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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Leader Standard Work

Lean Nation:

Today's topic is is going to cover leader standard work.  From an improvement perspective, after studying a process and making a measurable improvement, a lean practitioner will always leave behind two things;

1) Standard Work - the recipe for the easiest, safest, highest quality, best known way to do something
2) Process Control - a form of visual management that allows everyone to know what is expected, see what is happening at a glance, and take action when an abnormality occurs.

These two things embed improvement into a process.  Standard work ensures that all the great thinking is part of everyone's work, and process control makes waste visible so action can be taken to ensure the waste stays out of the process.   

Sound easy right?  Unfortunately standard work and process control are not common, intuitive, or even welcome by all staff.  The ingrained culture in your organization might make it very difficult for everyone to consistently follow standard work and to capture and identify abnormalities.  Worse,  if management doesn't work consistently, persistently, and tenaciously to follow up on standard work compliance and problem solve issues impacting standard work,  your new improvement isn't going to be sustained.*  (*Note: That previous statement  is not 100% true.  If you mistake proof the process to eliminate any possible means of variation, that will also ensure compliance and consistent outcomes)

The way to engage management to ensure standard work is being followed and to problem solve when wastes creeps back into a process is through leader standard work.  We find many times that when the work standards are improved and rolled out, staff will begin to change behavior.  If management doesn't also change behavior,  then the existing management approaches can actually regress any improvement.   Said differently, putting the old management behaviors on top of new standard work will guarantee a failure in sustained improvement.  

Lean organizations use leader (and management) standard work to change management behavior.  There are a host of activities that can be performed, but leader standard work is designed to change management behavior thus enabling a culture of continuous improvement to flourish.  So what exactly is leader standard work?

Leader Standard Work (LSW) is a recipe for management actions and tasks that lead to an improved organization. More specifically, LSW is a checklist of the easiest, safest, highest quality, best known way to manage an organization.  This is important because the checklist creates focus.  It shows the leader specifically what to do and what not do do.  Management typically spends the majority of their time on administrative standards (scheduling , budgeting, controlling, etc.) Management should be spending their time on operational standards (setting, maintaining, and improving standard work)  to improve the quality, delivery, and cost of the work. 

Leader Standard Work ensures that the leader spends their time on the right things.    I have an example of a template for leader standard work. It is broken into daily, and weekly tasks.  The key is to make sure work is being done that has an improvement focus.  100% of every day cannot be spent on fire fighting,   on answering e-mails and phone calls, attending meetings, and  performing administrative tasks. 

In completing your actual leader standard work start by scheduling the standing meetings that you need to attend,  then schedule in all your improvement work, and end by scheduling your administrative tasks.   Improvement work can include many things but at a minimum should include time in workplace (gemba), auditing of standard work,  reviewing the process and visual controls, and problem solving.  To change the culture and sustain improvement, these specific activities need to occur DAILY.  In a world class organization, these activities occur hourly.

Remember, failing to change management behavior will make your continuous process improvement journey very difficult.  Great organizations start with leader standard work to ensure operational standard work is followed and visual management systems are used to keep waste out of your system.

Lean Blessings;


Ron Bercaw
President and Sensei
Breakthrough Horizons LTD
Shingo Award winning author

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