Taiichi Ohno was a believer in Standard Work. While this fact is broadly known, his approach to Standard Work is less known and many saying attributed to him that are probably false. In this article we discuss Ohno’s approach to Standard Work and also the motivations behind its practice.
To read my reviews of Wakamatsu’s book on Taiichi Ohno, please visit the links below.
- Taiichi Ohno on Standard Work
- Taiichi Ohno on Genchi Genbutsu
- Do Not Act Spoiled
- Learn from Previous Masters
- Wastes Hide, Disclose All Mistakes
- Truth and Understanding
- Innovation and Craftiness
- Teach Others to Think
- Intelligent Automation
- Taiichi Ohno on Leadership
Taiichi Ohno on Standard Work
Taiichi Ohno’s belief and approach on Standard Work was borne out of experience. In his words,
I think it was 1933 or 1934, when I was working in the Toyota textile factory, that I was told by my supervisor to create a Standard Work manual. I tried to find some reference books in the bookstore but I had absolutely no luck in coming up with any useful information. At the time, every standard work manual tended to be quite idealistic. Mine turned out like that too. It was so unrealistic that no one on the shop floor was able to follow it.
After reflecting on his own experience, Taiichi Ohno concluded the following which led to the current approach at Toyota on Standard Work:
No matter how great the principles behind a manual are, it has no value if it cannot be applied in practice. We’re not living in an ivory tower. Work can never be standardized based only upon your ideas and demands without validating facts on the shop floor. Focus on one problem at a time and try to accomplish continuous improvement no matter how small it may be. This is how you can collect useful clues as to what standard work should be.
- The reality of the shop floor is clearly reflected in the standard work
- Standard work must be realistic and applicable on the shop floor
- Standard work must lead to continuous improvement opportunities
Standard Work is Not Absolute
It goes without saying that standard work is not absolute. In his words,
It’s wrong to think that you need to fabricate your own standard work idea only because it is being compared to ones made by others. Impressive standard work is never absolute in practice. First, pick a starting point that fits you the best and create a solid foundation which will help you gather useful clues for establishing a more desirable and attainable achievement of standard work . . .
Do not aim for perfection. Create a lenient standard work to begin with.
Indeed, on this experience and approach, the now popular If there is No Standard, then There is no Kaizen mentality has come to be.