Standard Work is a very misunderstood concept in Lean Thinking. It’s not just about following a set of steps and a hard nosed manager holding his people accountable to those steps. It’s not about enforcing absolute compliance to those sequence of steps. No, there’s much more to it than that.
In general Standard Work is about the following:
- Standard Work defines WHAT steps and the sequence they should be carried-out
- Standard Work defines HOW those steps should be carried-out
In other words, to produce widget x, I need to do 1, 2, 3. But, when I do step 1, the temperature conditions must be “y” degrees and I should turn the bolt 10 times. You see – it’s not just the WHAT, but HOW those steps should be accomplished.
The upshot of Standard Work is this:
If one cannot describe the steps to accomplish a thing, that person does not understand the process.
Another upshot of Standard Work is this:
Standard Work is about agreeing on how the work is best done
This assumes that there is a better way to do the work. This concept is known as Positive Variance. In other words, be aware of the one person that is doing the work and performing better, safer, more efficient, and more effective than the other associates. This person has found simple and effective tricks that the rest of the team needs to acknowledge and track.
Positive Variance is good and whatever that person is doing can become the new Standard and a point from which to experiment and continually improve. Moreover, this approach supports “Pull” instead of “Push” – that is, when the standard is agreed-to and developed by the associates, then they are pulling the standard into the process. The other side of this is where a standard is pushed – that is command and control and typically leads to suboptimization, resistance, and worse – oppression.