Monday, February 8, 2016

Standardized Work

Mary is licensed veterinary technician. When a shocky, weak puppy was presented, Dr. A tells her that a PCV and blood glucose is always indicated in cases such as this and should be performed even before the doctor sees the pet. Two weeks later, a similar case presents and Mary performs both tests immediately upon intake. Dr. B, the doctor on duty, pulls her aside and angrily instructs her to never perform any blood tests without orders from the case doctor.

Unfortunately, we have all been witness to such scenarios. The doctors may not realize these type of situations are occurring.  But, the effects on staff can be far reaching.  It engenders feelings on the part of staff of anger, resentment, confusion and loss of confidence in management.

In the Lean method, “standardized work” is our definition of the best way to do work in a way that ensures safety and quality, while driving the best productivity and minimizing delays for the customer. It is the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment. It is necessary for “flow” and “pull”. Standardized work gets everybody on the same page and reduces employee anxiety. When processes are in chaos, they must first be brought into some semblance of stability. What is the best way to do our work? This stability (and ongoing improvement) is achieved through standardized work. Once there has been some degree of order established, then the processes can be improved by applying other Lean methodologies, such as kaizen.

Standardized work is not the same as “standard” work. Standard work might imply written in stone, inflexible, inappropriately detailed or micromanaged. Standardized work is broader in concept. Think in terms of simple algorithms or checklists. For example, requiring the drawing of a blood sample for a routine health profile into a 3 cc syringe as opposed to a 5cc syringe would, in most cases, be too detailed for standardized work. However, in the diagnosing of the cause of a “red eye,” it is important to specify that the Schirmer tear test be run prior to staining the cornea or using any topical anesthetic drops in order to check for glaucoma. “Canned” computer estimates might be thought of as another form of standardized work in that they do not dictate a specific recipe, but suggest considering the need for such drugs or services such as antibiotics, hospitalization, analgesics, diagnostic tests, etc. They act as a reminder.

When we create standardized work documents, it’s important to ask what should be standardized and to what level of detail. What problems are solved or prevented by having standardized work? What goals are being accomplished? The goal is not to have standardized work. The goal is better performance in all dimensions and a better workplace for all. Standardized work is a “means to an end”, not a raison d’etre. As mentioned above, the reason for standardized work is to start the process of improvement, which ultimately is for the purpose of increasing quality and value for the client, the “holy grail” of Lean.

Chaos must be brought under some control with Standardized Work before Lean "tools" can improve processes. Note that the blue dot becomes increasingly evident as abnormal as the process is first standardized and then improved. Lean helps identify problems.

But there are also some important ramifications. Like most of the methodologies that make up TPS, standardized work is designed by consensus with staff.  Consensus means obtaining ideas for problem solving from all stakeholders, including staff. It comes from the mindset that all workers have valuable input, knowledge and skills that are assets to the organization in problem solving. It is a sign of respect for workers. It does not mean that all opinions are valid and must be taken or that each individual gets to do the work however they want. Toyota has long emphasized that standardized work must be created by those who do the work. It is not dictated by managers or experts.

By involving workers in this way, a vital resource is utilized and leads to increased “buy in” and engagement. It improves communication and reduces anxiety on the part of everyone of not knowing what is the correct (preferred, agreed upon) way or doing something incorrectly. It helps insure that vital information is available even if a key staff member is absent or has moved on. Plus, standardized work becomes the basis for a formal, in-house training program and is the foundation for continuous improvement.

No comments:

Post a Comment