There is much confusion about Standard Work. This makes sense – there actually quite a debate about what is standard work. For example, led by Mike Rother, believes that “standard” is actually the target condition of where the process is trying to get to or the condition it’s trying to achieve. Another camp, and the more prevalent one where I come from (and remember, I came from Toyota), is simple: Standard Work are literally the steps one needs to walk in order to complete a process. In fact, to illustrate my point, I created a simple simulation showing the importance of Standard Work. Very simple.
Regardless of where you are in the debate, let’s view this video which explains the various definitions of Standardized Work. Enjoy.
Video Transcript and Notes
I’d like to welcome you to this first module of our standard work course. Now, standard work is an important topic that applies to any industry or process. Standard work is also one of the principles within the lean management body of knowledge that can cause the most confusion. Well, in this course, we’ll cover standard work in general as well as specific applications.
In this first module, we are going to start things off with the topic of standardization. Well, specifically, by the end of this module, you’ll know what we mean when we speak of both standards and standardization. Additionally, we’ll also explain why standard work is so important to the success of sustainable continuous improvement. Okay, so let’s begin with a discussion on standardization.
Standardization means setting a standard as well as bringing a condition into conformance with that standard. Now, there are three steps to the standardization cycle. First, we must determine or identify a standard. Next, once we know what the standard is, we must ensure everyone in the organization understands what the standard is, while also committing to following the standard. Third, we must check to see that the standard is reasonable, fair, and can be followed while also finding ways to improve the standard.
An often misunderstood idea is that standards are absolute and unchanging, and this isn’t the case at all. In fact, standards must be continuously updated and improved. In fact, most of us live with and benefit from standardization in our daily lives. A good example of standardization is the red stop sign. Its shape and color are familiar to people all over the world, making it possible for anyone to know what to do when they see the sign. Standards of this type are set by traffic laws to serve the higher purpose of keeping people safe. These types of standards are adjusted or improved when people realize that the location or position of the sign needs to be moved in order to become more visible. Additionally, in some cases the stop sign can be eliminated and replaced with a roundabout as is very common throughout the world, such as the UK and throughout Europe.
Next, there are many benefits of standardization, no matter if you work in an office, hospital, or factory. For example, practicing standardization improves safety, maintains stable quality while also enabling us to visualize what’s normal versus abnormal. Additionally, practicing standardization reduces cost, increases productivity, stabilizes delivery times, eliminates waste, simplifies processes, improves morale with fair and objective standards and creates the basis for continuous improvement. Additionally, standardization develops people through problem solving.
In fact, Taiichi Ohno, the Chief Architect of the Toyota Production System, once said that without standards there can’t be no kaizen. In other words, if you’re always doing things differently without agreeing to a standard, it will be nearly impossible for anyone to be able to improve a process in a sustainable manner. Along these lines, another important aspect of standardization is that standards are meant to be improved. In other words, standards are not handcuffs like some mistake them to be. Instead, standards are the starting point for continuous improvement.
Now to wrap this first module up, I would like to leave you with some thoughts and questions to ponder. And if you happen to be watching this video as a group, feel free to discuss these questions together. First, I’d like you to think about examples of everyday standardization. Next, I’d like you to brainstorm examples of how a lack of standards has potentially jeopardized safety, quality, delivery cost, or the morale of associates at your company. And finally, I’d like you to ponder how the work you personally do could benefit from standardization.
All right. Well, this wraps up this first module. Throughout the rest of this course, we are going to go on a deep and thorough journey of standard work, including how it applies to high volume, mixed model, and everyday activities. Now, in our next module, we are going to get things started with an introduction to the three main types of standard work. So we’ll speak to you soon.
Here is another video on Leader Standard Work which you might enjoy:
Leaders Standard Work Video Transcript
Male Speaker 1: What’s happening is that you’re learning with a trainer and the trainer becomes the master and you’re the apprentice. This particular photo was taken at the Texas plant, just talking to somebody who is teaching me how they taught problem-solving during the recession when we had people employed and they’re not making trucks and they’re just teaching them every day. Again, the role of the mentor is to challenge you, challenge the way you think, challenge the way you act, and to give you assignments and then watch you carefully, much of the time not giving you any feedback at all and letting you struggle and then eventually, they will give you a feedback and they’ll give you a concrete assignment. If you think about being a blacksmith or being a carpenter back in the old days, where your father might drop you off at the local blacksmith and turn you over to the master blacksmith, and now, you’re nothing. You’re actually kind of the property of that master and you do exactly what the master says, and your advancement could eventually become a master blacksmith so you can setup your own shop. It depends upon that master. Is there a complete control?
That kind of a relationship that we…those were common a few hundred years ago, that never really left Toyota. It’s not as defined as I dropped you off and you’re my master. But it is expected that when you have a new job, that there’s somebody to teach you and it’s usually your boss. If you are on a special project, it might be somebody who is an expert at the Toyota Production System and they’re teaching you some aspect of TPS. But there’s somebody who is responsible for training and developing you and you treat them with the same respect that the apprentice would treat the master.
Lately, there’s been kind of a spread, a popular movement of what’s called “leader standardized work.” In fact, in many cases, there’s a simplistic assumption. Again, we tend to think in terms of simple cause and effect. “Through this project, I get this return on investment,” and leader standardized work, what we often think of is that we want to be a Lean Leader. Somebody gives us standard work to perform to learn to be a leader. We follow the standardized work, and we’re a leader. Usually, the standardized work involves [inaudible 00:03:29] and asking some questions and making some observations. In reality, the leader standardized work is a good concept. What we’re really referring to is repetitive patterns and activities that represent the current best way of planning and controlling business processes. So there’s a part of every leader’s job that can be made to be routine. We show here is that the percentage that’s repetitive as compared to the percentage that is unique work particular to that job is going to vary depending on the position and basically, as you go higher in the organization, more of what you have to do is to react to unique circumstances and know how to react in a proper way.
The lower you go, the more of your job is routine. For example, for a team leader in Toyota, which should be an hourly employee, who is given extra responsibilities and they’re off the line and they’re responding for example, to [inaudible 00:04:41], that pulls a cord, the light goes on. They can be trained in a lot of detail about how to respond when [inaudible 00:04:49]. What happens when the light goes on? Now, you’re the object to let the spotlights on you as a team leader. The team member simply pulls the cord. He is done. He is called attention to the problem. Now, there’s a spotlight on you as a team leader where you have to jump into action. What do you do? Again, you can be trained in that in a fairly routine way, even though every situation that you face on the line will be different. But what happens if there’s a missing part? What happens if the team member made a quality error? How do you judge when you need to allow the line to actually stop versus when you can pull the cord a second time and solve the problem while the car is moving down the line?
What do you do if the problem is bigger than you and you can’t handle it and you have to call for help? So there’s defined routines for dealing with those situations even though there’s also improvisation. There’s also routine things that you do as a team leader like check to see if the tools themselves are within the quality range. For example, is the truck wrench within the acceptable range? So you’re making quality checks. You’re collecting data that’s posted on the team meeting board. There’s a lot of routine activities. There’s things that you should look for before the shift starts. You come early as a team leader and everything should be set up right so that when the line starts, everything is ready to go. We’re saying here roughly that maybe 80 percent of your job can be taught and is totally repetitive and there’s about 20 percent where it’s a totally unique situation. The machine crashes in a way that you’ve never seen before and you have to be extremely creative. The group leader was suggesting it’s more like 50:50.The group leader is a first line supervisor. As you go up to a manager level, we’re saying maybe only 20 percent of what you do is repetitive, and 80 percent is adapting to circumstances, adapting to people’s needs.
What we’re really arguing with leader standardized work is that even if you’re a manager and only 20 percent of your work is routine, if you can standardize that 20 percent, you don’t have to really think about it. Twenty percent of one day’s worth of work out of a five-day a week of stuff that you can just do automatically, and that’s the part you want to standardize. For the other parts, that’s why you need to learn like we saw over time with a mentor over many years through on the job development. What you’re learning are the tacit parts of the job, the parts that can’t be written down procedurally. The tacit parts, you learn through experience of dealing with more and more different circumstances, and you develop a repertoire of skills that allow you to deal with that employee and that repetitively doesn’t show up to work, or with that machine that breaks down in a spectacular way and that could shut down productions of the whole day, and/or the vendor who misses a shipment. You’ve done that many times before. Even though each situation is unique, they’re similar to what you’ve done in the past so you’re developing a repertoire of skills for the 80 percent and some very routine-specific repetitive work where you can actually quite write down the procedure. So what do we mean by leader standardized work?
Male Speaker 2: If this manager here, you’re showing it as blue, which means that you should standardize that 20 percent of the work. If there’s a system manager, you should standardize that 25 percent, and for the group leader who is, I think, this is the group leader. You’ve got 50:50 scenario there, right?
Male Speaker 1: Right, and then the white –The team leaders in the white because the team leader is really not a formal manager. They’re not only worker but they also would have 80 percent. These are just rough numbers, that they would have that 80 percent of the work would be quite standard and machine. What you’re trying to do is identify the repetitive portions of the job, and for those repetitive portions, we’re trying to standardize it, even write it down, and anybody who is in that job can be taught that when they enter that job, they could be taught those routine aspects. The rest of the job, they’re going to have to learn to experience, and they’ve already been learning a lot of those skills that allow them to deal with the sudden situations that are each unique, that they’re facing constantly through the day, and what might take somebody four hours to do, as you experience it, 10 years later, you’re doing in 15 minutes because you have developed your own habits, your own routines for handling those things where you can identify like a master chess player. He looks at a board, he knows exactly what the situation is at a glance, and he can start thinking about his move. He knows different kinds of moves and different strategies for this situation. Just at a glance. The novice has to work at every single piece and try to figure out all the different ways the opponents can move. The master chess player has a lot of templates and routines in a set. But if you would try to write all those down, which some people do, it would take hundreds of pages and maybe not even worth doing.
This would be example of a daily round that the plant manager is walking through the plant, and you’ll see the President of the Toyota plant. The President will make a daily walk, and it’s just part of their routine. They’ll do it every day unless there’s some emergency. This is the area they’ve decided I am going to do a deep dive. For this work group, I am going to spend more time, and they’ll change that every day. And then every place they go, there’s things that they’re looking for. They have something that they have been focusing on. For example, in HR, it might be the hiring plant, and they’re going to be asking questions about that. If it’s visual, and if they can see the status, then it’s much easier for them to ask the right questions and challenge the thinking of people. This is a necessary step, but it’s only a step until leaders naturally become lean leaders, until they’ve developed to the point where they just do this and they don’t need it written down and they don’t need it to become formal written standardized work. In the book, we make a little bit disparaging analogy and say it’s like training wheels on a bicycle. It will help you to learn but at some point, somebody has got to give you a push without the training wheels, where you’re actually riding the bike.