How Lean Thinking and Standard Work can Help Achieve Your Goals?

Written by Jason Haines

“Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.” -Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

In many facets of life, we are chasing perfection and striving to be the best at what we do. The reason a lot of us are trying to achieve that perfection is because we want to eliminate as much of the chaos from our life that we can. Though we will never eliminate all chaos within our lives or our organization, we are always trying to achieve full elimination. Lean thinking is no different as Lean practitioners know the big thing is to eliminate chaos and achieve perfection. In Lean our chaos is the wastes, or non-value adding activities, that we have in our systems or processes.

Lean thinking is a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating wastes by lining up value-creating actions in the best sequence. Conducting these activities without interruption, and only when the customer requests them, in order to achieve perfection. We all know that we will not achieve perfection, but we will achieve excellence and Lean Thinking is no different in this pursuit. We want to get to the goal and make the jobs of our frontline employees and ours easier by building a system. When we as leaders start to make everyone’s jobs less complicated, we are then able to build relationships and develop our employees to achieve more than just doing a job. This is a big reason that Lean, when implemented correctly, makes many businesses successful over many years.

One of the big ways that Lean helps us to start on the path to achieve perfection is with the tools that Lean provides to all employees; such as value stream mapping (VSM), 5S, waste elimination, and visual management. With visual management we have one big thing in our workplace that makes the jobs straightforward to do through showing and telling employees how to do their jobs, and this is what we call Standard Work. Standard Work is a way to help develop new employees who are trying to learn the jobs when they first come to your organization. It also gives people an understanding of how they can complete the job, what amount of time they have to complete the job, and what the score is (or how they are doing to reach the goal).

So how does Standard Work help a company achieve the goals that they want to achieve? If you think about what standard work is really trying to achieve is making people do their jobs in a certain way and not deviate from the process. But this could not be further from the truth. Standard work is designed to help eliminate the chaos from the workplace and help the employees understand where they must return to if the changes, they make are not successful. With the elimination of chaos, and this has been said by many great leaders and self-help gurus, people become much more creative and come up with better ways to do their jobs by finding waste and eliminating it from the process. When employees and leaders are eliminating this waste, they are able to improve processes, become more efficient, build employees, and create deeper relationships amongst all.

So how does standard work help our organizations achieve the goals that we are trying to achieve? The biggest thing that standard work does to help an organization to achieve its goals is by driving simplicity. This simplicity comes from having a design that has pictures with a few words that describes the work that is needed, the rate it is needed, any standards that must be met, and the setup of the work space to show the flow of the product. This visual management gives people a way of glancing to see what needs to be done, how fast it needs to be done, and how to set up what needs to be done. By doing this it takes a lot of the guesswork out of the job the frontline employees are doing, and they can think of other things that will help them improve the jobs they are doing.

The keys to having keys to having an effective standard work, or any type of visual management, is to make it clear for everyone who will perform the jobs. And this is where the teamwork will take place amongst the people who are performing the jobs at the frontline and the people writing the standard work. Because you don’t want someone who is not doing the job write the standards for the people doing the job. This teamwork will also start to help build relationships between frontline employees and the leaders of your organization. This is one of the many rewarding things in any business is getting to a point where all departments are working together to reach one goal.

When we make the standard work visual and understandable, we are pointing out ways for the people doing the jobs of how they should be doing the job, what errors may occur, how to fix those errors, and what issues may arise while performing the job. Also, to make the standard work obvious and attractive we must include how the score will be kept for the employees to achieve their goals. A lot of times we tell people what to do, or we tell them what is expected of them, but forget we must tell them and show them how to and what is expected. When we combine both visual management with the expectations of the job our employees will understand how to achieve what they need to do.

The next thing we want to do with standard work is make the forms simple for all to understand and for the jobs to be easy to achieve. When making standard work we make it easy for everyone to understand so anyone could be able to do the basics of the job. The simplicity throughout all the processes keeps people from making too many major mistakes and from becoming to frustrated while doing their jobs. When people have to constantly struggle with things in their jobs, they have a tendency to not be happy in their jobs and also never make changes to help improve the jobs. But once we make the jobs easy to understand and do people participate more and become happier at what they are doing.

Lastly, we all want to make the jobs satisfying to all that work for us. Ninety-five percent of people come to work to be successful and do a great job because they have people they need to provide for outside of their work and coming to a job that is hard to be successful at can be extremely stressful. This stress turns into frustration and trying to decide whether to go to a new job or stay somewhere that is unsatisfying to the worker. Therefore, we as leaders need to find ways to make the jobs more satisfying and one of those ways is by writing standard work to make the jobs easier. This takes the guess work out of the jobs and helps the worker find new ways to do their job more efficiently while eliminating wastes.

Just remember at the end of the day when we are applying Lean, we are trying to develop our people first and foremost. When we are developing our people, we are teaching them to be future leaders and ambassadors of our company. Happy employees make a great company so respect your people.

Helping grow your business through process improvement!!