LSW Train

I find one of the problems that exist in Leader Standard Work practices is not at the Team Leader Level nor even the Supervisor Level but many times right at the top. In David Mann’s book Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions, Second Edition (which I consider the bible for Leader Standard Work), states that Leader Standard Work should break down in this percentage for standard work:

  • Operator – 95% their time might be devoted to completing leader standard work
  • Team Leaders – 80%
  • Department Supervisors – 50%
  • Value Stream Managers – 25%
  • Executives – 10%

These numbers will differ according to the environment and whether it is production, office or development work but Leader Standard Work should be consciously designed to be layered from bottom up. The act is what produces results, not the thinking. There should even be a degree of redundancy between the layers to ensure accountability. This is where I believe that the problem starts developing.

Tracey Richardson wrote a blog post, You want a tangible action for your leaders trying to do Lean? Try this! GTS “squared” where she states that one of the fallacies of problem solving is the inability of Leaders to “Go See”. I find that true outside of the factory as well. Leaders seldom do the 10% or 25% of Standard Work required. They even will sit down in a meeting and go over the subordinate’s standard work and instruct him on how to improve without ever observing the process. Even more importantly that shared accountability through redundancy is seldom instituted.

In Knowledge Work, Services and Lean Sales and Marketing, Standard Work will have a difficult time achieving 95%. In fact, most “front-line” knowledge workers will have responsibilities that clearly cannot be defined as Standard Work. Leader Standard Work may often only border around 50 to 80% or lower. I think immediately of the conversation I had with Joseph Michelli on Zappos company culture. Joseph’s latest book, The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and WOW discusses the relationship of employee and customer experience as demonstrated in my blog post, Is Zappos the Next Toyota?.

As we progress up through leaders, supervisors, etc., the percentage of Leader Standard Work should not drastically be reduced as it does in a manufacturing environment. It is the Servant Leadership role that must surface. Empowering the front line staff with the necessary resources to enable their actions to deliver an outstanding customer experience becomes Leadership’s primary function. The Leader Standard Work may actually become more standard as we move away from the main influencer and/or disruptor – the Customer.

The key issue for most organizations are increasing revenue or decreasing cost. At the present time, most companies are in the decreasing cost mode. Training events are getting canceled or postponed in the effort to decrease cost. Training budgets are often the first to get cut when business takes a downturn. Time is also scarce. With cutbacks in practically all departments there is little time to participate in training events.

So, how do we correct this and train our workforce. Maybe, we have been going about most of our training wrong. Michael Balle, author of the Lean Manager and The Goldmine brought up how Toyota creates training opportunity. He said; “Now, let me take an example, for instance, an andon system, what an andon system is when operators have a problem, they pull a rope, have lights, lights with a station and their team leader has about a minute to two to react and if not the line stops. What happens is that every time an operator has a doubt, they pull the cord, the team leader comes and what the team leader does is to check whether there’s a problem or not.

I’m wandering around looking at pictures of guys and going, “mm, very good for management reactivity, yes?” I said. The Toyota representative says, “no, operator training,” so of course I went back to him, “you mean management reactivity?” I said, “no, it has nothing to do with management reactivity, it’s operator training,” so we’re having this back and forth and he says, “OK, what do you mean by operator training?” So, he says “this is an opportunity to have a conversation about work centers and about standardized work with operators, conjointly. Now when the line actually stops, then yes, it becomes a management reactivity issue, but we don’t want to stop the line.”

Viewing training from this perspective results in a new context for organizations. They will be working more closely, more hands on with the individuals actually doing the work. It will also identify more opportunities for improvement. It may identify skills that are lacking and prioritize the actual improvements for them, but don’t call it training.

Focusing on improvement, and not training, requires a totally different thought process. This is a great STEP IN STARTING A LEAN CULTURE?

View this presentation of Leader Standard Work from the Lean Service Design trilogy Program

Leader Standard Work

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