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Leadership Standard Work

By Ron Pereira Updated on December 21st, 2009

Did you know that 50% of all leaders are below average? It’s a fact.

With this said, a good friend of mine recently asked me what I thought the Standard Work document would look like for a “Leader.”

In other words, if you could list out the things a leader of people would do, on a consistent basis, what would it be?

I definitely have some ideas and, yes, I realize it is literally impossible to cover all aspects of leadership in a single Standard Work document… but I contend it’s worth a shot.

Over to you

So, dear readers, I’d like to hear what you think. If you were to create a “Leadership Standard Work” document or process what would it look like?

Update:  Please read part 2 of this article here.

  1. Brian Buck

    April 3, 2009 - 9:53 am

    Grwat idea!

    Elements I would include in Leadership standard work:

    1) Take problems to front line staff to be solved and coach them. Do not solve yourself.
    2) 75% of Leadership time must be spent at Gemba to observe, coach, and develop.

    There are more I am sure but I have to get back to work!

    Great post Ron!

  2. Stan

    April 3, 2009 - 1:20 pm

    1. Stand in circle at least once a week for at least 30 minutes in gemba
    2. Know what must be done each and every day
    3. Make tasks in #2 visual for all to see and monitor
    4. Ask why instead of who

  3. Jon Miller

    April 3, 2009 - 3:52 pm

    1. Check on things that matter to you
    2. Ask “why” to teach people how to solve problems
    3. Follow up the next day

  4. Andy Wagner

    April 4, 2009 - 5:41 pm

    Thinking about this myself recently, I’ll borrow from Dr. Deming:

    1. Set an example
    2. Listen, but don’t compromise
    3. Continually teach
    4. Help people to move from the old ways to the new, to change.

  5. Mark Graban

    April 5, 2009 - 9:39 am

    50% are below average if there’s a bell curve distribution of managerial skill. But it’s possible 75% are below average if the top 25% of managers skew the curve…

    It’s more mathematically correct to say that it’s a fact that 50% are below the median…

    But you’re the black belt. 🙂

  6. Ron Pereira

    April 5, 2009 - 2:27 pm

    Hi Mark, are you sure you’re not a black belt in hiding? Or maybe, dare I say, a black belt wannabe? Come clean, man. We’re all friends here. Just messing with you as I’m pretty sure being a black belt is the last thing you’d ever want! 😉

    Actually, though, I was really trying to make a play on words more than attempting to be statistically correct… but since you bring it up I will clear this up for anyone confused about basic descriptive statistics.

    Let’s get started.

    First, we only use the average and standard deviation when dealing with normal (parametric) data. I think this is what you were probably trying to say when you mentioned the bell curve distribution.

    However, when our data are not normal, or non parametric, we never use the average or standard deviation to describe the data. Instead, we use the median or mode along with the range.

    Whether “managers” fall into the parametric or non parametric side of things could be debated and would depend on how and what you were measuring. Once we had the data we’d need to test for normality using something like the Anderson Darling test where the null hypothesis is our data are normal and the alternate hypothesis is our data are not normal.

    But, to offer one small correction to your advice, it wouldn’t be correct to assume it’s more mathematically correct to use the median until we knew what type of data were dealing with. In fact, defaulting to one type of statistics is a common pitfall many folks fall into… so be careful here… especially since in your field of work (health care) bad statistics could be very dangerous.

    As an aside, statisticians often call the median a “Barney Rubble” transformation since it can actually mislead you if used with the wrong type of data. To be sure, if your data are indeed normal you would NEVER want to use the median.

    I actually wrote a series on descriptive stats back in the day so if you or anyone else wants to brush up on things you can check it out here: part 1 and part 2

    Thanks for keeping me honest though. It’s not often I get to talk about the Anderson Darling test!

    And a special thanks to everyone who offered comments on the true purpose of the post. I really appreciate it… and so does my friend who originally asked me the question. They’ve been following your comments closely and plan to use them as they create their own version of this less common type of standard work.

    If anyone else has thoughts on how they’d create standard work for leaders please keep the comments flowing!

  7. Mark Graban

    April 5, 2009 - 2:56 pm

    Hi Ron, you *are* a black belt with such a complete answer. Sorry to be yanking your chain…

  8. Mat

    April 5, 2009 - 7:15 pm

    My Leadership Standard Doc would be somthing like;

    1) Lead by example
    2) Respect your people
    3) Treat all your people equally (really perception of equality – you can’t treat an experienced person the same as a new starter, but they should percieve they are treated the same)
    4) Listen to your people (Even non work related topics)
    5) Make time for your people
    6) Delegate
    7) Have a good memory

    and probably the most important

    8) BE HONEST….

    There’s probably others but thats the basics for me.

  9. Aaron Jeffries

    April 5, 2009 - 7:23 pm

    Great post and interesting timing as we are also working on something very similar to this. Basically we’re working on all having a one page document that details the things we each need to do every day, every week, and so on. We realize that the higher up a person is the less we’ll be able to “standardize” their work. However, for shop floor workers and supervisors we feel like we can get things pretty structured so everything from the time and duration of the AM standing only meeting to when time sheets should be turned in is on there. We are just rolling it out so will surely learn some things to make it better.

  10. Steve Armitage

    April 5, 2009 - 8:55 pm

    I am surprised there has been no mention of a working menu for leaders. If the desired effect is to standardise a leaders work but in reality each and every leader will have some differences in their day to day tasks, the ability to hit those marks will often deign the (perceived) success or failure of those leaders.

    Think about the key tasks that need to be done, standardise the format to ensure they are visual and will be done. Review the working menu regularly with your own leader.

    I have used a working menu successfully for the past 2 years, changing it as my role has changed and reviewing it with both my team and my own leader to great effect. Happy to share if anybody would like a copy.

    Many of the suggestions I have seen in the discussion are handy or even essential, give yourself the best chance to look good by putting them in a working menu and committing to getting them done.

  11. Scott

    April 6, 2009 - 10:35 am

    Credibility is earned by the individual not by the position of leadership. If asked a question and you do not know the answer, say so and commit to get back to the individual promptly. I f you cannot answer the specific question, say so, as sometimes there are issues in a business that are on a need to know basis. Most importantly know the names of the your team members as addressing an individual by his or her name right away is an attention grabber. Listen first- speak second, acknowledge, and always be approachable.

  12. Tom Palmitesta

    April 7, 2009 - 6:55 am

    Very interesting discussion, since many leaders think that a working menu is not for them. I was never able to convince a “leader” to plan his daily work and follow up on a regular basis.
    Steve, I am interested to see your “proven” working menu. Could you send me a copy? Thanks

  13. Troy Taylor

    April 10, 2009 - 9:41 am

    I am also a strong believer in the working menu or as Toyota name it the minimum job role.
    This is the definitive standard work for leaders and works to great effect. If you have trouble convincing the leadership team, just ask them to note down what they do as core responsibilities in a normal week and then document it. They soon realise the value in it, and you can include all the things that contribute to the sustainability of a decent Lean deployment.
    I have applied ths tool a minimum of 4 times across different industries and never been dissappointed by the results.
    I also have live examples if anybody is interested.

    • John Benson

      April 19, 2011 - 1:10 pm

      Hi Troy,

      Would it be possible for you to share an example of a working menu? It woul dbe very helpful to a project I am working on with out production leaders.

      John Benson
      [email protected]

  14. Vera

    April 15, 2009 - 8:12 am

    First time poster, long time reader… Very helpful article for me as I have been given the task of helping our shop supervisors become better leaders in their day to day activities. I’m very interested in a copy of Steve’s working menu and also Troy’s examples. How do I go about getting those documents? Thanks for your help!

  15. Ron Pereira

    April 15, 2009 - 8:19 pm

    Hi Vera! Thanks for the comment… I’ve emailed Steve and asked him if he’d share his document. If he agrees I will post it. Thanks again for the comment. All the best.

  16. Luis Elizondo

    April 16, 2009 - 4:48 pm

    there are tactical stuff that a leader do, but standard work is only the managerial part of a leadership role …there is a fundamental difference

    what would be a standard work for motivating employees :o)

    Read Performance Leadership by Frank Buytendijk

  17. Ed Polin

    April 17, 2009 - 7:22 am

    Please post or send me the “Working Menu for Leanders”

    Also if anyone could post more on “Toyota’s The minimun Role” I would appreciate it.



  18. Michael

    April 18, 2009 - 8:17 pm

    What I would like to see on Leader Standard Worksheets are a few things:
    1. A beginning and an end to a day (start time and completion time, staying on track)
    2. 3 Gembas per shift (2 drive bys and 1 deep dive)
    3. Communication stops built in (enhance development of a lean culture)

    There is a lot more, but those I feel would be of necessity, everything else is just “part” of the job.

  19. Observer

    April 19, 2009 - 12:47 am

    On your comment of 5th.

    “However, when our data are not normal, or non parametric, we never use the average or standard deviation to describe the data. Instead, we use the median or mode along with the range”.

    With non parametric data, can we talk of median or mode? May be when it has order, but not otherwise?

  20. Observer

    April 19, 2009 - 1:00 am

    Leadership standard work:
    1 Set the direction and keep a look out for external factors affecting the vision in the long term
    2 Nurture a team environment where people have great skills and work together harmoniously
    3 Provide the resources and empower people
    4 Make interventions to move the mean and the variance in the above in the desired level or direction as required

  21. Adam

    April 20, 2009 - 9:52 am

    A couple of you stated things like, “the higher up you get the harder it is to standardize your daily job.” Everyone tends to at first fall into the “my job is too different to standardize,” or I’m fighting a different battle everyday excuse.

    However, when you break it down, there are 5-6 things that each of us do daily that are critical to the success of our roles. More importantly there are 5-6 things that we wish we would have time to do that would help the success of our company. When creating standard work for leaders it is important that we capture those 5-6 things, not necessarily that they are completed by 9:05, but that we take the time each day to do them.

    I also think that we tend to get to subjective with some of the items you all are trying to list. “Motivate associates” is impossible to successfully check off each week, but instead we can list 2 actionable items to do each week that we can check off. Such as a win of the week that you recognize each week.

    Standard work for leaders is not meant to plan every minute of every day, but is meant to ensure you as a leader are making time to focus on those actionable items that will make a difference in your organization.

  22. alex KUBI

    April 27, 2009 - 3:18 pm

    I also think a leaders dashboard should drive the competitive essence of the organisation, Focus/Position – smell where the money will be, distinctive capability – operation excellent through Kaizen breakthrough events and performance anatomy – the right attitude and aptitude (mindset). Building this enablers in a business is the most a leader could do to remain relevant…

  23. Stephen Nemrava

    June 9, 2009 - 8:50 am

    I took the concept of standard work from the shop floor one level higher: to the supervisor.

    Our supervisor standard work is a laminated double sided 8″ x 11″. The front side is broken down into 5 categories: Our mission statement, supervisor roles, leadership summary, responsibilities, and accountability; the back side is the basic lean problem solving tools we expect a supervisor to be proficient in from day 1.

    All categories are the same for our supervisors in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, the only change allowed is in the responsibility section. We created a menu of all of the responsibilities any supervisor could ever have, and none are subjective. From this list, we decided on common basic daily, weekly, and quarterly measurable responsibilities for all of our supervisors and gave managers the option to add responsibilities based on culture, location, and function; however, they cannot remove any of the basic responsibilities.

    The end product is simple, flexible, and easy to use. Please e-mail if you would like to review.

    • John Benson

      April 19, 2011 - 1:04 pm

      Hi Stephen,

      Would it be possible for you to share the standard work document that you created and laminated? It would be very helpful to something I am currently working on with our production leaders.

      Best regards
      John Benson
      [email protected]

    • Matt Wisner

      February 19, 2014 - 11:14 am


      I would love to see this if you still have it available.

      [email protected]

  24. Eija Riihilahti

    January 5, 2010 - 2:03 am

    Hi all,

    I’m new with this area of Lean management and I just happened to read this discussion you had almost a year ago. I would also be very interested in getting a copy of Steve’s working menu and Troy’s examples. So Steve and Troy, please send the documents to me if you get this message. Thank you 🙂

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