Issue 22 – Aug 2015


Issue 22 • Aug 2015

Standard Work

by Scott Brubaker

With numerous Organizational Lean start-ups behind me, one particular tool has proven to be the most important. That “tool” is Standard Work. First, let me pose a question: as you board your plane for a flight, you notice that the Pilot and Co-Pilot have not completed their written pre-flight safety check. No checking the flaps, kicking the tires and other procedures. Their answer is “I do this all the time; I don’t need to check…its okay, just trust me”.

Would you “trust” them? Probably not…. this is a safety compromise. And yet… in the workplace, we find this behavior all the time. There is no written Standard Work leading to poor quality, significant loss of productivity, long waits for products and services, and in some cases even loss of life or harm. If there is written Standard Work, frequently it isn’t followed. Let’s review some key points about Standard work.

1) Standard Work is a necessity, not a choice.
At Lean Event report outs that I have attended over the past decade, one common theme is prevalent; the absence of “proper” Standard Work. “We thought we had good Standard Work, but we did not”.

2) Standard Work must be written, trained, updated and enforced or it is not Standard Work.
Let me share the criteria for Standard Work that has proven to be effective over the years:

  • Standard Work must be written, not verbal. Input from the Gemba (workplace) is an absolute requirement.
  • Standard Work then must be thoroughly trained to all appropriate Associates, Leaders and the actual “Doers”.
  • Standard Work must be enforced.
  • Standard Work must have a process for updating when an improvement opportunity is determined.

3) “Good” Standard Work requires significant effort.
Lessons learned that may be of help to write effective Standard Work follows;

  • Standard Work must be written at the proper “level” of detail. Too little detail and errors are introduced. Too much detail and the Organizations can be overwhelmed with minutia. This is actually more difficult than one would think it to be.
  • Those who fully understand the process we are writing Standard Work for and are immersed in the particular activity must be involved in writing the Standard Work. The Standard Work must be “tested” or “trialed” during the rapid experiments phase of a Rapid Improvement Event with necessary changes being added and subtracted as appropriate.
  • Once the “foundational” Standard Work has been successfully tested, training must be completed for ALL that will be utilizing the Standard Work. This includes those Leaders that will be monitoring the compliance of the Standard Work. Feedback shall be solicited as the Standard Work implementation occurs and appropriate changes, using a disciplined process, are made.
  • The Standard Work completion must be monitored for compliance by all levels of Leadership. Failure to comply with adherence to the Standard Work must be addressed. The Standard Work is not Standard Work unless all follow it.

Is it simple? It sure sounds that way.

Reality and experience paint a different picture. Standard Work is the DNA of any successful Lean effort. The steps I have listed above are but the beginning. But what a powerful beginning it is!

Process Mapping Levels by Steve Newlon

The concept of process levels is a great aid when process mapping.  Levels ensure that the flow map is consistent in granularity from beginning to end and ensures that we are able to “see” waste. In this article we’ll discuss three levels of maps.

A Level One map is created by describing the end to end process in 7-10 steps, which provides a top-level view of the major steps along with the “bookends.”  It’s common for people to want to give more details, but at this point, only the high level steps are needed.  In picture #1, the four steps of the Level One map are highlighted.


Level Two maps are created by describing each Level One step with 7-10 steps.  While it’s not perfect, picture #2 illustrates how the Level One steps were expanded into a Level Two map directly below the Level 1 steps.

At Level Two, you’re typically at a level that you can start to analyze a process.  The question as to whether there’s enough detail or if you’re at the right level of detail is to ask, “Can we identify waste?”  The Level One map provided a view of the process, but it was too high of level to offer insight into specific wastes. The Level Two map, though, provides enough detail for the team to start seeing waste.


In picture three, we see how the team identified waste in the Level Two map using red/pink post-it notes.


Level Three maps take us to a much greater level of detail.  Level Three maps are created by describing each Level Two step in 7-10 steps.  The steps are best be identified by going to the workplace.  Not every Level Two step needs to be expanded to a Level Three map.

The concept of “levels of maps” isn’t a rigid set of mapping rules, but rather a way of looking at a process with guidelines that help you control and determine the level of detail to examine.   Mapping with the perspective of levels of maps help you achieve a greater return on your time investment by preventing too much detail from exploding on your map while ensuring you have enough information to see waste and make improvements.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment