Keep it simple! Processes, training, everything.

keep it simple! Simple procedures and communication is easier to understand and follow.

A company culture transformation is an undertaking.  You will attempt to break with old habits and mental models.  Also, you will introduce new ones.  For that reason, you and your leadership team will make many decisions regarding what to do and how to do it.  Later, there will be a lot of communication, skills development, training, and new standards.  While teaching new behaviors, mental models, and ways to do things, keep it simple.

For a successful transformation, keep it simple

Along the transformation journey, you and your team will have countless communication efforts. That communication will happen in different scenarios and formats.  In other words, individual or group settings, in writing or verbal.  Also, you will write new policies, standards, work instructions, and others.  The purpose of the communication or procedures and other details needs to clear.  Keep the receiver or user in mind while deciding the language, design, or communication structure.  Moreover, it needs to be simple, easy to understand and execute.

If you can’t explain it simply, take a step back.

“If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” 

Albert Einstein

Any continuous improvement activity starts with gaining an understanding of the current situation. The cultural transformation begins with a similar process, understanding the present culture.  The knowledge gain during this step helps to design the best way to share with the team the intention to change.

Why do you want to engage in the transformation process?  Why you propose to use continuous improvement?  What are the steps?  A long and hard thinking process is required to answer these questions in a simple way.  Refine your thoughts, do not use too many words, do not overthink.  Be honest and talk from your heart without fancy words or excuses, just the truth.

You are not ready to communicate this idea until you can say it in simple words.  

Keep it simple, all of the processes, language, structures, and formats.

Simple language is easier for the reader or receiver.  For instance, try to avoid the use of technical words unless it is necessary.  The same rule goes for industry jargon.  For example, in continuous improvement, we use many Japanese terms like kaizen.  Depending on the current culture, you should use generally accepted American words as a substitute.  In our previous example, you can use continuous improvement or rapid improvement events instead of kaizen.

While teaching new tools, use simple structures.  Further, give examples of things related to their work.  Things are complicated enough as it is, keep it simple.  Processes that are easy to understand have more probability of sustainability.  It is much easier to execute simple instructions than complicated words.  

Summary

Trying to explain something complex is often a humbling experience.  It makes you realize how much you don’t know.  Therefore, it forces you to break the subject into smaller pieces and understand each one of them.  When you think you know the process well enough, try to explain it with simple words. Would your five years old self understand?  If the answer is no, then keep refining your thoughts, keep improving your pitch.  

Simplicity avoids confusion, and processes are easier to execute consistently.  Don’t complicate it, keep it simple. 

What is a work instruction document?

Use a work instruction document for training
Use a work instruction document for training

What is a work instruction?

A work instruction document is used to describe one of the components of Standard Work (SW). 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. The three components of standard work are the following.

  • Job sequence to complete the job
  • The rate at which products must be produced to meet customer demand (takt time)
  • The standard amount of work in process inventory

Let’s focus today on the first component.  One way to document this component of standard work is by using work instructions.  A work instruction describes in detail the step by step information to do the task.  In general, they combine words, pictures, icons, or sketches, to define each step.  They also contain important tips for things that can make or break the job, safety, and quality.  

The first step to create standard work was to understand the process and break down the job.   If you follow all the steps, then you already have the job sequence to perform the job safely and efficiently while achieving high quality.  All you have to do now is to present the information in a simple and easy to understand format.

Document header

  1. This is an official document and should contain the company or business name, and address. 
  2. Use a clear title that describes the task.
  3. Although is not critical, you should have a standard alphanumerical format to identify the work instructions.  This is helpful if you plan to create instructions for key tasks in different departments.  This number should go next to the work instruction title.
  4. Identify the department and position(s) that will perform this task.
  5. Include the document effective date.
  6. When the job has safety risks or required the use of personal protective equipment, you should identify both.  This information can go either on the heading or the body of the instruction.  You can use words but is better to use icons to represent risks and PPE.

Work Instruction body

  1. List the materials or equipment required to do the job, use bullet points to facilitate reading.
  2. Describe how to perform each step following the appropriate sequence.
  3. For each step, include risks, and tips to do the job easier and/or achieve the desired quality.

Document footer

  1. If you are using the WI as a training tool, the footer should include space for the trainer and trainee names and signatures.

Guides to writing a work instruction document

Do the following while writing your work instructions.

  1. A number sequence for the steps.
  2. Limit the numbers of steps, if the task has more than 8-10 steps, subdivide the instruction in different subjects.
  3. Bullets or numbers each time you need to list something.
  4. Highlight important information using a different color, bold or italics.
  5. Use pictures, screen shots or icons every time you can.

Create a document template with the format you chose and a library with the icons to depict risks, actions, personal protective equipment, and others.  Designate who will be responsible for creating the work instructions.  Also, who will manage the documents library, including numbering, and filing.  Consistency and clarity are critical to avoid confusion

Standard Work, what are the best practices to create them?

standard work is the base for improvements

Standard work documentation is important to record the right and only way to complete a process.  This document provides clear, simple, accurate, and complete information to support training.  Standard work is the foundation for improvements. If the foundation is weak, it will not drive the desired change.

Best Practices to create standard work documentation.

  • The people who do the work participates in the process
  • Include all relevant information on one easy-to-read document
  • Keep it simple and use visualization, if possible.
  • Make the documentation accessible
  • Set clear expectations regarding revisions and improvements

Components

There are different types of formats to document standard work.  Follow the best practices to create one that works for you and contains the three components of standard work.

  • Job sequence
  • The rate at which products must be produced to meet customer demand
  • Work-in-process inventory quantity

Types of Standard Work Documents

Standard Work DocumentationDescription
Process capacity sheetDefines the available capacity
Standardized combination tableDefines the work of one operator during the process cycle, it describes what the operator is doing and when it is doing it.
Standardized Work ChartIt is a simple layout of the work area that shows the flow of the worker, information, and materials through it while keeping the production rate to meet customer demand.
Work instructionA work instruction contains step by step information to do the work.  It has a combination of words and pictures or drawings to describe each step.  It also contains important tips for things that can make or break the job, safety, and quality.  
ChecklistThis simple document can have two different uses, to confirm that everything was done or to check as you carry out the task.
Visual aidSimple instructions using pictures or drawings to show the steps of the process.  They are posted at the point of use.
Memory joggerThese can be a group of laminated cards with general guidelines, settings, or other information that is not used very frequently.  

Importance of these documents

Create standard work documentation is important to record the safest, highest quality, and the most efficient way known to perform a task.  This document is the baseline for future improvements.  They reduce variation and improve consistency. 

Do you know the characteristics of standard work?

Standard Work (SW) is a simple written description of the safest, highest quality, and most efficient way to execute a particular task. Once established, it becomes the only acceptable way to do the process it describes.  Effective documentation and training are key to standard work success.  Use a template to ensure that all the standard work or work instructions look and contain the same parts or components.  

The three components 

  • Job sequence to complete the job
  • The rate at which products must be produced to meet customer demand (takt time)
  • The standard amount of work in process inventory

Relevant information to include with the job sequence   

  • Key points related to anything that can make or break the job
    • Information that addresses safety issues or risks
    • Instructions or knowledge that help performance such as, what makes the job easier or ensure quality.  
  • Explains why the step is important

Characteristics of effective work instructions

  • Simple and clear, easy to understand by everybody.  
  • Complete, it shows the steps to do the job and other relevant information. 
  • Accurate, the document reflects the current process.    
  • Concise, it contains important information only.

A work instruction is not effective, regardless of how good the document is if the training is not adequate.  If your idea of training is to bring a group of people to a room to read the work instruction, you should rethink the training method.  How effective do you think this type of training is?  How can you be sure that everybody understood the instructions?  

The work instruction by itself is not a training tool, it needs to be supported by other teaching methods.  To be effective, the instructor should tell and show how to do the job.  The following are some general guidelines. 

  • Demonstrate the job step by step while explaining the key points and why things are done a certain way.  
  • Repeat the steps as many times as you think it is necessary before asking the employee to try.
  • Observe the employee doing the job.
  • Ask to explain the key concepts and whys, make sure they understand.   
  • Follow-up on their performance, observe and correct if it is necessary.  
  • Create a safe and respectful environment.  
  • Make sure they know who to ask if they have doubts or find a problem.  
  • Check-in with the employee often, until you are completely sure that he/she understands the job.

Many organizations fail to implement standard work.  As a result, perceived gains through Kaizen may be lost over time, and the status quo prevails.  The standard work is not set in stone, it is the baseline for continuous improvement.  When the process change, the standard work is updated.

Standard work is important to ensure everybody follows the same guidelines, and the process is stable. That way, the customer will consistently receive their product or service on time, with the best quality, and at the lower possible cost.