Why do kaizen and standardized work belong together?

This blog is a follow up on the one from last week about standardized work in Lean. As stated before standardized work in Lean is about takt time, standards and the right amount of work in progress and inventory in process. The idea is to keep improving on the standards depending on customer demand, changing market conditions, changing internal conditions and/or needs of employees.  

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

What happens if you do not mix kaizen and standardized work?

If you have standardized work but no kaizen you will see:

A lot of companies will make or have work standards, but not standardized work in a lean sense. When they start their lean journey they will then go to kaizen without standardized work. This will lead to:

  • An unclear idea of what successful improvement should look like
  • There are no clear metrics for improvement, making improvement hard to sustain
  • Identifying root causes without metrics to identify a gap is next to impossible, leading to a repetition of problems

How to empower your employees in kaizen and standardized work?

Standardized work should be fun and peaceful

It takes time to change your company culture in both the material and the immaterial side. Just implementing new tools without new norms and values will not work out well for you. You need a new strategy that makes the purpose of the changes crystal clear. You need an objective view of what is happening on the gemba:

  1. When do employees struggle
  2. How does your value stream perform? 
  3. What do your customers want? 

You need to make people proud of their job, their skills and their company. They need to be trained in the new skills required of them like kaizen, pdca, root cause analysis, 5s, value stream mapping and much more. But most of all they need to know the purpose of the tools and the change. Tools are a means and not an end in and if itself. Lean is hard work, but it is also very rewarding and fun when done well.


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