How to succeed with standard work? 3 things leaders should do

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.

Find out more about TWI  here.

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Not getting the ‘bang for your training-buck’? 4 questions leaders should ask to get back on track

When was the last time you thought something like: "Wow! That supervisor training event really made a difference to my team's performance!" or "There is a real change in James' behaviour after attending that 2 day leadership seminar a few weeks ago!" ? 

Let's face it, many leaders have to think hard to come up with a good example. The truth is, much of the training we see happening in our organisations these days just doesn't leave much of a mark, beyond keeping the auditors off our backs.

Despite this, there are many posts on social media stressing the importance of employee training. Growing training budgets (at least in the UK) suggest most corporate managers probably agree. More spending and employee time allocated to training sounds like good news.  But is any training necessarily also good training? And...

...are we really getting ROI from our training investments? 

If not, these 4 simple questions can help leaders in pinpointing where it's going wrong and how to fix it:

1. Are my people enjoying the training?

2. Is there evidence of growing knowledge, skills & attitude?

3. How are my guys applying what they’ve learned?

4. Does this result in improving operations performance, a happier team, more satisfied customers?

These are the kind of questions, learning guru Kirkpatrick suggests, we must ask to hold ourselves accountable and streamline our training investment. The four levels are progressive: we cannot get performance improvement (level 4) without putting levels 1 - 3 in place first. And isn’t level 4 what we are trying to achieve? If there is no improvement, what’s the point in training?

Many organisations struggle to graduate from  'knowing' (L2) to ' applying' (L3), and therefore have little hope of seeing improvement (L4). This happens when application is not treated as part of the training process, and therefore not actively supported and managed. If you come to think about it, ...

...good training integrates exposure to new ideas with their practical application.

Application cannot be an accident, application must be designed in. This dramatically boosts learning retention, builds skills and, over time, grows new habits that deliver business results and more engaged, happier employees. Sitting learners in front of a screen alone (even with multiple-choice knowledge assessments) is not enough to change behaviour, and we know that...

...without changing behaviour, there won't be hard results.

That's why learners must be supported and coached - hands-on, at their workplace - as they apply new learning and develop new skills. 

Over 70 years ago, the fathers of the Training within Industry (TWI) programs knew this simple truth and put it at the heart of their supervisor training programs that later became the foundation of what we now know as the Toyota Production System. All TWI programs are taught ‘on-the-job’ and provide simple 4-Step practice routines which, through repetition, develop practical leadership & improvement skills in our teams. This means that...

...with TWI, our ROI is designed in.

All we need to do is ring-fence practice time, roll up our sleeves, and lead our teams, hands-on, on their journey.

Find out more about TWI's 6 essential leadership skills here.

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