Issue 19 – July 2014


Issue 19 • July 2014

Standard Work For Lean Experts

Hypocrites?  I can't think of a better word.  Let me explain.  Many organizations are not getting everything out of their improvement efforts.  So using lean thinking, we have to diagnose the root cause of the lack of results.

The common culprits;  lack of leadership, no real-time problem solving, and no visual management to discern normal from abnormal are not going to be discussed.  For this article, I want to discuss lack of standard work.

We should know by now that standard work is the underpinning of lean success and improved performance. Lean tools exist to help to make waste visible and then eliminate those wastes.  The concepts of continuous flow, pull, and zero defects have been well documented and eliminate many of the seven forms of operational waste.   But the waste will return if the remaining work is not standardized.

Standard work represents the safest, easiest, best known way to do something.  It is the recipe that when followed leads to the highest quality, shortest lead-time, and lowest cost way to complete a process.  It brings life to flow, and pull, and defect free. Any credible lean expert will be competent with standard work, and can teach the concepts, document the process and teach team members how to train and certify team members in standard work.

So here is my question, when it comes to managing an improvement cycle using the scientific method, where is your standard work? To get the most out of your improvement process, four things need to be considered.
1. Standard work should exist and be utilized when preparing for improvement.
2. Standard work should exist and be used when running an improvement.
3. Standard work should exist and be used when sustaining improvement.
4. Standard work should be followed.

Do you have written standard work?  Do you follow it?  If are a hypocrite. And it might be costing you some improved performance.  Poor preparation, poor event execution, and poor sustainability all lead to sub optimal results. So if you have a standard work gap, you can now take a countermeasure.

Thoughts on Transformational Leadership

We have already tried that and it didn’t work”, “This is the way we’ve always done it”, “You will never get people to do it that way”, “Lets meet about that in a couple weeks to figure it out”… We have all heard the excuses when people are approached with change. Leaders of organizations are faced with finding the balance between listening to staff complain about how dreadful things are and listening to the same people complain about making the changes necessary to fix the problem they are facing. This brings me to the important topic of why the ability to take calculated risks as a leader can turn into one of the most powerful tools in making a successful change; challenging the status quo.

The status quo for an organization develops naturally over time. Most leaders have so much on their plates that they must prioritize what they will be working on next. Many times their prioritization is not done against the corporate strategic measures which can leave very important, but not necessarily urgent work left undone or not looked at for long periods of time. In the face of all sorts of pressure, constraints and bureaucracy, many organizations are forced to improve their safety, quality, cost and delivery in order to keep up with their competition. This will require a significant shift in thinking, behaviors, and beliefs.

How we change to do things differently from how we do them today requires innovation, creativity and the ability to drive and measure the change we are trying to accomplish. True transformational leadership requires many characteristics where sometimes we must allow our leaders to fail in order for them to realize the true benefit of creating a culture of improvement. Creating a culture of improvement will require challenging the status quo. Challenging respectfully and being a team player are two of the keys to successfully leading a team through change. Lead others to make brilliant ideas theirs.

Also know that organizations around the world have top performers who are driven away by feeling the need to do more, do better, but have not been given the opportunity. These people typically are always thinking through better ways of doing things. In order to keep these high performers from leaving the organization as a result of frustration, leaders need to make them feel empowered and safe by giving them the confidence and skills to drive change within their organization. Remember: some of your best employees are driven by the need to do something great. Allow people to share and spread the passion they feel because that’s what’s important to them.

How to Develop Respect and Humility: The Missing Piece?

Our first reaction when hearing a problem or walking into an area is on process and all the lean concepts and tools that will help.  Yet, when looking at improvement models, such as the Shingo Model, we see Cultural Enablers/Human Development, from now on referred to as just Cultural Enablers (CE) as the foundation.  I nod my head in agreement as I read this portion of the model, but my eyes quickly go to the continuous improvement section where I feel the "meat" is.

I think it's important that we better understand the CE piece of the puzzle.  The Continuous Improvement section of models offers a wealth of material that provides content, structure, concept, tools and process.  Material on CE's is much less, yet the models tell us that the CE principles of Respect for every individual and leading with humility are foundational for the organization.

Training a person on the lean tools and concepts and letting people apply them to their work area is showing them respect by training them and reflecting humility as we realize the people in the process are far better than we to improve it, but instilling the principles of CE into the organization involves much more. One doesn’t have to look far to find an organization implementing lean and having good results with process changes yet the principles of respect and humility are rarely addressed.  In fact, almost arrogance and often disrespect, albeit in often subtle ways, is the norm.  Yet there are no Kaizen out briefs or action plans that discuss how to improve this.  It's not even on the radar.

"The Shingo Model" offers a process for how leaders can learn the CE principles.  It suggests you:   Step 1: Begin this journey by being curious enough to want to experiment with the principles. Step 2: Experiment with a selected principle; we'll assume here the person picks one of the CE principles.  Step 3: Analyze the cause-and-effect relationship between the principles and results. Huh? Step 4: Start to shift beliefs. Step 5: Gain new insight.  Step 6: Have someone else take this journey, too.  And, I'd assume a person would go through the journey on each principle.  On one hand, it seems very unlikely that a leader will actually do this, but I do see the benefit of the process.

The Shingo Model guide goes a step further, though, and lists behaviors for leaders, managers and team members.  Leader's CE behavior:  "Leaders continuously seek the input of others, listen to their input and adapt their actions based on what they learn."  In Gemba walks, leaders are taught to listen, observe, respect the worker and ask questions.   Managers CE behavior:  "All managers are visible in the work space and demonstrate an openness to listen and learn from others."  Managers are taught to be in the workplace and often are guided by leader standard work that incorporates this principle.  Team Member (staff) CE behavior: All associates, every day, demonstrate a commitment to the policies, principles and standards developed for the areas in which they work."  Training in events and in the classroom help bring this out along with developing standard work and visual controls.

Should there be more emphasis on developing humility and respect in an organization in order to achieve excellence?  I think so.  Even if organizations have success with their continuous improvement systems, it feels shallow and unstable without the foundation of the principles of Lead with Humility and Respect all Individuals.  I like that the principles are woven into our lean approaches, but still believe the drive to develop these principles, for leaders and managers especially, should be planned and executed.  In the end, I believe we have a lot of learning and work to do to drive principles into an organization, especially the principles of Cultural Enablers.

The Shingo Model guide is available at:

Training toward Lean Certification - sign up coming shortly

For those of you wishing to pursue lean certification, Breakthrough Horizons is pleased to offer another workshop in support of Lean Bronze Certification.

The four largest and most recognized lean and quality improvement organizations standardize their curriculum and certification standards to create a universal standard for Lean Excellence.

These organizations include The Shingo Prize, the Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME), the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), and the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Each of these organizations offer conferences and workshops on a wide variety of quality improvement topics and are worthy of attendance.

There are three levels of certification; Bronze, Silver and Gold. The Bronze is the initial certification and most pursued. Certification requires passing an exam, 80 hours of application and training, and the submission of a portfolio demonstrating mastery of the concepts. It is the premium certification because it requires application and demonstrated proficiency.

Attending a class and passing a test, or sitting through computer based training does not make you an expert. Expertise is earned through repeated application of the Scientific Method.

The Breakthrough Horizons public workshop is a 3-day facilitated training session that goes over all of the lean concepts needed to become bronze certified. The workshop uses a combination of didactic and praxis approaches to hardwire the concepts into the students thinking allowing for real-time application later.

Official release and sign up for the workshop will be announced by the end of the month. The workshop will be delivered in the Toronto, Ontario area in the fall ( November) of 2014.

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