Standard Work Empowers Employees

4979399_f260Standard Work Empowers Employees

Effective operating systems have a standards-rich environment with visual controls and practical problem solving. The standards in such an environment explicitly define the sequence, content, timing, and expected outcome of a process. Many see the benefits of having everything predefined but don’t see how powerful standard work is at empowering employees in their roles.

Empowering Employees?

Google—which has empowered the world to find information—defines empowering as making people stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their lives and claiming their rights. Some see standard work as the opposite. Specifically defining a sequence to a task, as well the steps with time and expected outcome, limits people’s creativity, they say. It is controlling and disrespectful to the value a person’s mind brings to the process.

We Would Argue Just the Opposite 

The leading fast food restaurant has sold more than 100 billion hamburgers worldwide. Every burger was made exactly the same way—the same steps in the same order in the same amount of time with the same outcome. What is empowering about that to the employees who make these burgers? It’s their role in the process and the impact they can have if they find a better way.

In operations where each shift or crew performs tasks based on its experience, there is little opportunity for a single person to propose a change that will drive improvement for all of those performing the task. Simply put, if everyone does it their way, there is no way to contribute to the best way. On the contrary, if everyone follows a documented, well-defined process, anyone and everyone can contribute to improving that process and should be encouraged to do so.

Help your organization chose the best way to perform a task with specific attention to the sequence, work content, timing, and expected outcome. Use data to arrive at a consensus about the best practice, and then empower everyone to use their minds every time they perform the task to consider how it might be improved.

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” now available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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