You will have many titles. Lead. Foreman. Supervisor. Coordinator. Superintendent. Charge Hand. Shift Boss. In every case, you are overseeing the real work being done by others, and you are the one responsible to see that it gets done right and on time. You need skills to get the people in your area to do what you want done, the way you want it done, because they want to do it.  Becoming the Supervisor shows you what this looks like.


You are developing the front line leaders that report to you. How do you help them the master the skills they need to do a very complex job? Especially if you had no one show you? The story in Becoming the Supervisor gives you an example. Julie’s compassionate but demanding leadership gives you another way to “be” a leader.


Front-line leadership skills are learnable. Nobody is born knowing this stuff.

You can develop your skills, regardless of what your organization is doing.

The tools and skills are to help you solve business problems.
They are just the means to an end.

Look after the mission of the company AND look after your people.
Doing only one is not an option.


When Julie arrives as the new general manager of a toy boat company, she has to decide whether Trevor can learn the supervisory skills he needs fast enough let her achieve the company’s mission (and keep his job). Trevor had been thrust into the role four months before. He had no training, and he was floundering.

Julie goes to work, using every challenge the company faces to teach him new skills. The range of challenges is wide: inadequate skills in the workforce, individual performance improvement, quality, and safety. Through them all, Julie guides Trevor as he learns the core skills every front-line leader needs.

Told from Trevor’s perspective, you feel the stress he faces and the delight as he overcomes one challenge after the other.

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Perhaps you’ve heard of Rosie the Riveter. She was a real person. One of the millions trained using TWI methods, and one of the hundreds of thousands of women and African Americans who first joined the industrial workforce during the war.

“The most useful training I got in my entire career.”

A supervisor speaking of Job Relations



Three of the skills described in Becoming the Supervisor come from the Training Within Industry (TWI) program. Job Relations develops the skills to deal with people who are not performing the way the company needs. Job Instruction develops the ability to teach new skills to others. Job Methods provides the tools to improve your portion of the work. These three essential skills are delivered in proven programs through the TWI processes.

They were developed during World War II when millions of people with no industrial experience entered the factories making planes, ships, tanks and munitions. Many quickly became supervisors, often with only months more experience than the people they oversaw.

In a study of 600 companies using these skills, they found remarkable results.

  • 100% reduced training time at least 25%
  • 100% reduced grievances at least 25%
  • 88% increased productivity at least 25%
  • 86% increased capacity at least 25%
  • 55% reduced scrap at least 25%

My experience matches that.

Now, these same skills can have the same dramatic effect. I have seen companies that have

  • reduced training time for new staff by 2/3
  • shorten new product introduction by six weeks
  • improved raw quality index from 55% to 85% in six months
  • increased capacity 10% in ten weeks without capital

Becoming the Supervisor tells the story of how one supervisor learns these skills. You can learn them, too!

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A great read, a great story, great lessons, and powerful learning for new and experienced supervisors. I couldn’t wait to see how it ended.


Anne C. Graham

#1 Best Selling Author – Profit in Plain Sight

Why is the story set in a toy boat factory?

I made my first toy boats as a child at our family’s summer home. They were pretty rough, but we had fun with them. Years later, when my children were young, I made them toy boats for the bathtub. When my first nephew turned three, I decided to make him a bathtub boat. It turned out well, and I started having people ask me to make boats for the young ones in their lives. Being the industrial engineer I am, I kept thinking about how I would make them in quantity as I worked on them.

As I started to imagine the story in the book, I had already thought a lot about how such a factory would run. I also thought that a factory that made toy boats was something  people could identify with.

The name of the company in Becoming the Supervisor comes from the creek that runs near my home down to the Fraser River. It is a short steep creek that once was a salmon stream. With urban development, it has been covered over in its upper reaches. However, in the lower portions the Sussex Creek ravine provides a home for a range of urban wildlife.

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats “  

The Water Rat, in Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Is there a “Julie”?

I would have loved to have a “Julie” in my life. But, no. There is no one person that she comes from. It is fiction. Three streams came together to bring Julie to life.

There are amazing manufacturers in small towns across the country who sell their products all over the world. They are global leaders in their industries, and have developed very good supervisors. Two firms in particular, one a client and one I know of, were the model for Julie’s work experience.

The Vancouver area where I live has people from many different cultures working together. Many have been in North America for six generations or more. They have an awareness of both the differences between cultures and the similarity of aspirations across cultures that we need in the world. I am very fortunate to have a friend whose great grandfather came to Canada from China before 1870, who generously helped me with Julie’s historical details.

Finally, I have been inspired by some amazing women leaders – people who have worked for me or along side me, and I wanted the story to reflect that.


Not Just for Manufacturing!

Becoming the Supervisor is set in a manufacturing plant. But the skills are needed in every sector.

Insurance. Accounting. Software sales. Engineering. Mining. Service industries. Maintenance operations. Education. Government. Healthcare. Food. Distribution.

I have seen these tools and skills work in every one of these sectors.
They just work!

Is There a Real Impact?

Here are just a few examples.

  • Raw quality index from 55% to 85% in 6 months using JI.
  • Cycle time for an assembly process down from 5:00 to 1:30 in 4 weeks
  • Full production rate for new employees 4 weeks down from 12
  • Capacity and productivity went up 5% in 10 weeks without capital.
  • 10% gain in overall labour productivity in 6 months
  • 40% gain in a person’s  productivity in 2 days

How Does This Fit with Lean?

The TWI programs were the roots of Lean thinking. Many people now think that the disappointing results many companies have had are because the front line leaders did not have the core skills. Many Japanese firms started with TWI in the years right after WWII. When North American observers arrived in Japan to watch their processes, they didn’t see the work companies did to develop their front line leaders; they just saw the tools being used.



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We are honoured to be able to work and live on the unceded and traditional territories of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Musqueam) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) speaking peoples.