Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, once said, “Without Standard Work there is no Kaizen.” That’s a pretty bold statement, but when you think about the continuous improvement cycle, it makes a lot of sense. How can you move from the current state to the desired state if the current state is a moving target? Standard Work, which documents the current best practice for performing a task or process, and ensures that everyone is applying it, is a prerequisite for improvement.
Here are 14 ways that Standard Work benefits organizations that leverage it.
1. Ensures that all work is done according to the current best practice
When Standard Work is in place, each person who performs a task does it in the manner that is the best way to do it.
2. Simplifies and speeds training and onboarding
When each task is documented and clearly defined, bringing on new employees and getting them up to speed is painless. There is no ambiguity, and the results are consistent, even with different trainers.
3. Improves quality and increases customer satisfaction
Consistency is an essential ingredient of quality. When work is done according to the Standard, quality is baked-in, and customers get exactly what they expect.
4. Reduces defects and waste
Errors and unnecessary waste are often the results of work that is done according to the whim of the day and not the carefully constructed Standard.
5. Makes results predictable and measurable
If the same process or task produces the same outcome every time, you can predict results and control the flow of work and items through the value chain. You also get baseline metrics that can be used to measure future improvements.
6. Helps finance teams cost and price accurately
Waste, errors, and inconsistent results make it tough to determine how much a particular process costs, and therefore, what price the product must get to be profitable.
7. Allows organizations to scale rapidly
One-off processes and individual judgment don’t scale. Standard Work makes it possible to get the same results with one person once, or 100 people, thousands of times.
8. Puts the focus on the process, not the person
When people perform their jobs according to the Standard Work, it is easy to shift blame for breakdowns and errors from the person to the process. After all, it's process problems, not people problems that keep organizations from achieving their objectives.
9. Makes the improvement easier and faster
It's hard to improve a process that is not well understood or consistently applied. Once Standard Work is in place, opportunities for improvement become apparent, and there is an easy way to implement them.
10. Streamlines problem-solving
Standard Work does not eliminate all problems, but it makes solving them much easier because you know exactly what the current state looks like.
11. Encourages employee engagement and ownership
Because the people who do the job are involved in the creation of the Standard Work, they become invested in making sure that it truly reflects the best approach.
12. Frees managers and leaders to focus on strategic objectives
The reduction in problems, errors, and inconsistent outcomes allows leaders, managers, and supervisors to focus instead on making sure employee needs are met, and adding value to the business.
13. Reduces workplace stress
People want to do good work and hate spending time correcting errors or apologizing for defects. Standard Work makes each individual more successful.
14. Encourages flexibility and creativity
While it may seem counterintuitive, Standard Work promotes innovation. That’s because the Standard is only the best practice for today. Creative ideas for improvement are always welcome, and the Standard changes whenever a successful PDSA proves that there is a better way.
Like many of the techniques and tools that support Kaizen, Standard Work is not complicated at all. But it is paramount for organizations that want to eliminate waste, improve efficiency, maintain quality, and practice continuous improvement. We’re pretty sure everyone wants to do at least some of that.