Possible Causes of Standard Work Fails

Understanding reliable methods of achieving high quality, and then applying them consistently, is a difficult task for anyone. If you are struggling with standardizing work to the best known practices, consider these possible causes:

1. Disagreement on Standards

Without standards, there can be no improvement.

Taiichi Ohno

People will struggle to standardize practices without first agreeing to standards to evaluate with. Note all important standards, and how well each option satisfies them. Certain parts will be obvious to some, but hidden from others, so it is critical to document a thoroughly as possible. This information will support future improvements, and training others.

Examples of standards:
  • Same day delivery
  • X defects per million
  • Break even
  • 24/7 service

2. Lack of Justification

When the reasons outlined in point 1 are not readily available, people forget and begin to relapse into bad habits. You may get lucky and the consequences of deviation cause little harm, but luck is a dangerous factor. Reasons for any standardized work should be explicit and impossible to forget.

Examples of justifications:
  • Failure to properly ventilate will create a volatile buildup of gases, which could explode in the presence of a spark.
  • Around sea level, microbes may survive if water is not boiled for at least 1 minute.

3. Poor Processes for Proposing and Testing Improvements

If there isn’t a clear path to identify opportunities and make changes, then people will deviate with their own unique ideas. This can quickly devolve into preferential behaviors with unintended consequences. Even if the free for all generally creates positive changes, most will hesitate to share their innovations with others. This can also lead to situations where practices diverge so greatly that it becomes difficult to consolidate.

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