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Auburn Technical Assistance Center (ATAC)

Key Features of Standards- An Executive's guide to dramatic improvement

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.
(256) 565-4020

Imai, M. (1997). Gemba kaizen. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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Comment by David Hicks on July 21, 2010 at 7:19am
So how do we make the Cause-Effect relationship clear to management? Do you create a pilot cell and monitor output and defects? I worry that creating standards without the underlying support for problem solving will just frustrate operators. I've seen several companies that don't have the fortitude to face the issues surfaced by standards, cells, and kanban. One place knew they had 250 defective parts, but to "make the delivery numbers" they installed parts, knowing they were going to have to run them back through the repair department a few days later.
Comment by David Hicks on July 21, 2010 at 5:48am
So true! Why do you think it is so hard to get leadership's support to create standards?


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