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July 28, 2010

Standardised Work: Discuss

Many people and organisations outside of the lean community are wary of the concept of standardised work. The belief, probably arising from the terminology, is that standardised work means detailed unchangeable work instructions imposed on others, “robotising” work and, therefore, removing the scope for individual flair or creativity.


In fact, in my view, the opposite is true (though I agree the term is unhelpful). Standardised work is best practice developed by the people actually doing the work. It is documented as a means of recording the “current state”, and creativity is encouraged by constantly testing this current best practice to see how it can be improved, and, therefore, updated.


The term “Standardised Work”, therefore, simply refers to the practice of documenting the current state as a starting point for improvement (this is also true in Value Stream mapping and other areas of lean). Unfortunately this is not always explained very well by lean practitioners, or in lean books. Perhaps we should consider developing a new phrase to encompass this practice – what about “Current State Practice” to pair with the “Current State Value Stream Map”, or “Best Practice Current State” ?.