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What Standard Work is NOT

Posted by Maggie Millard

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Nov 14, 2016 10:46:22 AM

not.pngStandard Work establishes the best, safest, and most efficient sequences and methods for each process and each task that's being done in a workplace. The goal is to maximize the performance of the system or value stream, while eliminating waste in the value chain.

What’s not to love about that?

Nothing at all, but while the name Standard Work is descriptive and accurate, the term itself can give people the wrong idea if it isn’t introduced correctly. Here are some important things to communicate.


Standard Work is Not Mindless Work

If you’ve encouraged your employees to be thoughtful and innovative, the idea of Standard Work can be seen as something of a non sequitur. It is important to explain that the Standard Work maps out the best process for each task for today. This becomes the baseline for improvement, not the ceiling. This should come as good news to employees because that baseline gives them a way to measure the impact of future improvements.    

Standard Work is Not Dictated from On High

You don’t want your employees to be thinking, “Oh, great, now management is going to tell me how to do my job.” The Standard is not sent down from the board room. It must be developed with the people who actually do the work. They examine each process and come to a conclusion on what is included in the Standard.

Standard Work is Not the Final Word

The standard is only the beginning.  It should be revisited frequently and form the basis for future PDSA cycles. Leaders should consider the Standard when doing Gemba walks and determine if the Standard is being followed. If not, sometimes the reason will be that an update to the Standard is required.

Standard Work is Not Complicated

If the standard work cannot be understood by those doing the work as well as by those managing the work, it won’t do a lot of good. It should be in an easy to understand format with photos, diagrams and other visual clues that make sense.  While it must be complete, it should stick to the relevant information and be free from editorializing, industry buzzwords or instructions that have no real impact on the results of the work.

Like many other continuous improvement techniques, Standard Work is simple, but not easy. But if you are as clear about what it isn’t as what it is, you can get your team engaged and excited about the ability to produce consistent results followed by innovation and improvement.

The Savvy's Leader's Guide to Employee Engagement 

Topics: Lean

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