“Where there is no Standard there can be no Kaizen” – Taiichi Ohno
Not long time ago I was talking with a college about the reasons for unsuccessful lean implementations. I shared with him this time on which after a very successful launch, suddenly everything stop working. I had no idea of the reason until one day when talking with one of our managers with previous experience on a lean manufacturing environment he said, “you know what is our problem? That we are using standards to make people accountable and take disciplinary actions if they do not”.
Standards are mean to be a guidance to ensure effective consistent work. We cannot penalize our employees for making mistakes, that is how we learn. Just like in our private lives we used symbols to mark our milestones and set our path to happiness, standards are tools to show us the current right way to complete a task in a such a way that we will satisfy our customer needs.
Standards are not written on stone, they are not static but dynamic, change over time. They shall change because they are the baseline for continuous improvement. Kaizen or continuous improvement is a lot about experimenting with new things, try something new and see how the outcome changes. As managers we need to be aware that experiments are not always successful. The real value is that we try something different, we did not accept something just because we always do it that way!
We need to use standards to set the right path to customer satisfaction and to inspire our employees to improve their process. An employee who is owner of the process and actively participate from the continuous improvement process, is an employee who cares and therefore feels greater levels of job satisfaction. With the right mentorship, our employees will be problem solvers, better professionals; and of course if they feel better by the time they get back home they will be better people as well.