Why are work standards not the same as standardized work?

The central idea behind lean is to grow people in order to improve your processes, services and your employees. There is one topic where this people centric idea tends to be thrown out of the window almost immediately: Standardized work. 

With standardized work the focus tends to be on creating, maintaining and following work standards. There are audits, pep talks from leadership and a lot of employees either stop thinking and just follow the instructions or go into resistance. Standardized work in lean is so much more than work standards.

Standardized work is about takt time, cycle time, work and inventory in process and work sequence

What is standardized lean work about?

Before we go into the definition I think it is important to look at the purpose of standardized work:

  • Providing a baseline for continuous improvement
  • Tool for attaining your goals (a means to an end, not a goal in and of itself)
  • Means for engaging and empowering people to not just do the work, but also to keep improving it
  • Means for providing a safe and inspiring work environment
  • Providing a common language in which to coach employees in their development of themselves and their work
  • Means for training new employees
Standardized work should be fun and peaceful

What does standardized lean work consist of?

Hoe you know the purpose of standardized lean work it is time to look at it's components: 

  1. Takt time and cycle time: Takt time and cycle time we talked about before. They are means towards meeting your customer demand. 
  2. A specific work sequence: This one is about work standards like 5s and work sheets, but also about eliminating waste and struggle from your work
  3. Work and inventory in process: This is the amount of inventory and work in progress needed to keep the process running smoothly and meet customer demand. 

If you want to be successful in Standardized work you will need a standardized process for improvement (kaizen), coaching (kata), people need to be trained in pdca, you need leadership trained in going to the gemba and in a flexible management style, people need to be trained in value stream mapping and most of all you need a clear purpose for your standardized work. When you notice yourself focussing solely on compliance, go back to these basics and explore what is missing. Standardized work should feel peaceful and safe, if it feels like a struggle you have missed something.

Standardized work is a lot of things, but never just work standards


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