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Tracy Defoe responded to our Jan 29 webinar with a truly brilliant comment – “I think the notion that the Work Standard is a hypothesis deserves to be on every manager and supervisor’s door so they approach workers with curiosity and compassion”. Wow, wouldn’t that alter our approach to lean! Thank you Tracey.

“Step up 1” in standardization is the development of Work Standards. In doing so we see 2 fundamental points to be very clear on. Firstly, the primary function of a Work Standard is to clearly communicate “normal”. This permits recognition of “abnormal” which is pivotal in the “step ups” following. Secondly, keep front of mind that the work standard is itself a hypothesis – if we apply “a” we hypothesize that the outcome will be “b” (and “b” will be “normal”). This lays the foundation for a scientific approach when “abnormal” occurs which it will!

There are essentially 3 types of work standards most easily seen from a manufacturing viewpoint so, for the sake of keeping it reasonably simple, we’ll take that view.

  • The first is a standard relating to quality of the output of the process or operation. For a milk bottling filler/packer system, the output is a case that holds “x” number of bottles of milk, 6 for example. Such a standard will make it very clear what is “normal”. “Normal” is established by the customer which may well be the consumer in this case and/or an internal customer, the warehouse for example. The hypothesis is that if the output is 100% to standard, i.e. all elements “normal”, then the customer (or consumer) will be satisfied with what they’ve got.
  • Second comes a machine or process standard. (Remember we are using a manufacturing example; the same principles apply to service.) Such a standard contains all the elements of the machine that impact the output (first standard above) and alongside lists “normal” settings. We can now determine “normal / abnormal” for the machine. The hypothesis is that if the machine elements are all “normal” then the output will be 100% to the output standard.
  • Third comes the people or system standard. (Again, we are using manufacturing as a reference but in service it would seem like there’d always be this type of standard.) Such a standard contains all the elements that the person (or automated system) carry out in order to have the machine set to and run within “normal” i.e. all the things needed to be done to achieve “normal” in the machine standard above. The hypothesis is that if the people/system elements are all “normal” then the machine will be set to and operate “normally”.

I trust you can see a connection through this sequence of work standards. This is what we’re seeing through application.

by Oscar Roche and TWI Institute

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