The 3 Elements of Creating Standard Work

Article by Anthony Clyne – Consulting Director

Today’s companies often don’t remember the three fundamental steps of Creating Standard Work. Creating Standards, Standardizing the Method and Standardization. These three steps are used to create robust, simple and efficient processes anyone in your business can use.

Kamishibai Racks or Green & Red Task Boards are an efficient way to display and track standard tasks.

1. Create Standards

The best way to agree on how to do the work is to first agree on what needs to be done. Often, we find ourselves discussing the best method and then find out that there are different or inconsistent understandings of what exactly is required.

This sounds very basic, but it is fundamental for all involved to have a fast & efficient way of defining standard work. In a production environment this can be extremely technical around product specifications and manufacturing methods. In a service environment this requires traditional experts to all agree on exactly what the process should deliver.

Every process has a customer who requires the work to be clearly defined. This adds a dimension of internal customer service where the next person in the process is the ‘internal’ customer/employee working on this process. This is why you should consider involving all stakeholders for defining standard work.

2. Standardize the Method

In their famous article, Spear and Bowen state that one of the key elements of the DNA of the Toyota Production System is that all work is highly standardized in terms of method, timing, and sequence. Tasks into small steps to define method timing and sequence and create standard work.

Getting a group of people with different experience levels to each list their sequence of tasks is a suitable starting point. Then get at least two of the people to each analyze the steps and agree what the steps are. Safety is a key factor in this step and often a risk assessment can reduce ergonomic strain and define the best sequence of motions.

Once this is done the group get together and each practice the sequence until they can do the work from memory, without hesitation. For a short cycle time of less than a minute this can be about 30 times. For longer cycle times you might only ever do the task once and the estimator needs to be the standard work coach. The best method is the sum of the shortest time for each step.

3. Standardization to Challenge and Improve the Method

The third step is to ensure people can confidently do the task. Achieving the required outcome in the required time following the safe working method.

There are different ways of identifying improvements: 

As new people learn the task, they will challenge the method and often come up with a better way. Culturally this adds an expectation to challenge process and change the method in a controlled fashion from the very first process they learn.

Set an expectation for people to self-challenge the way they work and identify improvements. This could be through knowledge and discussion about waste types.  Ge t your teams to talk about  local examples of the eight wastes of transport, inventory, motion, over-processing, over-production, defects, and under utilized human potential in their process. This can help generate ideas, bring awareness and prompt improvements.

Lastly, to encourage other people in the business to spot hesitation moments. These are moments in the process where team members hesitate while they do the work. Leaders need to use their peripheral vision to see hesitation moments. Team leaders & co-workers can often point out hesitations and discuss why this happened with the person who experienced the hesitation.

Standardizing your processes will create a step change in efficiency for your whole business. Considering all of your stakeholders, both internal and external will give you a better understanding of where you need to focus your resources and time.

Timothy McLean

Author: Timothy McLean

Timothy McLean is the Managing Director of TXM Lean Solutions and is an author of Lean books.