Learn from the experts! Don’t miss this classic but still up-to-date article on standardized work by John Shook:
The common misconceptions about standardized work are incredible well summarized as follows:
- Don’t confuse standardization with commonization.
- Don’t try to impose standardized work without also providing a structured improvement process, a clearly defined, unambiguous means of making improvements (kaizen).
- Practice, practice, practice…
- Don’t forget the critical role of the leader/manager.
The basic tools for getting things done are summarized here:
For more details, please read the article, it’s worth your time!
Daily meetings are basic for Lean Management. Are they simple? Oh, yes! And this is probably why they are so powerful and so easy to misuse. These are some questions and answers about how to run daily meetings:
- What can you use daily meetings for? Daily meetings may have many functions, but are typically used to review actions, projects and key performance metrics. This review is a means for a higher purpose: align your people, help your people understand your business, help your people improve the processes they work in, grow your people developing them as great problem solvers.
- How do you review projects? There are many ways. A good starting point is to check project milestones (using a Green – Yellow – Red status panel) with the project team. Whenever the team finds a problem, understand the nature of the issue and agree an action to solve it (using an Actions Panel).
- How do you review metrics? Find out your main KPIs (Key Process Indicators) and look for trends. Again, a status panel will work great (Green = trending in the right direction, Red = trending in the wrong direction, Yellow = no changes) and your main goal is still to understand problems and find solutions.
- Hmm, are you serious about “daily”? Yes!
- Really? Absolutely! Checking actions or metrics too late makes it almost impossible to understand the root cause of the problem. Therefore nobody can put a meaningful action in place.
Check out this video by The Gemba Academy for more details:
- How can you run a daily meeting? A typical agenda is: a) review metrics; b) review actions/projects; c) everybody shares: “what I did yesterday”, “what I will do today”, “what’s in my way” (a.k.a. “what help I need to keep progressing)
- Anything else to keep in mind? It is a good idea to standardize the way you use your boards. Keep the agenda and the meeting rules visible and make sure everybody understands and follows them. This will avoid many problems and it makes possible to have a different leader everyday, which is also a good thing to consider.
More information in this video by Rocket Matter:
- Any advice on the rules to follow? Of course, these are generally good ideas:
- Daily meetings are standing meetings: They will go faster and more to the point.
- Have a clear agenda agreed with the team members.
- Everybody is invited to talk.
- Keep an appropriate level of detail.
- Avoid side conversations. Avoid mobiles and computers.
- Start on time, finish on time.
- Be visual (panels, sticky notes and magnets are better than computers)
- Keep it short (15 minutes should be ok)
More information in this video by Agile Videos:
Standards are one of those simple things that, for some reason, are easily misused. Maybe because they are simple, some don’t take them seriously. However they are serious stuff and definitely one of the building blocks of improvement. It is common to hear some concerns about standards, these are some of the most popular:
- Standards kill creativity: The enemy of creativity is not standardization. Standards make clear how to do a task in the best way (safe, with quality, quickly, cost-effective). All the information is available for you at one single point, to use it and to challenge it. You don’t have to waste your time and mental energy remembering how and why things are done this way, you can focus in understanding and creating. The enemy of creativity is not standardization, it is fear (https://twitter.com/DanielJonesLean/status/565844039376060417)
- Standards kill flexibility: Standards put together all the available knowledge today to do a task right. Whenever an urgency comes, you don’t need to recall how to do things, everything is at your fingertips easily. You will react quicker and your chances of success are higher. Is “safe, fast and with quality” a good definition of “flexible” for you?
- Standards kill improvement: Standards define how things must be done and create controlled conditions for improvement (see Lean DNA). Standards are probably the only way to consolidate best practices and to enable robust PDCA learning cycles. Without standards, it is almost impossible to define experiments to improve the work.
- Standards don’t make sense in my department/ my company: Yes, we all feel unique but, if you really try, you will find out that the amount of processes that won’t benefit from standardization (due to extreme unpredictability, incredible complexity) is lower than you think. Even in those cases, some portions of the process could be standardized and will help stabilize the rest of the process.
- Standards don’t add value: Please read the previous bullets again… 🙂
Standards are great, but don’t forget that over-standardization is as bad as under-standardization.
Picture from: http://harmful.cat-v.org/standards/
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:
- What things you need and what are the necessary steps to start the process (aka “shopping cart”)
- What things you need and what are the necessary steps to do the process (aka “standard worksheet”)
- 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.
Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Standards are just like plans, their power is not in their existence (they are, of course, fundamental to reduce variability and great tools for training, but this is another story). A standard work sheet by itself means nothing. It will not improve anything. However, standardizing is critical because it forces you to think what is the best way of doing the work. Then it helps identify when something in the process is not working as it should; they set a baseline to make problems visible. A process without a standard is very difficult (impossible?) to improve. If anything is valid, how will you know if things are going wrong? Standards are the keystone for continuous improvement.
Standards are nothing, standardizing is everything.
P.D. If after reading this post you still agree with the message on the mug , you can buy it here: