Standard work is the documented current best way to accomplish a task, procedure, or process. If there are no standards, everyone who executes an activity will have their own way of working.
This causes variation and there is no guarantee that the work will be executed correctly or in an optimal way. Lack of standards also makes it difficult for someone to audit the process to
see if the work is being correctly performed. Hence, standards are important to ensure the work is being performed optimally.
In most organizations, the leaders such as supervisors, managers, and directors only have a rough job description to guide their activities. Hence, the execution of these activities is left
to the discretion and capability of the leaders. As a result, some of the important activities may fall through the cracks and not be performed. Leader Standard Work uses the concepts of
Standard Work to the task of driving lean thinking and behaviour throughout the organization.
There can be a thought that the work of the leaders varies from day to day and standardizing their work is not possible. But when the leaders observe their work carefully, they will realize
that a large proportion of their work is repetitive, hence perfect for standardization. It is true that the complete range of tasks cannot be standardized and there will be a portion of work
that requires creativity, flexibility, and innovation.
Leader Standard Work is a set of actions, tools, and behaviours that can be incorporated into the daily activities of the leaders. Just like the Standard Work for any process, Leader
Standard Work also must be documented and practiced regularly. It is a critical step in developing Lean Culture in companies. Leader Standard Work provides a consistent, manageable,
and systematic method for leaders to focus on objectives and drive results. Leader Standard Work is designed to give focus and accountability to the important activities that are performed
If there is no Leader Standard work, then there will be variation in actual work done by the leaders across divisions according to the availability of time and commitment of the leader
and the results will vary. Therefore, it is necessary to document all the activities that leaders do on a regular basis, prioritize them, track execution of these activities, and ensure
compliance of leaders to the critical activities. This way the use of Leader Standard Work puts the highest level of focus on processes and brings results.
Benefits of Leaders Standard Work
Leaders get closer to the processes and people that they oversee.
Leaders can respond more rapidly to potential problems and track progress toward critical goals.
Employees know what to expect and see problem-solving as a collaborative endeavour.
Leader Standard Work provides visual management of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
Leader Standard Work ensures the highest productivity from the team using the least resources.
Leader Standard Work prioritizes time for routine must-do activities as well.
Leader Standard Work reinforces clear expectations and duplicable results.
Who should implement Leader Standard Work?
Senior Executives, Managers, and Team Leaders must use Leader Standard Work. In fact, all leaders have standard work, the part of work that must be standardized depends on the
roles and responsibilities. Depending on the level of leaders, the standard work content will be different. The work that the leaders perform can be broadly classified under
Routine tasks – for example monitoring the work done by subordinates to meet specific organizational objectives
Creative tasks – for example developing and deploying new strategies to make breakthrough improvements to business
The routine or standard activities are the ones more amenable to developing and deploying Leader Standard Work.
How to implement Leader Standard Work in an organization?
Here is one way of creating and deploying Leader Standard Work using the Sigma Magic software. Add the appropriate template to your Excel workbook by clicking on Lean and then
Leader Standard Work within the Sigma Magic software. A template such as the one shown below is added.
Determine those standard activities that need to be performed by the leaders on a regular basis. Breakdown these activities into these that need to be performed daily, weekly,
monthly, quarterly etc. Correctly list the frequency for each activity. Make sure you do not skip any important activity. Ensure that you benchmark other companies and/or
work areas to see the content of their leader standard work and replicate best practices as appropriate. It is recommended to have some duplication or overlap of activities
between different leaders within an organization so that you can get different perspectives on how the organizational work is being performed. If the leader performs the
activities each month the recommended number of times, then the activity is marked as green otherwise it is marked as red.
On the bottom portion of the worksheet, enter any specific action items that the leader has to follow-up on and execute. For example, let us say that the leader is participating
on a Gemba walk and based on their observations and interactions with the team they have an action item either for themselves or their team members. This action item can be
documented in this template and tracked to ensure closure.
As you design Leader Standard Work for your organization, consider the following aspects:
The content of work should be specified clearly.
The sequence of completion of work must be correct.
The frequency of work must be appropriate for the given activities.
The outcome of the work should be defined so that quality of work can be established.
If the task plan is very long, rethink the priorities.
Focus on one task at a time.
Schedule the times and place limits on allocated times.
Set aside time for Gemba walks.
Keep the format simple but ensure rigor in following up on the plan developed.
Reflect on lessons learned on a regular basis and deploy improvements.
The Lean deployment champion for an organization must review the Leader Standard Work of all their leaders on a regular basis to determine if the leader standard work is
being followed. If not, corrective actions may be required to ensure leaders are following the Standard Work. Remember, things may not go perfectly. It is okay if things
are not perfect. Do not let perfectionism get in the way of improvement. Lean is a constant never-ending process of improvement making an organization better each day.
Implementing leader standard work sounds easy, but, as you start to implement you realize there are challenges and pitfalls when implementing this type of change. Here
are some typical challenges you may encounter and how you can overcome them.
Challenge 1: Not working on change management first
It is important for leaders to understand the importance of leader standard work and that it ensures consistent results and forms a foundation on which improvements are
done. Without bringing the leaders on board, this effort of asking the leaders to follow Leader Standard Work is bound to fail. Ensure that you have adequate
communication with the leaders, understand their concerns and incorporate them in your plans as you deploy Leader Standard Work.
Challenge 2: Adding new tasks without completing existing work
The leaders are probably already overloaded with a lot of activities and responsibilities. With all their activities and responsibilities, they have little time to
complete newly assigned activities as part of Leader Standard Work. So, before building a Leader Standard Work program you need to identify the standard work for
all positions and eliminate non-value-added activities. You will need to make room in their existing workloads at first and only then you must bring Leader
Standard Work in practice.
Challenge 3: Implementing without Standard Work
Leader Standard Work is basically standard work that supports the work of others. It is important to distinguish between Leader Standard Work and Standard Work
while also realizing that you cannot have one without the other. Leader Standard Work without Standard Work is a waste of effort since it will be difficult for
the leader to observe and support the organization. Therefore, build Standard Work first and then add Leader Standard Work to support and reinforce it.
Challenge 4: No improvement process for Leader Standard Work
Sometimes it happens that there is too much focus on standards and not enough on continuous improvement. Having too many standards without a mechanism to improve
them will slow productivity and stagnate the company. Leaders will not be interested in pursuing activities that they don’t perceive to be value-added. Standards
are good as they allow you to stabilize; however, not allowing them to improve is a disaster. Ensure Standard Work is developed and followed until an improvement
process results in a new standard.
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