Posted by: knightbird | February 12, 2015

Leader Standard Work (LSW)

Of all the tools I had to learn while implementing Lean Management, Leader Standard Work was the most complex. I really struggled with it. While at Maniilaq, I started to understand what it was in a deeper way than I ever had before. Facing a prior year loss of almost $10 million, and a budget deficit of $5 million for the year I was hired, required quick action. I settled on 3 actions within weeks of my arrival in Kotzebue. My number one priority was to hire an experienced Lean Sensei to run our improvement efforts. I needed someone who truly and deeply understood the philosophy of Lean, and in whom I could trust completely. I did that.

The second tool I used immediately was a short term model of Hoshin. The first tasks I tackled were cultural issues, and as an outsider, I needed a response that considered the culture. Within days of my arrival, almost every community leader I spoke to told me I needed a response to 4 issues.

The first was employee tardiness and frequent absence from the workplace for personal reasons. While some of the reasons were structural and would require time to understand and address, we already had a policy regarding work hours and tardiness. I made a decision to enforce the policy and informed staff that being to work on time was a requirement of their employment.

The second issue was use of Facebook during work hours. I put together an Executive Leadership Team to investigate the facts, examine our policies and recommend changes. We used an A-3 to conduct the project and the recommendation that came forward was adoption of a policy that prohibited Facebook use during work hours, but permit it before and after hours, during breaks and lunch. I had been told that over 70% of Internet use by staff was spent on Facebook. Facebook use declined after the policy was adopted and implemented.

A third issue involved personal use of company vehicles. We had an existing policy that prohibited personal vehicle use, but it was not enforced. We decided to enforce the policy through deployment and use of Vehicle Mileage Logs. Use declined so dramatically that our vehicle tanks were using about 2/3rds less fuel. This gave us considerable savings, but this ELT product alerted us to another huge volume of waste—excess vehicle inventory and missing inventory.

The 4th issue was the $5 million budget deficit. Again, I formulated an ELT to consider a temporary restriction on non-essential hires. They put together a policy and we implemented it. Within 3 ½ months, the budget deficit was eliminated. We also gained significant information on what positioners were really necessary.

My third tool was the installation of white boards in my Lean Sensei’s office, and direction to find a suitable location for a white board for my use as a Visual Management System for my Leader Standard Work. Just what is Leader Standard Work, and what did I have in mind for my white board?

Joe Murli, a nationally recognized Lean Sensei, defines LSW to include the following:

  • Daily team reflection
  • Gemba walks
  • Rapid response to abnormalities (Andon)
  • Mentoring
  • And strategy deployment
  1. I initially learned to call daily team reflection a Huddle. Team members gather at the white board and review each other’s LSW. It is a tool that assists with nurturing the Lean Culture, and it provides a coaching and mentoring opportunity. But most of all, it helps to maintain Lean momentum. I consider momentum as sustaining Lean by requiring daily adherence to LSW, which supports continuous improvement in the workplace.
  2. Gemba Walks are an integral part of LSW. While at Chugachmiut, I began to require executives to co-locate with their staff. They worked in the Gemba. Learning to see the workplace is a difficult task. Our western management philosophy of command and control just get it done style prevents us from looking, and seeing, the results of our leadership.
  3. The heart of LSW is to prevent a defect from reaching the next customer. Build quality at the source. For our employee’s to learn how to recognize a defect and collaborate with their peers to eliminate the source of the defect is our highest calling. Why? Because hiding defective work is a difficult behavior to change. A Leaders willingness to respond to an employee’s call for help is critical to changing behaviors.
  4. Mentoring is the soul of Lean Thinking. It requires a leader to get rid of their harsh and punitive edge. A Lean Organization does not tolerate a just get it done attitude. A Leader who gives that instruction is a poor Leader who is delegating responsibility inappropriately. Letting employee’s know that they will not be blamed for defective work and providing them the encouragement, training and resources to eliminate defective work is a high calling indeed.
  5. Strategy deployment (or Hoshin Kanri) is a critical task that helps to create alignment across the organization with a strategic direction and tactical goals. A Lean workplace discusses the strategic initiatives formulated by the board, CEO and executive team. At Maniilaq, the urgency I faced required buy-in for addressing the fiscal reasons for a change in direction.
  6. Visual Management is added in my practice as a requirement of LSW. Maintenance of the white board allows a leader to roll up the standard work for every part of the organization. A great workplace understands what it does in every nook and corner. Value Streams have been analyzed, improved and made a part of the continuous improvement philosophy. Employee Standard Work (ESW) has been identified and written up into a document. ESW is trained using Training Within Industry. Defective work identified in the Value Stream is addressed immediately and all work is measured. The Team Leader Standard Work is rolled up to higher levels, and ultimately captured by the CEO’s Visual Management Board.

Leader Standard Work is written out. It is followed each and every day. The Budget Numbers are not the only consideration, and are reviewed in order to assess the health of the workplace and progress. If we see that the average cost of our work is going down, we know we are eliminating waste, which is the primary goal. Waste elimination makes us more competitive. Budget considerations don’t make us more competitive.

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