Standardized Work

When looking through all the lean concepts and strategies out there it is clear that standardized work is the one which typically has the least amount of time spent on it. There is relatively little training material or studies done on this particular area.

This is unfortunate because when looking at most offices and manufacturing facilities this is one area which needs a lot of work. When a particular task is analyzed either within a company or by a third party it is almost always done differently by different people who perform it. To make it worse, when one person performs the same task multiple times they often do it differently each time.

Standardized work helps eliminate wasted time and waste related to mistakes. In many ways standardization can have the most dramatic effects on an individual task, when compared with other lean concepts. This is why it is so critical for companies and individuals to start taking the task of standardizing work seriously.

Identifying the Ideal Method

When working to standardize any particular piece of work it is important to attempt to figure out what the ideal way of doing it is. In most cases there will be several options and many opinions as to which one should be chosen.

When possible the decision as to how things are done should be data driven rather than debated or handed down from management. If there is not sufficient data to identify the ideal way at the time than the leadership team can simply choose one as a starting point.

It is important to stress the fact that standardizing work does not mean that one person was doing it wrong and another was doing it right. The simple fact is even if a less efficient process was implemented it would still result in reduced waste the majority of the time due to the simple fact that everyone is doing it the same way.

This can dramatically cut down on the number of errors or defects which occur.  It is also essential to stress that the process which is chosen now is not set in stone and there will be improvements made in the future.

Standardize Then Improve

Some people make the mistake of thinking that standardizing a process means they need to do everything the same and never change or innovate. This is far from the truth since true innovation is actually easier when working from a standardized process.

It is important, however, to make sure everyone who is performing a standardized process knows how it is to be performed each time. If they have a suggestion for improvement it should be encouraged, but always through the right channels.

Part of standardization can and should be setting up a process for implementing changes and improvements. When someone comes up with a way to improve the process they can work with the improvement team to test it and if it is indeed found to be an improvement, they can work to implement it across the board.

This is a great way to allow everyone to contribute to a culture of continuous improvement without sacrificing the benefits of standardized work.

Additional Resources