Leader Standard Work Challenges, what are and how can you overcome them?

LSW enable leaders to transform the culture, develop the team, and keep them on track to achieve the site goals.  What are and how can you overcome the leader standard work challenges?

Leader standard work is a powerful tool for focusing on those activities and behaviors that transform the culture, develop the team, and keep them on track to achieve the site goals.  Also, it is helpful to drive continuous improvement.  However, creating the LSW is easy, but using it every day is not.  This critical tool for leaders at all levels entails various challenges.  What are and how can you overcome the leader standard work challenges?

Leader Standard Work Challenges

Months after the leader standard work deployment, we used a short survey to learn about the experience. We wanted to know what went well and the challenges.  The top challenge identified was the habit of using the tool daily.

Another challenge mentioned was the lack of noticeable improvements in their daily workload.  For instance, they did not feel they were engaging in less firefighting.  The third challenge indicated is the frustration in identifying what type of behaviors support the site goals.  Moreover, to recognize the difference between behaviors and tasks.

How to overcome those challenges

Leader standard work will not strive unless you use it.  To build the habit of using it, new users should use the following building habit tricks. 

The formation of every habit has three steps, a trigger, the routine, and the reward.  The practice you are pursuing starts with the trigger.  The reward can be a feeling, like the satisfaction of helping others to develop and grow.  The brain needs to know the prize of the new routine.  That piece of information is critical to do something effortlessly, without thinking.    

You need to identify what will trigger the review of the LSW.  Experts say that the best way to form a new habit is to tie it to an existing one.  Look for patterns at the start of your day, and think about how you can use your current routine to create new ones.  For instance, if the first thing you do in the morning is to read your emails, let that be your trigger.  Now when you think about reading emails, you will review your LSW first.

Even though reviewing the standard once a day is not enough, start with this and then add more times later.  Many believe the best way to build a habit is to start small and gradually improve.  To increase your chances of success, you can use electronic reminders on your email, calendar, or cell phone.  

Standard Work and Leader Standard Work Challenges

Leader standard work enables leaders to support the work of others.  Lack of clarity between the value-added activities that support the site objectives, culture transformation, and team development affects its effectiveness.  Therefore, it is critical to understand that LSW needs standard work and vice versa.

While building the LSW, start with listing your site and personal performance goals.  The second step is to list the tasks and behaviors to support their achievement.  Build this list as part of the LSW workshop right before the implementation.  Do we have standard work (SW) for those activities?  For example, do we have SW for Gemba walks, and how to conduct effective 1:1 meetings to support growth?  If the answer is no, it is paramount to create those standards before asking people to do the work.

When the appropriate systems are not in place, LSW turns into frustration.  A process to identify the need, develop, create, and improve SW will enable the power of continuous improvement.  The use of PDCA for this process reduces problems along with RCA will provide the support needed to do more improvements and less firefighting.

Creating capabilities and leadership behaviors

The foundation of a culture of continuous improvement is respect, appreciation for the employees, and clarity.  To build a CI culture, active listening, effective two-way communication, and coaching are necessary.  A leader’s work is to act and coach their direct reports to act in a way that supports the new culture.

Identify those behaviors that support or promote communication, listening, collaboration, caring, and other values identified by the company.  List them and share them as part of the LSW implementation.  Be clear about the relationship between behaviors and company values.  

To change the focus from firefighting to continuous improvement, leaders need to develop their team to do the same.  Coaching and participation in problem-solving are examples of activities to create those capabilities.  While performing those activities, leaders should practice behaviors such as respect, patience, resilience, persistence, and curiosity.  If the boss is not afraid to try new things, learn from failures, and keep trying, the team will do the same.

Leader Standard Work Challenges, every day, all-day

Changing the mindset from command and control to coaching requires practice.  It is imperative to guide people with a clear, inspiring and shared vision of the future.  Talk the talk, but most importantly, walk the talk.  A voice without action does not help gain the trust of your employees. With LSW, leaders have a comprehensive guide to work on daily, focusing on what is critical for the business’s success.   Successful use of it only comes with practice.  Recognize the biggest pitfall of the LSW implementation and avoid them with complete training, follow-up, and further improvements.

How to create the leader standard work?

Create the leader standard work with the team.

The purpose of the leader standard work (LSW) is to build the behaviors to drive continuous improvement and Lean thinking throughout the organization.  Moreover, it ensures that leaders keep an eye on the important things.  This document provides clear expectations of leadership behaviors.  In other words, it contains what leadership needs to do for a successful continuous improvement transformation.  How do you create the leader standard work document?

Who needs leader standard work?

The continuous improvement culture transformation depends on three daily activities.  Those are the leader standard work, visual management, and daily accountability.  Therefore, LSW is critical for the success of the transformation.  

This document is not for top leadership only. This statement is true regardless of the industry.  Every leader, from top leadership, to managers, supervisors, to team leaders, can benefit from LSW.   

Required information for the leader’s standard work.

Before you start to create LSW, you will need to gather some vital information.  First, get the site vision, goals, and key performance indicators.  Second, make a list of requirements that are critical for your business.  For example, to comply with FDA or OSHA rules or special requirements from suppliers.  

Finally, get the site calendar and each person’s calendar.  Many companies have a list or calendar with all the periodic meetings for each leadership level.  If you do not have one, you can always build it.  The LSW for every people with the same role is similar.  However, they are not the same.  It is common not to have all kinds of meetings or activities on every shift.  Also, people may participate in special projects or events.

To create the leader standard work, start with the activities

Look at the vision, goals, and performance indicators.  Are they aligned?  If they are, what behaviors or practices are needed to achieve those goals?  Also, what do you need to do to ensure compliance with requirements?  The answer to those questions unlocks one critical piece for LSW.  They are the backbone of the document.  

Some examples of such activities are gemba walks and participation in the daily management system. The morning meeting or shift meeting using visual management is an integral part of this system.  Other activities to include on those periodic tasks are coaching, participation in continuous improvement events, schedule audits, and participation in shift handoff meetings.  Also, to monitor how LSW and other continuous improvement systems are working.  For instance, to verify compliance with standard work, watch the start-up, and participation in problem-solving sessions.  

Building the leader standard work.

One more step before building the LSW is to revise all those meetings.  Analyze the objective, duration, and frequency.  Ensure that the meeting objective or purpose aligns with the site vision and goals.  Moreover, check that the duration and frequency are the right ones.  Who knows, maybe you can eliminate or combine a couple of them.

Creating the LSW for each leadership level is a team exercise.  Get the team together for a brief explanation of what we want to do and why. Then go through all the steps together.  To build the LSW, put together the daily, weekly, and monthly activities and tasks in the desired format.