Leader Standard Work
Author: Russ Aikman
Posted: February 2018
A common challenge faced by all Lean Six Sigma practitioners is sustainability. That is, how to sustain a solution once it has been implemented. Some LSS practitioners are taking a new approach: Leader Standard Work. Before discussing LSW it is important to review the idea of standard work for front-line staff.
One definition of standard work (some writers prefer ‘standardized work’) is ‘the best way of doing something.’
Standard work addresses:
a. Takt – the pace at which activities are to be performed
b. Sequence – the order of those activities, and any dependencies which exist
c. Inventory – the number and type of items (or information) needed for the activities
In essence standard work answers the most critical questions about each step in a process: Who, What, When, Where, How, and – perhaps most important – Why.
Standard Work is considered a key deliverable of the Control Phase. It serves as a resource for both front-line staff and their supervisors. And it is extremely important to remember that standard work is meant to be updated over time whether through quick wins, kaizen events, or full DMAIC projects.
Finally – always keep in mind that standard work is not the goal. The real goal is consistency of processes which results in consistency of outcomes: safety, quality, time, and productivity.
Now – back to Leader Standard Work. The goal is the same with LSW – consistency of outcomes. And the approach is also essentially the same – a process focus. However, the type of activities tend to be different. And the percent of time LSW takes up varies from only 5-10% for senior executives to 50-60% for supervisors of front-line staff. By comparison, standard work for front-line staff can take close to 100%.
LSW must be developed by each person in a leadership role. It should incorporate (a) activities to be performed, (b) cadence (daily/weekly/monthly…), (c) who / what / when / … LSW activities include:
a. Develop Process Standards
b. Observe the Process (Gemba Walks)
c. Ask Process Questions: What / How / When / Why
d. Identify Gaps between Standard & Actual Work
e. Enable Process Improvement
f. Mentor & Develop Staff
g. Periodic Team Reflection: What went well? What did not? Why?
h. Accountability of Direct Reports
i. Strategy Deployment
For items a to e above LSW can be simplified into the following questions which a leader can ask of their staff:
1. What is the process?
2. How do you know if it is working?
3. What are you doing to improve it?
Back to DMAIC: The question for LSS Practitioners is how to incorporate LSW into their project. The most important thing is to engage the Project Sponsor in the implementation of the improved process. And to emphasize the key role the Sponsor will play in sustaining the solution. Then to work closely with the Sponsor in creating LSW.
Finally: Leader Standard Work is just one part of a Lean Management System. Based on the writings of David Mann in his book “Creating a Lean Culture,” the LMS has four elements:
I. Leader Standard Work – The Engine that powers the system
II. Visual Control Boards – The Transmission for the system
III. Daily Accountability Process – Steering Wheel for the system
IV. Discipline – Fuel for the system
More about Russ Aikman:
Russ is the LSS Program Manager at TMAC, and started the program in 2003. He is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 30 years of experience working in a wide variety of industries, and with small firms up to Fortune 500 companies. He has taught dozens of LSS classes from Yellow Belt up to Master Black Belt. He has also coached hundreds of LSS practitioners on their projects and advised managers on their LSS program. Before joining TMAC he worked at George Group, the first firm to integrate Lean and Six Sigma.