Standardized Work Lessons Learned
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.
I’m not going to lie. Writing about Standardized Work makes me a little anxious. For me, there is a huge gap in what I internally understand about Standardized Work and what I can articulate or explain. So with that as my background, here’s a list of my lessons learned about Standardized Work.
- Standardized Work is not job instruction or a substitute for training – This is kind of a slippery slope for a lot of people. I think there is something comforting about codifying the steps of a job at the level of Standardized Work that tends to make people think that we can pick up any new hire, hand them the document and they’ll be off and running. Can it be an aid? Absolutely. But it shouldn’t be meant as a standalone substitute for skill development and teaching.
- Standardized Work is a tool for Visual Management – Much like 5-S, the tools have value by themselves, but are much more valuable as pieces of a visual management culture. The team members following the Standardized Work should be able to execute the job without referring to the document every cycle. With that as the framework, the document helps observers to identify when issues exist that are keeping the work from being performed according to the standards.
- Standard Work in Process Inventory (SWIP) is part of the tool – This was an interesting lesson for me on two fronts. The first time I worked on rolling out SW documents, I didn’t include it. Mostly that was a result of trying to satisfy folks who thought the document could be used in place of a trainer. The second front that made it difficult is that it can be difficult to quantify what exactly the SWIP should be. In an environment where you are transitioning from not at all Lean to kind of Lean, there may be process disconnects that mean different size batches in and out. Or, put another way, there is no normal to become the standard.
- There is no simple way to explain the concept of Standards that are constantly under review for improvement – I have found this to be one of the most difficult Lean aspects to teach. The discussion seems to end up in circular questions about “how can something be standard if we want to change it” and “if we are going to continuously improve the processes why document all of the changes.” It seems to be one of those concepts that you can only learn by seeing or experiencing.
That was my top lessons learned about Standardized Work. Nothing really earth shattering, just some thoughts on things I wish I had known at the beginning that would have helped me out. Maybe one of these click for you or you have a lesson learned that you would like to share. If so, please add a comment below and we’ll add it to the list.
Other posts from this standardized work series:
- Standardized Work is the Foundation of Continuous Improvement by Matt Wrye
- Standardized Work And Your Packaging Line by Christian Paulsen
- What Standard Work Is by Tim McMahon