No Standards No Kaizen

By Ron Pereira Updated on December 3rd, 2007

I don’t know the exact quote and I am 38,000 feet in the air (I am flying home from London) so I can’t look it up… but Taiichi Ohno once said something like, “Without standards there can be no kaizen.”

What does this mean?

Well, at its simplest level I believe it means if you don’t really know how you are doing something or if you don’t do something in a consistent manner how can you ever expect to make it better?

The nice people at McDonald’s are masters at this. If you ever watch one of the “assemblers” work you will notice they make a Big Mac in a very specific manner. I am not 100% sure on this but I would imagine there is a standard way for any person, no matter where they are, to make a Big Mac.

So after 5S I cannot imagine how anyone can really do kaizen without Standard Work. Now I have blogged about Standard Work before as has my good friend Jon Miller so rather than get all technical on you let me simply offer these tips to you to help you get started.

  1. If you have a task or a job you do on even a semi-consistent basic (e.g. assemble a product, take care of patients, call customers, etc.) start off by writing down the way you generally do these steps.
  2. Once you have the steps documented ask someone who does the same or similar job to review the steps to see if they agree with them. If they don’t, and many times they won’t, discuss it with them and see if you can mutually agree on the best way to do this task.
  3. Once you and your pal have the agreed steps documented work together and time each other doing these steps. You don’t have to be a geaked out Industrial Engineer to time something. You don’t even need fancy stop watches! Start with the seconds hand on the clock on your wall if you have to!
  4. Once you have the steps and the times see if you can come up with some standard work procedures. There are some standard “lean” templates you can use if you want. But don’t get bothered with trying to be perfect. Just get something on paper and in place.
  5. Once you have the process documented share it with others and get them to follow the steps for awhile exactly as shown in the document or documents depending on how detailed you go.

Now, when someone figures out how to do it better, and they will, change the procedures accordingly. This my good friends is what kaizen is all about.

p.s. And how about them Buckeyes?  Call it sneaking in, climbing in, etc.  I could care less.  We are in.  Special thanks to my good friends the Oklahoma Sooners and the mighty Panthers of Pitt!

  1. DonKy

    October 13, 2010 - 6:52 am

    Might consider one additional step… Have a manager or someone with higher authority review the agreed upon draft of the standardized work process to make sure that it fits properly within the full process. You will need someone who has visibility at a high enough level to see the larger process. What you have described reminds me of the old departmentalized way of doing things rather than a process view…

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