Tips for Lean Managers

Leader Standard Work and Material Control

By Jon Miller Updated on May 19th, 2017

I am taking some time off with the family this week so any posts will be short and less than fully developed. The emerging thought of the day concerns the relationship between leader standard work and material control principles of “time fixed, quantity variable vs. quantity fixed, time variable” schemes. The former implies a fixed schedule with the replenishment amount being driven by the actual amount withdrawn by the consumer process (thus variable) while the latter implies replenishment of a set quantity at unscheduled but specified times.

In terms of leader standard work, or the practice for leaders to check on the process and results of their subordinates’ work, the time-quantity fixed-variable continuum gives us a few ways to look at things. The “time fixed” portion of leader standard work can be a stumbling block to managers above the supervisor level for various reasons. It may be that they crave freedom from a production-like schedule, opportunity to think and act creatively, the need to fight fires and thus have an unscheduled day, or simply poor time and priority management. The “quantity variable” parameter allows the manager to conduct the checks, but with duration (quantity) as needed and as situations dictate, rather than to a set timetable that constrains the art of management.

On the other hand a “quantity fixed” leader standard work might be more interesting. Basically this would mean that a certain amount or number of checks, audits, coaching sessions, deliberate stand in the circle activities or other actions must be performed, but at a highly flexible and variable time schedule based on need. Over a particular month there may be a requirement for a certain number of hours or instances of these checking and teaching sessions by the leaders, but the timing would be based on need from the floor and availability of the manager. This would be easier to abuse and potentially harder to sustain but the flexibility and the results-focus may be more appealing to some.

The two could also be combined, and the kamishibai board may be a good example of that.

What, where and how much continue to be three fascinating parameters whether we are talking about just in time, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle or leader standard work.

  1. Mike

    May 8, 2009 - 2:38 pm

    How about people whos time is fixed and the amount of work they do is fixed but the type of work isnt, ie they work on whatever is available during a set number of hours? Also what about variable work and variable time, ie people who finish however much work they have then leave early when theyre done?

  2. Jon Miller

    May 11, 2009 - 9:50 am

    Hi Mike
    These type of people don’t sound like managers or leaders, unless what you are describing is fire-fighting, which is not an environment that enables leader standard work.
    In either of your examples, the point of leader standard work is still to have part of the day set into a disciplined routine to “go see” the process to provide checks and coaching, not to prescribe how a leader will spend all of their day.

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