Don’t Call HR Yet!

“If someone isn’t following standard work then it becomes an individual performance issue.” 

Have you ever heard a leader say something like that? 

It is important to help leaders understand that there are many reasons why standardized work may not be followed and creating a human resource performance improvement plan should not be the first step.

A leader must go and see the actual condition that is causing the employee to not follow standardized work (SW).  Leaders need to ask why SW isn’t followed.  Here are some potential reasons:

  • They don’t know about the SW: How was the change communicated?  At a team-meeting where not everyone was present?  Via email buried under other announcements?
  • They aren’t trained or capable to do the SW: They may not have the tools or the environment does not allow then to follow it.  The training provided might not have been enough for them.
  • All situations not considered when creating the SW: In order to respond to customers, the SW may not be capable to meet their needs.  Do not jump to the conclusion that there isn’t a good reason why an employee did something different.  They are on your team because of their hearts and minds and not just a pair of hands right?
  • They already discovered a better way: Help them know how to spread improvements discovered by frontline workers.
  • No leadership involvement: If leadership does not show they care the process is being followed on a regular basis and helping solve problems uncovered after implementation, then how can you expect employees to care?
  • Outcome not achieved but SW still being requiredStandardization is not a Lean goal but a tool to help improve outcomes.  If your hypothesized outcome didn’t come true, why are you still requiring staff to follow the SW?
  • You aren’t improving the SW: Over time the SW will unconsciously change if the continuous improvement of it is not designed or part of your culture.  The SW may have had elements missing or wasn’t fully tested.
  • Leadership has placed the wrong person in the role: There are some people who willfully do not follow SW.  Leadership must take responsibility for this too since they either tolerated bad behavior because of their productivity or have been so uninvolved to know a person does not fit in their new culture.

As you can see, there are many reasons why people do not follow standard work before you need to punish with HR.

What are some other reasons you have seen why SW isn’t followed?

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Filed under Change Management, Learn Leadership, Problem Solving, Reflection, Respect For People, Strategy Deployment

9 responses to “Don’t Call HR Yet!

  1. There is one more reason I should have added (and it’s a big one):

    * The employee or someone on their team was not involved in creating the standardized work – Without their involvement in designing, you will have less buy-in and the chances are high the SW doesn’t fit with the current working conditions. Staff will also felt done-to.

  2. Peter Stevens (TowardsLean)

    Two additions :
    – On the theme “They don’t know about the SW” : it’s vital for team members to understand the purpose of, intentions of, the story behind the SW.
    – On the theme “No leadership involvement” : it’s the (team)leader’s responsibility check SW is adhered to on a frequent basis. Checking adherence of SW demonstrates the importance of SW to teammembers. Too often I find teamleads and managers good at defining SW, but lacking to verify adherence and execution.

    • Good additions Peter.

      What is amazing about mangers who define SW but lack to verify adherence and execution are often the same who think it is an individual performance issue with HR!

      I also should have added the importance of explaining the why behind the SW.

  3. Mike Coppock

    You’re right, the why is a big part of helping an employee understand the importance of SW.

    Understanding the need for SW, then the associated Tasks, along with the What, When, Where, How and WHY all play a big role in creating, delivering and sustaining SW.

    Great Post! Thanks!

  4. Hi Brian,

    Right on!

    We use leader standard work as an SDCA activity to ensure that the standards are being followed and that the standards are sufficient. If we have an issue on either front, we need to ask why.

    And, it’s the 5 why’s, not the 5 who’s!

    Often the root cause(s) are as you identified, and perhaps a few more – like the standard work was not developed with/by any of the people who do the job itself.

    It’s typically not a (personal) performance issue. Although, there are plenty of places with a deep culture of non-compliance.

    The more I see, the more I think we need to do a much better job beyond the “validation” of standard work through direct observation. We need to develop and deploy a sufficient job instruction training plan. Unfortunately, that’s not very sexy stuff, so it gets short shrift.

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  6. I would add:

    – Because they weren’t involved in creating the standardized work
    – They don’t have the tools or the equipment or the time to properly follow it
    – The standardized work is overly specific and overly constraining about things that don’t impact quality

    Either way, the best thing to do as a manager when you see somebody “not following standardized work” is to ask why.

  7. I would suggest to turn the whole thing around. Managers (“leaders”) failing to engage their teams in such a way that SW is voluntarily followed, should be coached by HR (not punished!) to improve their leadership skillset.

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