Do Leaders Need Standard Work?

Effectively leading your organization requires an expectation for the specific work carried out by the operation. Standardized steps for checking in a guest at a hotel, renting a car to a traveler, or assembling a cell phone in production are necessary for stabilizing a business. But do the leaders need standard work?

There are two key benefits to leaders having standard work for a portion of their day: This sustains the gains in improvement and creates a learning environment.

Sustaining Gains in Improvement

Standardized work defines the content, sequence, timing, and expected outcome for the people carrying out processes in an operation. Similarly, a leader’s standard work defines the content, sequence, timing, and expected outcome for the repeatable management activities, including auditing to meet customer and business needs.

The emphasis on repeatable acknowledges that a leader’s day is not 100 percent predictable. The amount that is repeatable changes as role responsibility increases. A supervisor may have 50 percent of their day repeatable, a manager may have 30 percent, and a director may only have 15 percent. There should be some portion of the day that is repeated and that repeatable portion needs to be standardized.

This step of auditing as part of a leader’s standard work is critical to sustaining gains. Even the smallest improvements need to be audited. For example, if an organization creates standardized work for a hotel receptionist to check in a customer, this includes content; (what they say), sequence (order of activities), timing (how long does it take), and expected outcome (satisfied guest). The leader of that area should observe the standardized check-in process as part of their standard work for a day. A portion of each day needs to be dedicated to the leader’s standard work and audits of critical processes.

Creates a Learning Environment

A leader’s standard work promotes learning between the leader and team. The consistent routine of auditing recent improvements and critical processes helps the leader learn how effectively the change or process is working and if it is truly being followed. This creates opportunities for the leader to catch people doing it right and thanking them or even to correct behavior.

A consistent routine of auditing and executing repeatable steps also promotes learning between the leader and boss. They can agree on what is important to audit and what is critical to execute daily. They can also agree on what isn’t getting completed. It is one thing to say, “I just don’t have time.” It is a much better discussion to say, “Here is what I have standardized in my day – what do you think?”

Standard work for a leader builds stability into the leader’s day, his or her relationship with the boss, and most importantly – it builds stability in the organization.

So the answer to the question “Should a leader have standard work?” is yes!

Jeff Boris

Jeff Boris

Jeff completed a 31 year career at Alcoa in engineering, Maintenance, Production, and 5 years as Location Manager. He currently consults across manufacturing facilities leveraging his plant management experience for excellence in EHS, Operations Management, and Cost analysis. He and his wife have 4 adult children. He currently lives in Newburgh, Indiana.
Jeff Boris

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