Leader standard work is a pillar of the lean management system. So, how does one start to develop leader standard work? Five basic steps will get you a long way: 1) walking, 2) questioning, 3) working, 4) testing, and 5) adjusting. Like most kaizen activities, it’s very effective to do this as a team – in this case, a team of lean leaders.

Walking. Walk the value stream. Make use of your current state value stream map if you have one, but never forget to go to the gemba. Identify your “pulse points,” the critical points within the value stream where you would like to check process performance and/or process adherence. They are called pulse points because we’re thinking about relatively quick drive-by checks that can give us insight into the health of the overall system. Like a health care provider, we do not and cannot pragmatically start every examination with  a full-body MRI or blood work! That would be muda! Apply deep dives strategically.

Questioning. While walking and identifying pulse points, you should also ask questions (of ourselves and other stakeholders) relative to process performance and adherence and other basic stuff around these pulse points. For example, “What is the process?… How do I know if it’s working or not?… What is the standard work?… Is it being followed relative to steps, work sequence, cycle time and standard work in process?…What are the CTQ’s (critical to quality elements)?”…etc. Write these questions down. You’ll pick the most critical later.

Working. Here “work” is figuring out how to answer the big questions and the natural lean follow-on questions that we did not think to ask originally. So, if the question is, “How do I know whether people are adhering to standard work?” and you don’t have standard work, guess what? You’re going to have to develop standard work. If the question is, “What if the test station begins to fail an abnormally high number of units?” then there may be some follow-up questions, such as, “What is abnormally high?”  More work required here – looks like we’ll have to define that. Still another question (seems like we’re back to the questioning step!), may be, “What happens if the operator encounters abnormally high failures?” – looks like we’ll have to establish some sort of escalation protocol…with the appropriate standard work and visual controls. Work, work, work, but well worth it. Rarely, is the system already well wired and it’s just a matter of developing and deploying leader standard work.

Testing. So, once you build out the leader standard work in an appropriate leader standard work format for each leader (including the location that the leader should physically go to for the audit, audit frequency, the normal condition that the leader is attempting to validate, whether the observed condition is normal or abnormal, etc.), it’s time to test it. This means walking and using the leader standard work, determining whether it is prescriptive enough, whether the visual controls are unambiguous and drive-by easy, etc. The likelihood that all is perfect is pretty much nil, which leads to…Adjusting.

Developing effective leader standard work is not easy, but it is instructive. When rigorously applied within a daily accountability process, it will help drive a lean culture,  sustain improvements and facilitate daily kaizen.

Related posts: How to Audit a Lean Management System, Leader Standard Work – Chock that PDCA Wheel