JI — Session 2.5

What an Instructor should do to Get Ready to Instruct

~ Trainer’s Hints ~

You have just discussed the first “Get Ready” step of preparing a training time table; now have the group look at their pocket cards for the next step — “Break Down the Job”.

The choice of using the Fire Underwriter’s Knot for the first example of a Job Breakdown sheet is twofold; the group is somewhat familiar with the example and since they have seen the job several times, it will be easier to help them focus on the pattern of the Job Breakdown sheet rather than the job itself.

Your objective is to develop the value of preparation by the instructor before they start the training exercise. Organizing thinking before instructing can be done easily and quickly, using few words, by making a Job Breakdown.

Pass out the blank Job Breakdown sheets so the group can follow along as you break down the Fire Underwriter’s Knot on the board as you explain how you organized your thoughts before the training.

Start by reminding them that you don’t want to try to include too much in a single training unit. Don’t worry if you end up with a job breakdown that is several pages long, it can be subdivided later into suitable segments for training. In later sessions you can take suggestions from the group on how to divide a longer job into appropriate sized training units. You will probably encounter some confusion on the difference between a “Unit of Operation” (a job) and a “Unit of Instruction” (a suitable segment for instruction). Remember, the guideline is “no more than they can master at one time”.

Important Steps

The first definition you will teach them is the “Important Steps”. It is a step that advances the work and usually can be described with just two words = Action + Object or Noun + Verb. Don’t try to write a novel, you are making notes.

A key point for the trainer — be careful when you are making this first job breakdown in front of the group; don’t fall into the trap of telling some of the Key Points or Reasons Why as you define the Important Steps.

Starting with the Important Steps helps the instructor keep from jumping backward and forward as they instruct. It is easy for the group to get confused between Important Steps and Key Points. Emphasis that every Important Step has an action word — “The first thing you do is…. etc.” Select an accurate word to describe the action. A “First Step” which does not come within the definition of an Important Step, e.g. Prepare Layout, Handle Tools, General Information, etc. Some organizations have added a section above the columns to list prerequisites that are done in the preparation stage, such as personal protection equipment required, or special skills that are needed, such as knowledge of a software program.

Key Points

The “Key Point” is next — this describes critical information that will make or break a job, a hint to make the job easier; special information that it usually takes time to acquire. All safety instructions are always inserted in the Key Point column. Each Important Step does not require a Key Point. If you find yourself listing more than about five Key Points (“more than can be mastered”), this is probably a complex job and this single Important Step can be written as an individual job breakdown. First, make sure that they really are Key Points. If there still are more than about five Key Points, this probably qualifies as a complex job.

Stress that the Key Points should be recorded as you do or observe the job being done; not done from memory. The selection of the Key Points is from your own experience, even better when you have a second or third experienced person contribute their experience as well.

Have them consider: “What difficulties did you experience yourself in doing the job?” “What mistakes have been made frequently or occasionally?” (During instructing, it is not uncommon to discover new Key Points as the learner struggles with a job.)

The vital Key Points can be obscured by too many minor points. You can test each of the Key Points for — Safety, make or break the job (think — quality related), knack to make job easier (think — productivity related), special information. You can get group participation to test the Key Points with questions like these: “Does it make any difference if…?”; “What would happen if…?”; “Why did you…?”; “Any risk to the employee …?”, etc.

Reason Why

Each Key Point must have its own Reason Why. We stress this in the Coaching process to get people to better understand the process that they will be teaching or improving. This can also be a test for the validity for including a Key Point. If you can’t define a Reason Why, then you should reevaluate the inclusion of the Key Point.

The effort of developing a Job Breakdown sheet will start an improvement effort in nearly every organization.

Do you have any suggestions to help other trainers with this lesson? Contact me so I can add your insights. — Mark.Tesla2@gmail.com

~ Trainer’s Content to Deliver ~


  • Allow 15 minutes for this segment

Let’s turn to the “How to Get Ready to Instruct” side of our card.

The first “Get Ready” point is “Have a Time Table.”

We have already discussed the purpose of this point.

The next “Get Ready” point is “Break Down the Job.”

This “Get Ready” point is important and requires special attention. Therefore, we are going to spend the rest of this session working on job breakdowns.

Our instructing demonstration by ( name ) would have been better had a job breakdown sheet been made. This is no criticism of ( name ). We are using this instructing demonstration to develop the need for making a job breakdown sheet before instructing.

  • Stress as they apply any or all of the following.
  • Don’t embarrass the instructor.

The instructor wouldn’t have tried to have them understand too much.

The information would have been presented more clearly.

The instructor wouldn’t have “jumped about” from one point to another.

The critical, “Important Steps”, “Key Points” or “Reasons Why” would have been made clear.

Lack of clearly organizing the job in one’s mind is the reason for poor instruction, scrap, accidents, delays, mistakes, discouraged employees; in fact, most of the problems we had listed on the board in the first session.

  • Break down the fire underwriters’ knot, as follows:

Here’s a quick, simple way to make a breakdown.

Here is what I did to get the fire underwriters’ knot clear in my mind before instruction.

  • Pass out blank Job Breakdown sheets.
  • Ask each member to take five sheets.
  • Explain heading, Part and Operation.

Note the heading in the left-hand column: “Important Steps in the Operation.”

A step, for our purpose, is “A logical segment of the operation when something is done to advance the work.”

The right-hand column has heading “Key Points.”

A “key point,” for our purpose, is “Anything in a step that might:

  • Injure the employee
  • Make or break the job
  • Make the work easier to do, such as: knack — trick — special timing — bit of information.

I’m going to put my job breakdown of the fire underwriters’ knot on the board for you. Notice how I arrive at my important steps, key points and reasons why.

  • Take wire and go to the board.
  • Write down headings. Fill in part and operation.
  • As you tie the knot, use the monologue method of demonstrating to the group how you questioned the operation to get the steps.
  • Ask questions, and answer them yourself.
  • Speak loudly enough for all members to hear.
  • You might say, for example:

The first thing I do that really advances the work is to untwist the cord and straighten the ends. Therefore, my first important step is “Untwist and straighten.”

  • Write “1. Untwist and straighten” under “Important Steps.”

The next thing that is done to advance the work is to make a right-hand loop. Therefore, for my second important step I’ll use “Make right-hand loop.”

  • Write “2. Make right-hand loop” as second step.
  • Continue monologue until all 5 steps have been developed and put on the board:
  • Then tie the knot again, step by step, by bringing out each key point.
  • Ask yourself aloud the three questions for each step and answer them yourself.
  • Speak plainly and loudly enough for all members to hear.

Is there anything in this step that might:

  • Injure the employee?
  • Make or break the job?
  • Make the work easier to do? (knack — trick — special timing — special information?)

As you develop the key points and reasons for each step, put them down in the key point column opposite the step.

Step 4 has no Key Points or Reasons Why — they are not necessary for simple steps.

  • The completed breakdown sheet will look like this:

Let’s take our instruction cards and look at the relationship between our “Get Ready” point, “Break Down the Job,” and “How to Instruct.”

In Step 2 we need to have our jobs clearly in mind by steps and key points before instructing. My job breakdown sheet of the underwriters’ knot helped me to instruct ( name ) in how to tie it in the last session.

In Step 3, when the learner explains each key point, we are making sure they understand.

  • Discuss the breakdown.

Purpose is not to:

  • cover every conceivable step, point, motion, or precaution.
  • or write a description of the operation
  • or provide instruction sheets

Purpose is to:

  • help organize the job in the instructor’s mind
  • be sure of the way the supervisor wants the operator to do the job

A job breakdown sheet is just “a note from ourselves to ourselves.” Just simple, common sense reminder of what is really important to put over in a job.

For the purpose of organizing our thinking before instructing, we need only a few words to remind us what information is needed for the learner to understand.

An important step is a logical segment of the operation when something is done to advance the work.

For example, in putting a blade in a hacksaw:

  • Demonstrate:
  • “Take hold of the wing nut” is not a step worth noting as a reminder.
  • “Screw down wing nut” is a step, but not an important step.
  • “Adjusting the tension” is the real thing that advances the work.
  • It is not necessary to go into greater detail.

What is a Key Point?

Large portion of every job is easy to learn.

It is the 5 or 10 per cent that represents the “hard” or “tricky” part. These require the time to learn — represent the real skill necessary.

Key Point” was the term chosen to represent whatever is the “key” to doing a step properly

Key Points mean, in their order or importance:

  • Hazards (Safety)
  • Those things that “make or break” the job (quality related)
  • Things that make the work easier to do — “knack,” “trick,” “feel,” “special timing,” or “bit of special information” (productivity related)

Don’t confuse the motions you make with key points.

Key points do not mean every conceivable thing that is to be watched, or which might go wrong.

There is no need to go that far into detail.


  • Examples of key points — cite and demonstrate as appropriate:
  • Injury to employee:
  • Lifting heavy load from floor — Use legs, not back
  • Using sharp tools — cut away from body
  • Guards on machines — proper position
  • Personal safety equipment — proper use
  • Make or break the job:
  • Adjusting tension, hack saw blade — How tight? “Feel”
  • Putting micrometer on stock — How tight? “Feel”
  • Seating screw or nut — How tight? “Feel”
  • Reading instruments accurately — one eye — in line
  • Hardening steel — specified temperature and time
  • Make the work easier to do:
  • Knack in riveting with pneumatic riveter, sound changes when pieces solidly together
  • Testing roof in mines — hollow sound indicates loose slate — knack in judging sound
  • Special timing:
  • in welding — flame ahead of weld — right heat — color and flow
  • Special information:
  • electric wiring — white wire grounded
  • switch in “hot” black wire
  • how to hold micrometer, etc.
  • 55 minutes to here (approximate time into session)

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