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What Standard Work Is

This week Beyond Lean is focusing the discussion on standardized work.  There will be four posts throughout the week from different bloggers.  Joe and I will post a blog as well as Tim McMahon from A Lean Journey and Christian Paulsen from Lean Leadership.  The purpose is to look at different aspects of standardized work from several perspectives all gathered in one location and within the same time frame.  We hope this spurs thought, reflection and action for our readers around standardized work.

The post below is from my friend, Tim McMahon, who runs A Lean Journey blog.  Tim has great tips and insights on his Facebook page as well and a great weekly Lean Quote series every Friday.  You can also connect with Tim on Twitter.

Standard work is a written description of how a process should be done. It guides consistent execution. At its best, it documents a current “best practice” and ensures that it is implemented throughout a company. At a minimum, it provides a baseline from which a better approach can be developed.

The definition of standard work is “the most effective combination of manpower, materials and machinery”. Standard work is the method, and thereby you have the four Ms of manufacturing (manpower, material, machinery, methods). Standard Work is only “the most effective” until the standard is improved.

Standards to a company are like scales and sheet music to a musician. Our team members help develop and maintain standards, which are not static. Standards change as we get better, just as a good band will incorporate chord and melodic variations if they sound good. Thus, standards do not constrain creativity – they enable it, by providing a basis for comparison, and by providing stability, so we have the time and energy to improve.

Standardized work comprises:

  • Content
  • Sequence
  • Timing
  • Expected outcome

It should also contain tests, or red flags, which tell you when there’s a problem. That way, you won’t ship junk. The tests could be physical, such as a torque check on a bolt, or it could be administrative, like a blacked-out template that fits over a standard form and highlights the critical information.

Standard work enables and facilitates:

  • Avoidance of errors, assuring that lessons learned are utilized and not forgotten
  • Team learning and training
  • Improvements to make the work more effective
  • Reduction in variability
  • Creation of meaningful job descriptions
  • Greater innovation by reducing the mental and physical overhead of repetitive or standardized work

Standard work does not preclude flexibility. You can still do a lot of different jobs, and be able to address new problems. Standard work just takes the things you do repeatedly and makes them routine, so you don’t waste time thinking about them.

Standards are an essential requirement for any company seeking to continuously improve. All continuous improvement methods leverage learning to get better results from their business efforts. Standards provide the baseline references that are necessary for learning. A standard operating procedure supplies a stable platform for collecting performance measurements. The standard and its profile of performance yields the information people need to uncover improvement opportunities, make and measure improvements, and extract learning.

Other posts from this standardized work series:

Thanks to A Lean Journey

I wanted to say thanks to Tim McMahon, who runs A Lean Journey blog.

Tim has been a great supporter of Beyond Lean over the last year and has helped to expose us to new and different groups of people.  Yesterday, Tim reviewed Beyond Lean  for the 2011 Curious Cat Annual Management Blog Carnival.

I encourage you to take a look at Tim’s blog.  He is reviewing other great blog sites over the next few days.

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