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the road to business success is tough
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March 30, 2021
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Standard Work – Create Stability and Focus your Improvement

warehouse showing quote from Taiichi Ohno

For any operation, the implementation of Standard Work will greatly reduce variability and bring stability to an operation. This improves the quality of the product or service to the customer, improves the throughput of the assets or the process and improves every other operational KPI you can think of: safety, delivery, environmental, profitability.

Standard Work also lays the foundation from where step-change improvement can start. “Without standards, there can be no improvement” Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System once said. Focused improvement activity will turn a business into an industry leader.

Aside from the foundation for continuous Improvement, the predictable performance of Standardised Work in itself will reduce waste and rework, which saves both time and money.

So, introducing Standard Work sounds as a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, many organisations we work with encounter resistance when introducing Standard Work. However, these same people would be horrified if they were in a plane where a pilot would ignore the pre-flight safety checks, or their anesthetist would skip a few steps.

So why this resistance?

In my opinion there are two main barriers to the introduction of Standard Work. The first one has to do with the humble kiwi attitude. “I am just doing my work here and there is not much to it”. These people have probably done their job for years and have long forgotten how tricky it can be when you are new on the job: How to produce a clean and straight weld and be able to judge that it is correct.  Or they don’t realise that they subconsciously listen to their machinery and immediately “know” it when something needs attention as a result of their tacit knowledge. Creating a checklist for these tasks can be seen as over the top bureaucracy which just adds to their workload.

The second line of resistance comes follows a distrust of the leadership culture. Checklist are seen as way to for management to scrutinise their work, rather than as a tool for themselves to execute their task in the best possible way. Or worse still, once they “give up” their tacit knowledge, they are at risk of being redundant.

The secret to overcoming these two stumbling blocks and successfully implement Standard Work lies with the leadership team. Everyone in your organisation needs to feel respected for the value they add to the production process. Here are three tips to introduce Standard Work:

  1. Ensure you “lead-in” the introduction of Standard Work by addressing these fears and concerns.
  2. Let the team develop your business Standard Work.
  3. And lead by example how Standard Work for leaders makes you a role-model or organisation, stability, and discipline.

About the author: Dr. Liddy Bakker is the Director for Knowledge Management and Founder of Productivity People.