There is much talk about the need to establish standard work as a foundation for continuous improvement (CI). Without everyone performing their work in the same way, the reasoning goes, any effort to improve operations performance is doomed to fail.

Unfortunately, few organisations succeed in  putting standard work into practice. Why? Well, simply put: standard work takes a lot of effort, few know how to go about it and even fewer how to sustain momentum over time. So…

Is there a better way of approaching standard work?

How can we get more out of the effort we put into implementing standard work?

How can we sustain it?

To be more successful in implementing standard work, we must first change the way we think and talk about it. In our experience, there are three important things leaders (re-)starting standardisation can do to significantly increase their chances of success:

Firstly, let's talk problem solving, instead of standardisation. 

Standardisation is a means to an end, and should not be an end in itself. So, let's start with this end in mind. Which specific operations performance problem are we trying to solve now? What causes the performance gap? Which method (is it standard work or something else?) should we use to close this gap?  By looking at a specific problem, we narrow our focus, therefore making it easier to make a real impact faster. This approach also makes it easier to keep ourselves and our teams motivated.

Secondly, we want to ‘stabilise', rather than 'standardise'.

Stabilisation focuses our attention on operator mistakes, extraordinary delays and other specific problems that are causing process variation. How can we reduce these ‘special causes’ of variation?  In other words, the first step of process improvement is to bring our target process ‘in control’, to make it stable and predictable. Once this is achieved, we can then evaluate the capability of our process and, if needed, work on progressively squeezing variation

Thirdly, we need an effective on the job training method.

The vast majority of our operations problems can be traced back to people and, more specifically, faulty instruction. Reliable, well targeted job skills training - such as the time-proven TWI Job Instruction program - converts good problem solving into improved operating results.


By changing our process improvement language we can shrink the standardisation challenge to a manageable size. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

Get hard, fast results.

Keep everyone on board. For the long haul.

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