Toys and the 3 secret steps to standardization


I remember a conversation with a person who worked in a kindergarten. I saw her taking care of over 20 children at the same time, keeping a more-than-acceptable atmosphere of control. I asked her about her secret and she told me: “you just have to make them finish what they are doing before they start doing something else”. And she was right. For example, if children were playing, they were told to put their toys back in their place before they would go to the playground. It did not work all the times, of course, but the idea was there.

With process standards you have pretty much the same. It’s important to consider 3 different phases:

  1. What things you need and what are the necessary steps to start the process (aka “shopping cart”)
  2. What things you need and what are the necessary steps to do the process (aka “standard worksheet”)
  3. What things you need and what are the necessary steps to finish the process (aka “quality check-sheet”)

Nobody ever forgets phase 2 when standardizing a process. However phases 1 and 3 can not always be found in work standards, although they are equally important to get the benefits of standardization. Making sure that everything is ready to use (phase 1) and providing instructions on how to check that the work has been performed correctly (step 3) are as important as describing how to do the work (phase 2). The combination of all 3 phases creates robust work standards that improve work flow (preventing people from starting new things before they have finished their previous work), reduce defects (helping people now if all critical quality attributes are present), and are also great training documents.

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