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Standard work and operating procedures can sometimes get out of hand. As a leader, you can put so much emphasis on them that it takes away some of the innovation and flexibility in your work group.
Standardizing work is important in an operational environment. Organizations put a lot of time and energy into creating these standard operating procedures (SOPs). They standardize work with the belief that there is a best way to conduct the work that will maximize safety, quality and productivity.
It’s not unusual for companies to resolve a quality issue by creating a new procedure or checklist. The quality manager who issues a new checklist can tell the customer, “We fixed that.” But before you know it, those kinds of procedures start to really stack up and few companies go back to see whether some procedures should actually be eliminated or revised. Sometimes the people who are writing the procedures actually aren’t as in tune as they should be with what’s actually happening on the floor. Because of this, the SOP doesn’t realistically work for the people who have to use it in production. That can cause team members on the front line to improvise and work around the SOP instead of following it.
Standard work and standard operating procedures were meant to be accompanied by kaizen. Kaizen means continuous improvement. The idea was to standardize work but then also constantly look at ways to improve it. The problem in most organizations is once they set it, they forget it.
Front line leaders need to speak up and challenge some of the procedures. That can be a bit awkward because the people that created them have a sense of ownership and might get defensive when you challenge their work.
Review, question and challenge the procedures your team is required to follow. Make suggestions and then apply continuous improvement to make your process better and more efficient.
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