Leadership Part 4: What should a leader standardise?

Leadership Part 4: What should a leader standardise?


Let’s take a further look at standard work for leaders. What are the impacts a leader has when effectively implementing their standard work and daily management checks throughout their day?

What should a leader standardise? Well, there are just a few simple things:

Leaders have many conflicting schedules and challenges throughout their day – so standardise what you can!

You’re not necessarily driven continually by the same repetitive process day in day out. But there are some basic things that you should standardise in the way that you operate. One of those would be your routines. Routines are the bits and pieces of your day that provide consistency to other people as well as yourself. If others can see that you’re a consistent, routine driven person, you will encourage them to be consistent and routine driven. This can be as simple as turning up to a team huddle like clockwork every morning, listening in, and sometimes being involved.

Leaders are always curious.

The second thing that’s important- and this relates to the above- is your questions. You should ask consistent questions. You want to be known as the leader who asks “Why?”

  • Why is something going well?
  • Why isn’t it going well?
  • What are you doing about it?
  • How are we dealing with it?
  • And most importantly, “What do you think?”

This can be very objective and consistent for people, which allows you to be assertive- play the ball, not the person. Leaders show a keen interest in why the process may be working well or may not be working well. A leader asks “why” a lot! It shows a genuine interest in what the team is doing.

Leaders are great at giving praise and providing recognition.

The third thing that a leader needs to be able to do pretty consistently is to give compliments. Does this seem a little bit unusual? I can guarantee you if there’s one thing the human brain likes more than anything, it’s receiving a compliment in front of peers and feeling like they’ve been appreciated for a job well done.  It doesn’t have to be a big fanfare, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. But at least recognise someone’s efforts. Importantly, make sure praise is earned. Just showing up for all shifts in a week for the first time in 6 months is not praise-worthy-  that’s called doing your job.

Praise little improvements, ideas and going the extra mile, even when the result was not great- you are recognising the effort! When things aren’t going well, and there really isn’t the ability to give a compliment, that’s okay. We can compliment people on how hard they’re working to resolve the issue, we can compliment them on how well they’re using their Lean tools to improve the situation. We can comment on how well they stop-to-fix when there are problems.

As you can see from these three things, routines, questions and compliments, we can drive some very positive behaviours and very accountable behaviours in business.


The second thing that I wanted to discuss is what leaders are confirming in daily management checks. Take the above approaches into the workplace. Let’s take a look:

Leaders enable the meeting of KPIs through consistency.

It’s important as a leader that you do check in that people are following the standard work. Are they being consistent with the standard work? What problems prevent us from sticking to standard work? Is standard work moving us towards our KPI targets? A curiosity about the use and effectiveness of their standard work will drive their own interest in adhering to and improving it, and that is moving us towards our strategy. As a leader in a business, you’re responsible for the strategy.

Leaders encourage stop-to-fix.

One of the questions that’s really important here is- are we closing the gap between any effect/defect and the root cause of those effects/defects? It’s really important to be able to identify if we are getting closer to the point- to the root cause. If you’re seeing KPIs that are not trending in the right direction, your job is to keep being curious about the issue and the questions above assist you in drawing out the ideas from the team. From your approach, what you’re actually creating is an environment where you’re encouraging stop-to-fix.

Stop-to-fix is one of the hardest things to do in a business in any operation or any process- it’s very tempting just to work around the problems or come back and fix them later, or even pass the defect onto another part of the process or another part of the business. Stop-to-fix creates a vastly different environment where people are really focused on making sure that they don’t pass on defects to another part of the process or a customer.

Leaders support in-process quality checks.

To that end, the other part of what a leader should be looking to do daily is to encourage quality checks and error-proofing- in the process. We quite often put quality and QA checks at the end of a process, or maybe the end of a major step, before a product or a service goes out to a client. Leaders should encourage in-process quality checks and error proofing. By building these into our standard work, we are going to be in a much better position to deliver a high-quality product or service to our customer, or the next stage of the process.


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