Where there is no standard, there can be no kaizen.
– Taiichi Ohno
Before you can create change, you must know exactly what you’re currently doing. Beware – it’s probably different than what you think it is! Earlier in the Clarify section you detailed the current state of the organization, now it’s time to drill down and do the same for individual processes. Two ways of doing this in a Lean organization, which should be used together, are Standard Work and Value Stream Mapping, which I’ll cover later.
Standard Work, at its very basic, is simply the documented sequence of operations in a process. However to really take advantage of the power of standard work it should incorporate additional information. The three components of standard work are:
- The sequence of steps in the process
- The takt time of the process, which is the rate the process needs to operate at to satisfy (but not exceed!) customer demand.
- The inventory necessary overall and at each step required for the process to operate at the defined takt time.
People and organizations are sometimes leery of implementing standard work as they believe it could hinder flexibility. In reality, standard work enables change by documenting the current state. Standard work can and should be used for all types of processes – manufacturing, office, and even leadership activities.
A variety of forms are used with standard work, which show the physical layout of the process, including machines, equipment, supplies, and workstations, as well as sheets to show observe and document the time required by steps in the process, and a combination sheet that combines the above. These forms also become part of the visual management of the process, usually posted at the process location.
Leaders can use a form of standard work called leader standard work. Similar to process standard work, leader standard work defines the activities an individual leader performs as part of doing his or her responsibilities. The type of leader standard work varies considerably depending on the level and responsibility of the position.
For example, a production cell leader may spend only part of their day on leadership activities while actually working in the production process the remainder. On their leader standard work sheet they may audit the 5S and workplace organization of the cell each morning and each evening, review order flow, review quality issues, and ensure appropriate staffing is planned.
A senior executive may have a leader standard work sheet that is completely different. On a daily basis the executive may review operating and quality statistics from the previous day, lead the daily stand up meeting, review the leader standard work sheets of other leaders, and do a gemba walk. Other activities, such as reviewing customer information, providing feedback to team members, leading a kaizen event, providing information to other executives, ensuring alignment to the hoshin plan, and so forth, may happen on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annual basis.
The key point is that these leadership activities are listed and standardized, and completion is documented each day. The completed leader standard work sheets are often posted in a common area or near the leader’s work area as part of visual management.
Similar standard work and leader standard work can be used on a personal level. You could have standard work for how to close down your house before leaving for an extended period of time, how to prepare for winter, and what to do in case of an emergency. You could create leader standard work to ensure you review financial accounts, plan meals and check the pantry, perform regular maintenance on your car, or replace furnace filters.
More information on standard work and leader standard work, including forms and examples, are in the Resources section.