“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”
Leader Standard Work – supporting a new organizational direction
Every organization strives for World Class Performance. Often, an organization comes to the conclusion that implementing a CI (Continuous Improvement) program is the logical pathway to achieving these results. When an organization decides to implement a program, it is safe to say that they will be asking employees and leadership alike to either add or subtract particular habits/activities from the way they currently conduct work. Leader Standard Work becomes a critical component to achieving the success and sustainment of a new organizational direction by embedding behaviors and routines into their process. Whether it is problem solving, coaching or offering support to the frontline employees, these new routines are the building blocks to successful implementation.
I have had the opportunity to work with dozens of successful organizations that have been in business for decades. Many have started as a small or family business and have become increasingly successful over time. One could argue that their success is based upon what they have done in the past and to deviate from those practices would be insanity. Having asked many a manager why they adhere to specific practices, I am often told: “that is the way Bob taught me to do it before he retired”, or “this is the way we have always done it.”
In many cases, as the business grew, a certain manager performed the work in a way that made sense to them. And over time, this became the “standard work” for that particular management position. Often, no one questioned this particular practice due to the success – or sometimes, the lack of failure in this department. And so, in many cases, inefficiencies were built into the daily work – not by design but more by inheritance.
Another observation I have made, is that Supervisors and Managers have often been promoted into their position because they were good operators and have a wealth of knowledge about the process that they are now in charge of overseeing. Often, the skills that led them to that position do not necessarily translate into being a successful CI leader. In a case like this, it is even more important that best practice routines are established. Keep in mind, we want to set them up for success!!
CI initiatives inspire us to ask if what we are currently doing is truly the best possible practice that may be available to us. As uncomfortable as this may be, it is a necessary question. These new routines may be difficult – especially for those who have been in the organization a long time and have built a career on their past success stories. Managers may even interpret our requests for changing the way they work as a message that what they were doing was wrong – a paradigm we should always steer away from and which is most likely untrue.
However, these tough questions must be asked. Identifying key routines and behaviors for all levels of leadership create the necessary CI “habits” that drive organizational results. Leader Standard Work becomes the tool that supports these new behaviors. Adherence to these new routines is paramount to the new initiative and must be maintained for the sustainment and cultural shift we seek.