When we talk to leaders who haven’t yet implemented Standard Work, our first question is always, “Why?” We get a range of answers including that it is too much work to get set-up, employees won’t like it, and there just isn’t time.
While we take issue with the idea that employees won’t like it (hint: if they don’t, Standard Work has probably not been implemented properly), we do agree that it does take some work and time to get started. But if organizations never did anything difficult or time-consuming, they’d be in pretty bad shape. Organizations tackle challenges when they see the benefits are great and the risks of doing nothing are painful. When it comes to Standard Work, there’s a lot to lose by doing nothing.
Here are some things you might be missing.
Adherence to Best Practices
There are usually many ways to get from point A to point B, but only one that constitutes the most efficient path according to the data currently available. Standard work ensures that each person who performs a task is using the best currently known method.
A Shorter Path to Improvement
Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System management methodology once said, “Without standards, there can be no improvement.” That’s because it is impossible to improve on a process that is not documented, inconsistently applied, and not universally understood. Only by mapping out the current state of work, can you analyze its opportunities for improvement and know if the improvement actually worked.
More Employee Engagement and Less Stress
Because the employees who do the work are involved in the development of the standard, they gain a sense of ownership and become more engaged in efforts to measure and improve process results. They take the initiative in determining when a new improvement cycle should be performed. People want to do good work and hate spending time correcting errors or apologizing for defects. Standard Work makes each individual more successful.
New Employees Become Productive More Quickly
Getting new employees productive is far simpler when each process is clearly documented with useful images and diagrams. Each trainer teaches each new employee the same method so that you maintain consistency even when staff changes.
Reduces Defects and Waste
Standard Work is a way of integrating error proofing into the process. Defects and low quality are often the results of deviating from the best practice. Standard Work seeks to eliminate these exceptions.
Increased Customer Satisfaction
Customers are happiest when they get great quality products on time. By improving quality and speeding production times, Standard Work helps you delight customers and maintain value.
Predictable and Measurable Results
Because Standard Work results in consistent outputs and timing, you can more easily control the flow of work-in-progress and materials through the value chain. Forecasting, inventory management, and staffing all become much easier. You also establish a baseline that can form the measuring stick for future improvements.
Better Pricing Decisions
Waste, errors, and inconsistent results make it difficult for finance teams to determine how much a particular process cost, and therefore, what price the product must get to be profitable. By improving quality and predictability, better decisions about how much to charge can be made.
The Ability to Scale Rapidly
You may have the smartest, most experienced and qualified front-line employees on the planet and trust them to use their individual judgment. Unfortunately, that doesn’t scale. As organizations grow, they need to rely more heavily on great processes and less on extraordinary people.
More Focus on Strategic Objectives
By reducing the problems, errors, and inconstant results that happen when Standard Work is not in place, you free leaders, managers, and supervisors to focus on strategic priorities, good employee coaching, and other value-adding activities.
New Opportunities for Flexibility and Creativity
People are often surprised when we point out this benefit of Standard Work, but the truth is, Standard Work promotes innovation. That’s because the current standard is only the best practice for right now. It is essentially a challenge to find ways to do it better. Whenever someone has a creative new idea, an improvement cycle like PDSA or DMAIC can be initiated to explore its potential.
Taiichi Ohno also said, “Kaizen is about changing the way things are. If you assume that things are all right the way they are, you can’t do Kaizen. So, change something.” Yes, there is some effort and time involved in implementing Standard Work, but the upside is enormous. If you aren’t using it, that may be the most important thing to change.