Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Standard Work vs Work Standards

The ghost of Frederick Taylor is still among us. We still see companies using Talyorism, or Scientific Management, in the form of Work Standards. Work Standards are an anachronistic method for measuring hourly employees' performance. Typically, an Industrial Engineer, with stopwatch in hand, will determine how long it takes a nervous and distrusting individual to perform a task or process. After some manipulation of the data (an ambiguous process), a Standard is established. There are a few problems with the Work Standard and the way companies use it:

1. The standard is set by "someone else". Most people don't trust data developed by other people. If you want someone to believe something, they have to be a part of developing it.

2. The intent of the practice is to measure a person and not the process. Although this might make it easier to conduct performance reviews, it dehumanizes the work force and results in no improvement. If you believe, which we do, that most people come to work with a desire to succeed and do well for the company, how can you believe that "missing" the standard is the the fault of the individual?

3. It leads to distrust and more waste. If you measure people's performance on a standard of time, and base their performance and compensation on that number, their goal becomes to ensure the number is attained. Unfortunately, it becomes common for people to manipulate the system in order to succeed. No one cares if the process has been addressed or not, because the focus is in the wrong place: the numbers.

4. Scientific Management does not support "respect for people". Quite the opposite.

I have seen what this environment looks like and it isn't healthy. At one company, we estimated that 5-10% of each employee's day was spent "managing" the standards. That includes the time keeping, the reporting, the manipulation of the time codes, and more. The question I ask Management is, "Imagine what we can do with that 5-10% that will actually benefit your company."

An effective alternative to using Work Standards is Standard Work. Now, Standard Work is one of those tools that have different meanings at different companies. For our purposes, Standard Work is defined as the prescribed work sequence and cycle time for each employee, balanced to takt time (or other time goal). What makes Standard Work more effective is INTENT. The intent of Standard Work is to improve the process, whereas the intent of using Work Standards is to evaluate individuals. Improvement comes from being able to indentify the causes of failure. Failure is identified as a goal not being met. The goal not being met is because of a process problem. We leave the employee out of the cause for failure. Instead, the employee will be a part of identifying and eliminating the cause of failure, which leads to improved morale and improved process performance.

The most common struggle with using Standard Work is how to determine the goal, against which each work sequence will be measured. Do we include changeovers or leave them out of "available time" when calculating takt time? Do we include a PFD (personal, fatique and delay) factor? The answer is both simple and complex. First, remember the INTENT. Why use Standard Work? Since the purpose is to improve processes, you need to establish goals and work sequences that will uncover when a "special cause" problem occurs. So, the simple answer is, as long as the Standard Work process uncovers process problems, and not normal variation, you are using Standard Work correctly.

The challenge, therefore, is how to make this calculation repeatable and eliminate subjectivity. This is where it's important everyone understand the intent and the concepts behind Standard Work. Most importantly, the individuals and teams that are working the process need to know that Standard Work is in place to help them and to suppport them in their efforts to make beneficial contributions to the company, and should never be seen as a threat to their compensation or recognition.

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