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What is Leadership Standard Work?

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What is more important? The ability to improve or the ability to sustain set standards?


All activities that Leaders engage in can be grouped into two basics roles:

(1) Making Improvements

(2) Maintaining Standards

Anything that is improved or a solution found must be followed up with standardization. If one does not standardize a solution or new way of doing something, the gains will slip. Most leaders are taught and also prefer to engage in the planning and making improvement sphere, but post planning or  improvement there is this entire second set of activities, which I simply call as Maintaining standards – leaders must engage in some routine actions that ensures that standards are being followed, problems are being identified and problem solving and improvements happening.     

Leadership Standard Work teaches how leaders at all levels can incorporate the right principles into their daily management in order to develop people, get the most from their team and deliver results.

Leader standard work is SDCA (standardize-do-check-act) in action. It seeks to determine whether standards are being adhered to and whether they are sufficient – very important stuff when you are to trying to drive  a culture of excellence.

There are four elements of leader standard work – setting KPI’s and standards, supplemented by good visual controls, scheduled “drive by’s” and accountability meetings. Ease to determine normal versus abnormal. What some folks unfortunately don’t comprehend or want to comprehend is that leader standard work is redundant or “nested.”

Indeed, while leader standard work must include the superior checking the subordinate’s leader standard work document to, among other things,: 1) ensure that it has been completed in a timely manner, 2) identify what abnormalities have been identified (and whether they are of a repeat variety), and 3) the sufficiency of the subordinate’s countermeasures, it also must include direct observation. Like Taiichi Ohno, we must prefer facts over data.

The superior’s leader standard work must also require him or her to go to the gemba (work place) and for example, ensure that people are  working in accordance with standard work – steps, sequence, cycle time, and standard work-in-process. This is the best way to ensure that the system is not breaking down. Good leader standard work, and thus SDCA, does not co-exist with loose and informal chains (of command). Nothing deniable there.


Author: Kaizen Institute - India!

Kaizen Institute – India is part of the Global Kaizen Institute operations. Kaizen Institute was established by Sensei Masaaki Imai, the GURU of Kaizen. He wrote the 1st book 28 yrs ago and that is when it all started . We operate in 30+ countries today and have over 400+ coaches helping more then 600 organizations Learn, Apply, Sustain – Kaizen/ Operational Excellence. In India we have two physical offices – Pune & Ahmedabad and 27 coaches in all.

One thought on “What is Leadership Standard Work?

  1. Great article and resource tool for training.

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