Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Check, Please! The Role of Leader Standard Work in the Improvement Process

Today's post is by Rosemary Bergeron, recently retired experienced LEAN CHAMPION at Kimberly-Clark in New Milford, CT.

Lean organizations make improvements every day.   How many of these improvements are sustained over time?  Organizations that are really effective at sustaining improvements consider all elements of the Improvement Process.   
The Improvement Process starts with a work team solving a PROBLEM. This often results in strengthening a STANDARD or creating a standard where there was none. Then, we TRAIN team members on the new standard.  If we stop there, what are the chances that the new standard will always be followed?  50/50?

 Here’s the sustaining piece - FOLLOW UP.  Follow-up refers to the Leader Standard Work that leaders routinely do to:

·       Ask – what is your understanding of the new standard?

·       Observe – with the standard in hand

·       Check results – is the standard working?

The Improvement Process


A practice that works well is for problem solving teams to outline instructions for leaders as to what leaders must do to sustain the improvement.   “Leader –please add a check to your Leader Standard Work to observe the chemical XYZ unload 1 time per week for the next 2 months.  Please verify that the new process (attached) is being used.”   
Below are some LSW questions for your consideration.  What are your thoughts?  What improvement- sustaining practices have you seen that work well?
1. In a lean world, what do leaders focus on?
a)       Results
b)      Process
2. Leader Standard Work involves adding more work to your already busy schedule.
a)       True
b)      False
3. What must lean leaders think about?
a)       What does process focus mean?
b)      What am I supposed to check?
c)       Who is to blame?
4. Leader Standard Work …
a)      Respects the work of the individual
b)      Surfaces gaps which we can then close
c)       Should be changed when leaders change
d)      Reinforces the standard work
e)      Is only for the executive leaders
5.  Good checking…
a)       Is not as important as the knights riding in to handle crises
b)       Should be rewarded because it helps to avoid crises


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