You need to measure what you want to improve. A metric is a measurement you use to track and assess the condition of a process. It gives you information about how the process is working and provides a baseline for improvements. After each improvement cycle, the resulting value is the new goal for your process parameter.
You use the current value of a metric or process parameter to know whether the process meets the goal or it needs adjustment. For example, the safe internal temperature for cooked chicken is 165° Fahrenheit. That value is the process parameter goal. If at the end of the process the actual temperature is 165° or more, the chicken is safely cooked. If it is less than 165°, you need to adjust. In this case, you adjust the process by cooking the chicken a little longer until it reaches the goal. How do you get the expected results every time?
In this example, you have a recipe. That document states all the ingredients and the instructions to cook the chicken. It includes the oven temperature setting and a range of time to cook the chicken. Also, it includes the process parameter goal, the cooking temperature for the chicken. This goal is the standard, a target established by an authority as a measure of quantity, weight, value, or quality that will determine the success of the process. If you follow those instructions, every time the chicken will be cooked and will taste about the same.
Standard Work (SW) is a simple written description to perform a task. SW is the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to execute a particular task. Once you establish SW, it becomes the only acceptable way to do the process it describes. It contains the sequence of steps to complete the task, the rate at which products must be completed to meet customer demand, and the standard amount of work in process inventory. The sequence of steps contains also vital information that can break or make the process, such as the process parameters, and their goals.
Update the standard work every time a process parameter or the steps change. Training for Supervisors and employees is critical to ensure everybody follows the standard. After training, it is time to improve again!