarding grasping the box now worked perfectly.


This short story gave both me and the operator two valuable lessons:

  1. Often experienced workers overlook trivial details in their work and we tend to view a process superficially.
  2. In addition to hand movements, it is worth observing head and eye movements, as well as movements of the feet, trunk and shoulders, which can also be crucial (e.g., side stepping, turning, etc.).


Csaba Barhács is a lean coach at Lean Institute Hungary

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