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David Mann, leading Lean expert said, “Standard work for leaders is the engine of Lean Management.”

As external disruptions continue to add complexities to our supply chains, it is more important than ever to build resilience into our operations to limit crisis response time and maximise efficiencies where possible. To help build a culture of continuous improvement where everyone plays a part and is empowered to self-solve at the source, frameworks like leader standard work allow leaders to step away from day-to-day operations and instead focus on opportunities and strategic opportunities to have the greatest impact for their teams.

What is LSW?

Leader standard work (LSW) is a leadership framework that ensures standardized processes are in place and consistently followed, right across an organization, no matter its size or location. It is a practical way to bring lean thinking principles into daily practice and develop world-class operations.

Why should I implement LSW?

LSW improves overall consistency and efficiency, enhances performance, and empowers leaders and teams. The framework allows leaders to focus on the most important, high value tasks by establishing daily, weekly, and monthly work routines that sustain performance improvements. This consistency helps to prevent day-to-day problems and a reactive firefighting culture hijacking continuous improvement initiatives.

Many larger, multinational corporations are operating across different regions and countries, increasing the chance of discrete goals, processes and standards being followed between teams. LSW limits this variation, bridging cultural gaps and concentrating on an overall performance standard and alignment, leading to more predictable outcomes and smoother production flow.

For smaller companies, LSW can help to establish robust leadership routines and ensure that even the busiest managers are able to dedicate time to coaching and developing their teams. This is crucial for fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Using consistent support routines, leaders can proactively undertake regular process observation and review key performance indicators (KPIs), to sustain performance improvements and identify further opportunities as they arise or potential issues before they escalate and potentially disrupt production.

How do I implement LSW in my organization?

There are different considerations within the LSW framework depending on the level of management. For example, a team leader would have more routine tasks and less free time in their day for strategic tasks.  A factory floor supervisor may emphasize coaching and embedding particular processes, while an executive may have a more strategic goal-setting lens or undertake site visits to connect with their people and gather information on overall processes on the shop floor (known as Gemba walks).

Challenges to consider

Each organization’s supply chain is unique and brings its own challenges. Therefore, the specific LSW framework that is adopted by an organization needs to be customized to fit its needs. On top of this, to successfully implement LSW, an organization requires leadership commitment from the top down.  Rigorous controls need to be in place, until it becomes a daily habit. Therefore all managers will need to be trained to ensure a successful change process.  

However, by overcoming these challenges and taking the time to define and refine the framework, LSW will have the best chance of becoming a powerful tool for driving success in supply chain and manufacturing organizations. Building a strong leadership foundation will give companies a winning culture that promotes consistent practices, focuses on visibility through clear communication, and empowers their people to be more proactive in their performance standards and development.  

Are you wanting to embed the LSW framework into your organization? CCi’s how-to guide gives leaders a step-by-step guide to implementation, no matter your organization’s size or location.

Contact us to find out how we can help you implement leader standard work to improve organization-wide efficiency and build your operations resilience.

About the author

Chanti Wilson, Solutions Architect, Competitive Capabilities International (CCi), has 25+ years of experience working with global Supply Chains to design, develop and create innovative solutions that build individual and organisational Supply Chain Capability.