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How to Implement and Use Leader Standard Work (LSW)

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    Standardization is a difficult but critical aspect of running a manufacturing business. From the factory floor to the C-suite, standard work plays an important role in ensuring quality, safety, efficiency, and ultimately profitability at every level of the organization.

    However, standardizing best practices becomes increasingly challenging as you ascend the organizational hierarchy. For middle managers, directors, and corporate executives, day-to-day roles are often ambiguous, encompassing responsibilities like strategy, analysis, meetings, reviewing KPIs, and so on. Simply put, the type of standard work used for frontline workers doesn’t always apply to manufacturing leaders.

    This is where Leader Standard Work (LSW) comes in. It is a framework designed specifically for the needs of those in leadership roles. 

    Let’s take a closer look at Leader Standard Work: what it is, its benefits, and how to successfully implement LSW in your organization. 

    What is Leader Standard Work (LSW)?

    Unlike operator standard work, simply known as standard work, LSW applies to those in managerial positions and above. LSW is a leadership practice involving a specific set of routines, tasks, and procedures that manufacturing leaders should perform on a continual basis. 

    The purpose of LSW is to ensure that best practices are followed at every level of leadership and that leaders focus on tasks that bring value to the company.

    Often thought of as Kaizen for managers, Leader Standard Work has many benefits, including:

    • Continuous improvement: LSW helps manufacturers build a culture of continuous improvement by creating a baseline for managerial best practices. Moreover, leaders can refine standards as the business evolves.

    • Better quality: By providing a clear, actionable framework to follow, LSW helps leaders ensure quality standards are met on a consistent basis.

    • Alignment and accountability: LSW helps leaders hold each other accountable for individual and collective responsibilities, keeping everyone on the same page regarding organizational goals and objectives.

    • Improved communication: Another benefit of LSW is better communication among leaders. Regular meetings, reporting, and cross-departmental visibility tools can all be part of standardized communication practices.

    • Greater efficiency: LSW helps leaders focus on value-added tasks and processes while eliminating busy work from their daily activities.

    The ultimate goal of Leader Standard Work is to establish proven practices that help leaders spot opportunities for improvement — and sustain those improvements long-term. 

    That said, it’s important to understand that LSW looks different at every level of an organization. We’ll discuss this further in the next section.

    Leader Standard Work at different management levels

    In a typical manufacturing organization, LSW varies based on organizational hierarchy. For instance, frontline team leads and middle managers have more standardized work than those at the corporate level.

    Pyramid graphic showing tasks involved in leader standard work at different organizational levels.

    Here are the general differences between LSW at each organizational level:

    • Team leads and supervisors: This level of management is highly task-oriented, so LSW focuses on duties like changeovers, maintenance checks, quality checks, problem-solving approaches, and coaching frontline teams.

    • Middle and senior managers: LSW at this level can include establishing standard meeting cadences, reporting practices, Gemba walks, coaching for team leads and supervisors, and ensuring leaders at lower levels follow standard work procedures.

    • Executive level leaders: This group spends the least time on standard tasks. However, LSW helps leaders in the C-suite establish regular goal-setting processes, align on business strategy, schedule site visits, and more.

    Every level of leadership needs some degree of standard work to stay focused on the right goals and raise the bar for performance.

    Leader standard work examples in manufacturing

    Although LSW looks different depending on organizational hierarchy, the goal remains the same at each level: turning lean principles into daily management practices.

    So, what does that look like in a manufacturing company? Here are some common leader standard work examples.

    LSW for team leads and supervisors

    Standard work for frontline leaders can include:

    • Supervising shift handovers: Shift handovers occur when one shift ends and another begins and involve communicating machine or line status, problems detected during a shift, open tasks, production goals, and more. Team leads must ensure this knowledge transfer happens correctly and smoothly.

    • Routine checks: These tasks involve team leads walking the floor to ensure workers are following standard operating procedures (SOPs), operators complete operator asset care (OAC) checklists, machines are running properly, and other routine activities.

    • 5S audits: Team leads may be responsible for conducting 5S audits to keep the working environment clean, safe, and free of obstacles to productivity.

    • Safety inspections: For the team lead and supervisor level, LSW should include regular safety inspections to ensure that workplace hazards remain minimal and that everyone follows proper safety protocols.

    Middle manager and site leader standard work

    At these levels (e.g., Plant Manager, Operations Manager, Maintenance Manager), LSW can include:

    • Process audits: Routine process audits, or layered process audits (LPAs) can happen at any level, but managers are typically responsible for monthly quality inspections and reviewing LPAs from lower levels. This helps them ensure processes stay aligned with strategic objectives.

    • Gemba walks: Gemba walks are periodic factory walkthroughs designed to assess employee and machine performance, ask workers about their tasks and any roadblocks, and ensure that protocols are followed.

    • Regular meetings: Middle managers and site leaders hold recurring meetings to discuss problem-solving strategies, review plant performance, and troubleshoot recurring issues.

    • Coaching: Site leaders may coach middle managers on leadership best practices, management strategies, and problem-solving tactics. Similarly, middle managers can offer regular coaching for team leads and supervisors.

    LSW for directors and executives

    At the director level and above, very little work is standardized. However, leaders at the top of a manufacturing organization typically perform the following standardized tasks to ensure alignment between their company’s operations and business goals:

    • Strategic planning and goal setting: This involves conducting regular strategic planning sessions where leaders set both long-term and short-term goals and define KPIs. This can be done on a quarterly or annual basis.

    • Performance review and reporting: Monthly or quarterly performance reviews are crucial for ensuring that various department objectives are aligned with the overall company strategy. Leaders will also provide guidance based on reporting data.

    • Strategy development: Leaders oversee the implementation of key strategic initiatives, ensuring cross-functional collaboration and adjusting strategies based on progress and market conditions.

    • Stakeholder engagement: This includes communicating regularly with the board, investors, and employees about company performance and strategic direction. Maintaining relationships with key customers, suppliers, and industry partners is another critical aspect of LSW for executive leadership.

    How to implement leader standard work in your organization

    Here are five steps you can take to implement LSW in your organization.

    1. Define and document LSW

    Start by identifying the key responsibilities and tasks for leaders at each level of the organization. Break down these tasks into daily, weekly, and monthly activities, ensuring clarity on what needs to be done, how, and when. 

    To make them easy to access and follow, digitize your work instructions. This ensures consistency and makes it easier to update and share standardized procedures across the organization.

    2. Train leaders on new standards

    Conduct comprehensive training sessions to make sure all leaders understand their responsibilities. Emphasize the importance of these tasks in achieving operational excellence and continuous improvement. 

    Additionally, you can use connected workforce technology to document new LSW. For instance, digital checklists and mobile apps can help team leaders and supervisors track tasks and receive timely meeting reminders.

    3. Monitor leader standard work execution

    Digital tools such as real-time dashboards and performance management software make it easy to monitor the execution of standard work. These tools can provide real-time data and insights, allowing leaders to track progress and identify areas needing attention. 

    Also, using mobile devices and tablets on the shop floor for instant data entry increases reporting accuracy and efficiency.

    4. Conduct regular audits and reviews

    Remember to conduct regular audits and performance reviews to ensure compliance with new leader standard work initiatives. Audits should use a combination of self-assessments and peer reviews to maintain objectivity and thoroughness. 

    Solutions like digital LSW calendars streamline audit and review schedules. Additionally, regularly reviewing audit reports enables you to spot and address areas for improvement.

    5. Foster a culture of continuous improvement

    Encourage leaders at all levels to identify and implement improvements to standard work processes, and schedule time for sharing best practices and lessons learned. Using solutions like a connected workforce platform to capture and analyze feedback from the shop floor can also provide valuable insights into potential improvements and innovations.

    Furthermore, regularly measure the impact of leader standard work on KPIs such as productivity, quality, and safety. Use these metrics to assess the effectiveness of the implemented processes and make data-driven decisions. And don’t forget to publicly recognize and celebrate successes to motivate leaders and reinforce the value of LSW.

    Modernizing LSW with the L2L Connected Workforce Platform

    Implementing leader standard work is virtually impossible without a way to collect and visualize data across your manufacturing business. Connected workforce platforms like L2L allow leaders from the shop floor to the corporate office to view real-time site performance metrics. Moreover, they integrate with existing systems, including business intelligence (BI) solutions, to provide a holistic view of plant performance in context.

    Standardizing work is critical for efficiency and productivity at every level of a manufacturing organization. Reach out to our experts at sales@l2l.com or sign up for a personalized product demo to see how L2L can help you standardize processes and unlock efficiency gains across your organization.