Leader Standard Work: Building behaviors that drive bottom-line results

leader standard work

The world of work is rapidly changing. Now more than ever, leaders need to create new habits and behaviors that will save time, speed up decision-making and develop the next generation of leaders. Leader Standard Work (LSW) is a systematic way of working that is critical to developing a continuous improvement culture that drives customer value. Applied correctly, LSW can be a powerful mechanism to create alignment, build consistency and shift your management style from firefighting to forward thinking.

On 14 July 2020, over 370 attendees from leading global organizations ― including Ashland, Bayer, Diageo, Cargill and DuPont ― attended Leader Standard Work: Building behaviors that drive bottom-line results, a TRACC Community webinar hosted by Alex Cosgrove, Director of Operations, CCi Europe and Luke Arnold, Head of Business Units, Weetabix. The speakers explored the benefits of LSW and how it can help you sustain your CI gains; they also offered practical advice for developing the habits and behaviors that drive CI success.

Alex began the webinar by explaining some of the basic tenets of LSW and sharing a definition of the term: ‘The principles of process-level standardized work applied to key leadership routines’. “Without a standard at the process level, you cannot apply your leadership routines; standards help leaders make the shift from a sole focus on results to a dual focus on process plus results,” explained Alex. “But there’s a leadership culture that needs to foster this approach, it needs to be the right mindset – you’re doing this because you care and not just to tick a box. You’re going in there to observe the process, listen and understand and not to reply. This is the concept around becoming a ‘servant leader’ – servant leadership is how you will develop your teams, so that everybody, every day is working on improvements. This is fundamental to the elements of LSW.”

The key objective of LSW is ‘achieving zero’ – reducing accidents, quality defects and waste to zero. Fundamentally, LSW is about adding value to the customer and the organization; it’s about creating capability and supporting the organization to focus on the value. Leaders can achieve this by coaching and supporting throughout the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) process.

Alex went on to discuss the two types of value-adding work:

He explained that the two are not mutually exclusive and illustrate the shift from traditional organizations that are often embroiled in firefighting to Lean organizations, where the focus is on developing teams and building a sustainable business. Alex also talked about the vital link between LSW and the gemba process and shared three key gemba principles: Check because you care, learn by doing and improve the standard. “When doing gemba you see the true reality and not the filtered reality which people sometimes convey to you. It’s about ensuring everyone is engaged in improving the process,” he said.

Alex then shared a five-step guide to implementing LSW:

  1. Clarify the context
    Review organizational objectives and create a LSW framework customized to the environment.
  2. Understand the present
    Review current management work activities and analyze the routine activities.
  3. Design new LSW routines
    Agree on new LSW activities, agree on standard work formats and develop the system.
  4. Implement and support
    Time-phase the implementation of the LSW system, and train, coach and create support mechanisms.
  5. Maintain and refine
    Set up the LSW review system and set mechanisms in place to drive its continual improvement.

In part two of the webinar, Luke looked at the practical application of LSW and explained that a harmonious blend of different personality types is one of the keys to LSW success. He went on to discuss Weetabix’s performance management cycle – around which the organizations standard work is built ― and emphasized that everyone in the organization should understand how they directly impact the business’s success.

Luke then went on to explain the implementation of LSW in his organization. The first step is aligning leadership team goals to the company vision, and then creating improvement plans that impact the following key areas: safety, quality, productivity, cost, delivery, morale (SQPCDM). The plans then need to be managed, with leaders offering coaching and support to teams and setting a standard work timetable. “This isn’t just about filling your diary with meetings,” said Luke. “This is about creating meaningful time in a standard way throughout the organization where you’re going to attend an event and look to add value.” The final step in the process is reviewing KPI metrics and assessing their impact.

Luke concluded his presentation by discussing the impact of COVID-19 on LSW at Weetabix. “I was concerned it would derail our standard work,” he said, “but what I’ve actually found is how adaptable to change we have become as an organization.” He mentioned some of the new procedures that have been implemented, including putting markings on the floor during daily operations reviews to enable social distancing, and using technology to give employees remote access. “Though it’s not easy, LSW is achievable during this time,” said Alex. “We are getting more familiar with how to adapt to social distancing while implementing a robust performance management cycle driven through LSW.”

To find out more about the benefits of LSW and to watch the webinar on demand, click here.