In Lean, Standard Work (often called standardized work) is the cornerstone of any continuous improvement effort. Let’s use this for our Standard Work definition: Standard Work is a formally defined and documented process to produce at a specified pace. Let’s start off by briefly reviewing how standards, standardization, and Standard Work all fit together.
Before the front line reads that and thinks, “Great, just another thing I have to do,” enforcement works both ways—leaders have to adhere to standardization as well. In sophisticated systems, you may see several different versions of Standard Work, each balanced to a different takt time. Standard Work-in-process can be established as an individual item or as a set, like four tires. Once Standard Work is established, you can start stabilizing the physical layout of a work area. If everyone is doing Standard Work, the quality of parts you receive will be higher, making your job easier. That means that if the process documentation says an employee needs twelve minutes to do a task, the boss can’t expect it done in eight.


When demand rises or falls, the adjusted takt time determines which version of Standard Work the team uses. If you try to implement Standard Work in an area with a lot of production problems or quality issues, you will have a difficult time establishing a stable process.
You know exactly what will be coming off the end of an assembly line, and you know exactly when.
Standard Work is a very specialized kind of standardization useful in very specific situations. Standard Work helps companies reach their improvement targets, but also provides a stable, reasonable working environment for frontline employees. OSHA has guidelines about what protective gear employees have to wear and how much they can lift) or define the expected outcome of a process (i.e.
If Standard Work has you producing faster than takt time, you have extra capacity, and are overproducing.
In fact, you may see more frequent changes in a process after it is standardized than before.
Individual steps may have specific, detailed instructions that are not contained in the Standard Work Sheet.


Learning how to standardize a process using Standard Work is one of those things that is easy to do at a basic level. In order for standardization to be effective, it has to be communicated and it has to be enforced. If Standard Work has you producing slower than takt time, your customers are waiting for products, if they can get them at all.
Instead, office workers should focus on using other forms of standardization to reduce variation in processes as much as possible. Your team will lose faith in Lean (and in you) if you create a double standard and violate Standard Work principles, even if it is just once in a while. You are better off using overtime or adjusting staffing than pushing people to work faster than Standard Work.



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