At the core of any Lean philosophy is the pursuit and sustainment of continual improvement. However, this continues to be a struggle for many Lean transformations as they attempt to implement these processes into their culture. Part of the problem, lies in the hands of the leaders that attempt to push new agendas into their organization. Leaders can make or break a Lean culture. With the help of Leader Standard Work (LSW) the make, is far more a reality than the break.
Leader Standard Work requires a whole new mindset in your leader’s routines. It takes the leader from the boss’s chair to the coaches corner, promoting a show, not tell type of attitude. When leaders mimic the behavior they wish to see, it gives everyone else an example that they can use to establish their own actions for best practices.
The beauty of LSW is that it fits perfectly into Lean and especially Kaizen concepts, instilling a sense of ownership, accountability, empowerment and responsibility throughout the entire organization. This mentality is the glue in many organizations that holds the culture together and promotes an attitude that believes continuous improvement is possible at all times.
To standardize work methods is the the sum of all the good ways we have discovered up to present. It therefore becomes the standard. Today’s standardization is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvement will be based. If you think of standards as confining, then progress stops.
Leader Standard Work
Leader Standard Work is the repetitive pattern of activities that represent the current least wasteful method of planning and controlling normal business processes. In simplest terms, LSW is a check-list of leadership activities that are performed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Once something becomes repetitive it can become standardized and taught to anyone. A lot of a leader’s standard work will focus on specific activities where the work is being done (Gemba), but it is also important to set aside time in your routine for continual improvement as well.
The key is the repetition. Doing this daily will not only confirm that work is being done correctly, but also ensure that everyone is being held accountable for working up to standard, including leaders. The idea sounds simple enough, but it can be quite the task to implement.
Components of LSW
- Your front line is the start of your standard work tasks. The supervisor starts a LSW cycle by verifying direct reports from the front line.
- Supervisors then can report to their superior or director. The director’s standard work entails the verification of work tasks completed by the supervisor. From there, the director is able to report back to their superior or administrator.
- The administrator reports to their superior and so on.
- This creates an interlocking layer of accountability, laying a foundation for sustainability.
- Define outcome metrics that indicate the department is achieving success.
- Assign the characteristics and attributes to a process that help achieve the desired outcomes for success.
- Define the behaviors that help achieve those outcomes.
- Have controls in place to ensure the desired behaviors are present every day, in every situation.
- Determine how you as a leader will verify these expectations are being met.
Three categories of leadership tasks include:
- Scheduled tasks- puts the appropriate audits in place to verify disciplined adherence to the process
- Unscheduled but predictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets
- Unscheduled and unpredictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets and does not interrupt already scheduled tasks.
Implementing Leader Standard Work requires a culture change within the culture. It truly takes dedication and true leadership skills to be successful at it. However, the end result is in many cases is the key to sustaining other Lean methods that lack the checks and balances that LSW provides.
Once you have laid groundwork and developed the right mindset, the rest will fall into place. Established standardized routines keep goals in focus and more obtainable than before, especially with the use of visual tools to remind you. The use of visual tools to highlight the required minimum standard of work will enhance motivation. When everyone is able to see the standardized tasks, accountability becomes that much more important.
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