I am a big advocate of standard work, though I might have a different take on it which you can view in this post, Holacracy, Zappos and Standard Work. I always like to get other viewpoint on the subject and in a past podcast with one of my favorite Lean people, Drew Locher, I had one of those conversations. An excerpt from the podcast is below. Drew is currently Managing Director for Change Management Associates.
Joe: We talked before the podcast about people adapting to Lean because they think that their getting into this real structured situation. Everybody’s got to do this standard work. Everybody’s got to do this regimented process to make it all work and what’s… Is that what Lean is?
Drew: Well, standard work is a foundation concept of Lean. The quality management folks can appreciate what we are trying to accomplish there. We are trying to reduce variability in the process and then in the result of the process. So that is the foundation concept. That doesn’t mean we make everyone robots. We can allow some flexibility. We distinguish kind of what’s important versus not so important by what we call the key points which are a part of standard work. The key points are nonnegotiable. They’re quality, efficiency and in some cases safety. You’ve got to do them in these ways because we proved they’re the most efficient way. We proved that it is the safest way. We proved that they provide the quality result we’re looking for.
There are a lot of non?key point activities or steps that we can allow some flexibility on. Style, we can allow people to have a different style. We’re not going to make them all robots. They’re not all going to speak the same way and behave the same way. That would be boring in any environment, work or otherwise.
People have to realize that’s not what we’re trying to do. I’ve heard that for 25 years, all the way back to manufacturing days. You’re going to make us all robots. No, that’s really not what we want. People have that misconception. We have to get over that.
They also have to understand the other big purpose of standard work which is to identify nonstandard conditions. How can we identify nonstandard conditions if we don’t have standard conditions to begin with? We’ll forever not know. We’ll be confused. We’ll be for forever not knowing what we need to act on and what we don’t need to act on.
Joe: I think that’s very true. How do you know where to go if you don’t know where you are? The question that I have in the Lean process, Lean Office and Processes, do we always create standard work. Basically our current state situation and map a future value stream? Is that a common process you take someone through?
Drew: In general, we start off with value stream mapping. That is our assessment and planning tool. We allow that to tell us where the lack of standard work and what areas we need to kind of focus our efforts on, because there may be constraints or bottlenecks as we discussed earlier. In general we’ll always start with value stream mapping just to assess to make sure we don’t overlook anything. That includes the current state and the future state. Do you always have to do that? No, if you really have a good strong sense that hey, here’s our problem area. Let’s start there.
You can do that, but I always tell companies we would be remiss if we really didn’t assess the overall value stream, the overall system. We may overlook something. So we do encourage that. Sometimes that’s a little strong medicine, stronger than people are willing to accept, in particular when we get into the product development or just development in general processes and systems.
People resist value stream mapping. So I’ve been more recently taking different approaches there that are more of a tools approach rather than a system approach which value stream mapping encourages. Just to open the door, open the mind a little bit that there’s opportunity there. But generally speaking we would encourage people to start with mapping.
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