Categories : Lean Manufacturing Principles


A leader must become an example of the standard, not an exception to it!
The subject of leader standard work has been raising its head recently in many of the lean websites. It is often a subject of intense debate when I mention it to clients during the general discussion and planning phase of a lean implementation. Management teams are usually stunned when I tell them there are specific requirements they must fulfill at regular intervals to ensure the is meeting expected results.

I usually hear comments like, “I thought standard work was only for the shop floor people?” This is the biggest myth in the world of . Management teams often believe that the art of becoming a Lean Enterprise is delegating the responsibilities of the implementation down to the lower levels of the organization. Some even think this is the meaning of employee empowerment, which is another myth!
Empowering employees is giving them the ability to improve their work area based on defined expectations. Executive management has three key obligations to its employees:

  1. Develop goals and communicate clear expectations.
  2. Make available the tools and techniques required to do the work, e.g. training, time, resources, etc.
  3. Remove any barriers that are impeding the implementation process.

Items #1 and #2 must occur before the start of any implementation. Item #3 must occur at every available opportunity, i.e. pre, during, and post implementation.  These three key actions are the start of the development of a Lean governance process, which will help identify the needs of the initial implementation and beyond it.  One of the main reasons that most companies fail to successfully become a Lean Enterprise is because they never develop a lean governance procedure. The purpose of this system is to define the 5W1H (Who, Where, What Why, When and How) of the Lean implementation process. Included in a governance procedure should be the requirements for members of the management team to perform specific tasks called “Leader Standard Work (LSW).”

An example of LSW is asking a line manager or supervisor to do a 5S walk on a daily basis, to document their findings and to give feedback to the shop floor employees. Another example is presenting the lean improvements results to the executive management team on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. So, as you can see from my examples, standard work is not just for the shop floor employees, it is for everyone in the organization.

There is no accepted standard for defining what percentage of an individual’s working day should be allocated towards standard work. I developed my own rule of thumb that I call “the 100-50-25 rule” and I use it as a guide to help companies determine what amount of their daily activities should be allocated towards standard work for all levels of their organization.  The shop floor employees should have 100% of their production activities defined in standardized work documents. Line managers should have 50% of their production related activities defined in standardized work documents.  Executive management should have 25% of their activities defined in standardized work documents.

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