The fundamental ingredient for a successful lean implementation is creating a continuous improvement culture. It is impossible to create a culture without the active participation and support of leadership. Most of the time, leaders at all levels have to learn continuous improvement principles and tools along with their team. But that is the easy part, the challenging one, is to move away from traditional thinking and adopt a completely different way to behave, think, solve problems, communicate and relate to others.
In other words, leaders looking to use continuous improvement and lean thinking need to build a new business persona. This journey will help you to reflect on how you manage or supervise now and build new habits for the future. Some people say it takes 21 days to build a habit, while others claim it takes up to 66 days. I don’t know the right answer, but I know that building the habits required to successfully change a culture takes more than a couple of months of practice.
One tool that helps with leadership changes in behavior is Leader Standard Work. Standard work ensures consistent results and is the baseline upon which improvements are made. Leader standard work is a description of the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to drive continuous improvement and Lean thinking throughout the organization.
Leader standard work is usually presented as a form or checklist with daily tasks, as well as space for additional tasks specific for the day. You can divide the daily tasks by time-specific, like meetings and non-time specific. A different approach is to divide tasks into sections. For example, before, during, and at the end of the shift. Like many other things with continuous improvement, you can select the format that makes more sense for you and your business.
The following are things that you should include in your Leader Standard Work because they support and promote continuous improvement.
- Daily team meetings
- Walk the area where value is created
- Observe out of normal situations
- Support continuous improvement activities
- Follow-up performance vs. objectives
- Set direction, ask and answer questions
- Plan the next day
Although many can say that using a form to guide what you have to do through the day is too restrictive and takes away the flexibility to deal with daily problems, it is the contrary. Remember, you are building a new habit, a new way of doing business. The form will help you to create that habit and make you focus on those things that will help to identify out of standard situations before they become a problem. It will take time, but in the end, you will see the benefits of seeing things by yourself and not relying on reports with outdated information. Lean is about learning, experimenting, and reflection on the results to keep learning and improving. As a leader, you set the example by doing what you expect your team does.
This is like whey you are trying to build the habit of jogging or have a walk daily. It is hard, but over time you will get the benefits, will get used to it and doing it is almost like breathing.