In his famous work, Gemba Kaizen
, Massaki Imai discussed the importance of operational standards when trying to improve a process. He listed nine key features of standards:
1. Represent the best, easiest, and safest way to do a job….
2. Offer the best way to preserve know-how and expertise.
3. Provide a way to measure performance.
4. Show relationship between cause and effect.
5. Provide a basis for both maintenance and improvement.
6. Provide objectives and indicate training goals.
7. Provide a basis for training.
8. Create a basis for audit or diagnosis.
9. Provide a means for preventing recurrence of errors and minimizing variability.
Imai encountered the USA’s Training-Within-Industry system during the rebuilding of Japan. He connected the key features of standards with Job Instruction (keys 1, 6, & 7), Job Methods (keys 3, 4, 5, 8, & 9), and Job Relations (keys 2 & 8).
We tend to skip the first two keys in the rush measure performance, resulting in a reactive management style when we encounter problems. Although “handling” problems gives us a sense of satisfaction, these behaviors result in significant variability and recurrence of problems (key 9).
I know the detailed nature of creating and maintaining standards is not as fulfilling as dealing with a crisis, but the long-term viability of manufacturing in America depends on how well we standardize our processes.
Executives can create a dramatic change in their organizations by taking the simple step of supporting the development of operational standards.
I challenge you to take the first step by selecting your most recent or expensive problem and asking some simple questions:
• Is there a standard?
• Did we follow the standard?
• Is there a connection between our standards (so things don’t fall through the cracks)?
After you apply standards to your chosen problem, let me know your results. Then, pick your next most pressing issue and apply standards, etc.
Imai, M. (1997). Gemba kaizen. New York: McGraw-Hill.