Leader Standard Work (LSW): Blueprint for Lean Management

Despite newly promoted managers’ technical knowledge, they may still need more management training and structure. They might forsake essential managerial activities as they react to unforeseen issues on the production floor. Undoubtedly, mastering hard skills doesn’t necessarily translate into possessing soft skills. Not to mention that senior and newly promoted supervisors will certainly adopt different behaviors. This situation is quite challenging for organizations facing workforce turnover and labor shortages.

Typically, manufacturers standardize their employees’ work and daily activities with schedules, work procedures, and performance management.

What about supervisors and managers? How can organizations standardize management across different shifts and sites?

What Is Leader Standard Work (LSW)?

Leader Standard Work (LSW) is a structured set of routines, skills, and tasks guiding managers toward consistency and efficiency daily, weekly, and monthly. Its core purpose lies in incorporating specific behaviors and actions into leadership practices. LSW improves performance across all organizational levels by standardizing management techniques and tools.

These routines, skills, and tasks sustain systematic processes. They encompass observing methods like floor tours (Gemba Walks), supporting collaboration in recurrent meetings (stand-up meetings or daily huddles), and deploying strategic objectives within the operational landscape.

By emphasizing these actions as part of daily leadership work, LSW encourages continuous improvement efforts while aiming to reduce variations in management practices. This adherence to a standardized set of activities and tasks streamlines communication, promotes managers’ accountability, drives problem-solving processes, and nurtures a shared commitment to excellence across diverse managerial levels.

Importance of Leader Standard Work (LSW)

Leader Standard Work (LSW) is a cornerstone of organizational excellence; it structures leadership practices. Its importance unfolds in several areas:

LSW establishes standard processes. It provides a framework for how team leaders, supervisors, and managers should execute daily tasks.

Example: In manufacturing, implementing LSW involves standardized checklists for equipment care. Maintenance teams follow clear, consistent guidelines to ensure smooth equipment function while allowing for continual improvement in upkeep procedures.

Leader standard work promotes better leadership skills and stabilizes the work environment. LSW guides leaders across all levels to prioritize objectives while actively supporting teams.

Example: Healthcare facilities use LSW to train senior personnel in coaching junior doctors, nurses, and administrators.

Frontline managers should prioritize active management tasks like planning, coaching, and team support. LSW enables them to engage in these critical activities to reduce time spent on office-based administrative tasks and enable a proactive approach over reactive “firefighter mode.”

Example: Within a production line, leaders dedicate time to actively supporting assembly line workers. By engaging in daily Gemba Walks and providing real-time guidance on process improvements, these managers ensure optimal performance and encourage continuous skill development among their teams.

LSW cultivates a culture of continuous improvement and problem-solving through structured management approaches.

Example: LSW implementation in a project management setting involves regular cross-functional team meetings to address project challenges. This practice cultivates improvement and encourages team members to solve problems collectively.

Implementing LSW at Different Organizational Levels

Implementing Leader Standard Work (LSW) involves a bottom-up approach, from operators to various hierarchical levels until executives. The proportion of standard work varies according to the hierarchical level and each organization.

How to Standardize Frontline Leaders’ Work

Standardizing the work of frontline leaders involves structuring their daily tasks, tools, and behaviors. For instance, frontline supervisors conduct recurrent meetings, inspections, and daily checks to ensure operational excellence. 

Implementing digital systems, monitoring tools, and prescribing management behaviors aids in standardizing their approaches. Moreover, setting clear goals and tracking performance indicators are integral to aligning with organizational objectives.

1. Standardize Management Practices

An organization can standardize management practices to establish daily control, supervise activities, escalate issues, and ensure better communication between teams. It also formalizes how managers detect problems and follow up on corrective actions.

Daily Checks (Proactive Gemba Walks)

  • Process Confirmation
  • Team Leader Gemba Walk
  • Supervisor Gemba Walk
  • Executive Gemba Walk
  • 5S Checklist
  • Safety Walk

Audits and Recurrent Inspections

  • Quality Inspection
  • HACCP, ISO, SQF Audit
  • Health and Safety Inspection
  • Equipment Inspection
  • Standard Operating Audit
  • 5S Audit

Visual Management

  • Monitoring KPI Dashboards
  • Monitoring Management Performance of Supervisors
  • 5S System

Tiered Meetings Structure

Procedures and Training

  • Troubleshooting
  • Operational Procedures
  • Setup (SMED)
  • Employee Evaluation
  • Best Practices
  • Preventive Maintenance
  • Employee Onboarding
  • Training Procedures

2. Equip Team Leaders and Directors with Management Tools

It might be challenging to sustain management standards with traditional tools such as SMS, email, paper-based inspection, whiteboards, post-its, and Excel. Over time, the administrative workload and transcription of information make adopting strong management practices difficult. In contrast, a digital daily management system increases supervisors’ adherence to the organization’s management processes. For example, Kruger Products has gone digital to manage day-to-day operations.

3. Establish Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Routines with an LSW Calendar

Establishing Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Routines with an LSW Calendar is instrumental in guiding managers’ recurrent practices (regular inspections, audits, floor tours, and daily meetings). This calendar serves as a structured framework that defines these management rituals and enables top managers to monitor adherence levels to ensure consistency and efficacy across the organization.

4. Establish Objectives and Performance Indicators

Monitoring departmental objectives becomes more streamlined for managers via key performance indicators (KPIs). These indicators establish clear goals, facilitate effective monitoring, and promote a sense of ownership and accountability.

5. Promoting Optimal Management Behaviors

Standardizing behaviors is crucial in driving team performance. Recurrent 1:1 meetings facilitate objective discussions and evaluate performance. Regularly refining standardized work ensures efficiency, assisted by structured coaching that helps leaders understand LSW objectives, develop skills, and maintain accountability. Personal development enables continual improvement, while initiatives like embracing letdowns for accelerated learning, skill enhancement, and promoting positive behavior contribute to leadership growth.

Operator vs. Leader Standard Work

In manufacturing, leaders involve frontline employees in cultivating an improvement culture and standardizing work. Operators adhere to detailed procedures (SOPs), schedules, 5S principles, and performance targets, often resulting in more standardized daily tasks than managers’. Operator standard work emphasizes precise task execution for efficiency and quality.

Leader Standard Work (LSW) focuses on leaders’ behaviors essential for upholding a Lean culture. Unlike operator standard work, LSW emphasizes leadership actions such as Gemba Walks, strategic direction setting, coaching, and supporting continuous improvement.

Managers, support groups, and directors significantly impact employee potential and innovation. A manager needs a structured standard and daily routine to maintain employee standards. Recognizing the importance of both employee and leader standards is crucial.

Frontline managers are critical in maximizing employee potential but often require additional preparation. Internal promotions based on individual performance don’t automatically translate to practical managerial skills. Transforming every manager into a proficient leader demands tailored development programs and ongoing coaching. Bridging this management gap necessitates a shift to active management.

Standardization at all management levels helps with operational excellence and continuous improvement from employees to executives:

In a structured business setting, Sarah, a newly promoted supervisor, stuck to a well-planned agenda for her first daily operations on the manufacturing floor. Her morning routines began with a proactive Gemba Walk to provide real-time insights into operations. She efficiently led a concise production meeting to ensure team alignment and address immediate concerns. Transitioning into the afternoon, Sarah executed a second Gemba Walk and facilitated a seamless shift handover meeting to maintain operational continuity. Later that week, she dedicated time to a health and safety inspection and conducted a comprehensive 5S audit to uphold organizational standards.

For more LSW examples, visit our template hub, where you can explore a variety of structured daily work agendas tailored to different managerial roles.

Benefits of Standardizing Managers’ Work

Standardizing a manager’s daily work within manufacturing companies brings numerous advantages facilitated by implementing Leader Standard Work (LSW). These benefits of LSW encompass various aspects:

Establishing standard practices aligned with organizational objectives creates unity and ensures that managerial efforts are directed towards overarching company goals.

LSW empowers leaders to cultivate team problem-solving skills through a coaching approach.

System standardization empowers managers to control operations and identify issues proactively.

Implementing LSW streamlines operations, accelerates employee onboarding, and promotes a safer workplace environment.

Inspiring a bottom-up approach, LSW engages everyone in ongoing enhancements to focus on process-driven problem-solving. LSW also cultivates a blame-free environment to encourage open communication by shifting focus from individuals to systemic enhancements.

By prioritizing process-based problem-solving over individual attributions, LSW cultivates enhanced response agility, eradicates silos, and instills a culture of accountability.

The Connection Between LSW and DMS

Leader Standard Work (LSW) and the Daily Management System share a profound connection in shaping an organization’s culture and driving continuous improvement.

As a set of structured routines guiding managerial tasks, Leader Standard Work is a foundation for a consistent leadership approach. Integrated seamlessly within the Daily Management System, LSW encompasses essential practices such as the daily accountability process, Gemba Walks, and process confirmation.

Both Leader Standard Work (LSW) and Daily Management Systems reinforce accountability within the organizational framework. LSW’s emphasis on setting standards and continuous improvement aligns seamlessly with the accountability-driven nature of the Daily Management System. Additionally, both systems ensure leaders’ engagement in activities that align with organizational strategies.

LSW shapes leadership behaviors by promoting practices such as Gemba Walks and structured tiered meetings, which serve as linchpins in shaping and perpetuating the cultural traits nurtured by the Daily Management System. Furthermore, both systems aim to foster a culture of excellence, aligning efforts toward continuous improvement and problem-solving.

In essence, Leader Standard Work acts as the guiding principle, setting expectations and behaviors for leaders. At the same time, the Daily Management System provides the structure and processes for leaders to enact and sustain those behaviors.

Digital Solutions to Sustain Management Standards

Digital solutions sustain management standards by offering a connected platform that helps frontline workers and managers in daily operations. These solutions streamline Leader Standard Work (LSW) by providing centralized documentation, real-time updates, collaboration tools, and robust data analysis capabilities. They alleviate administrative burdens, such as transcription and paper-based analysis.

These tools address challenges like task scheduling, progress tracking, and accountability while systematically evaluating activities for improvements and waste reduction. Additionally, digital platforms enable digitized note-taking during Gemba Walks to aid data collection and informed decision-making.

Marie-Anne Côté, Production Director at IPL Plastics

Daily Management and Leader Standard Work Solution

Tervene supports organizations’ daily operations control. Our connected platform empowers frontline teams and top management to reach operational excellence with more robust day-to-day management, collaboration, and problem-solving processes.

Manufacturing and operation leaders such as Safran, Mars Wrigley, Lactalis, Siemens, Cascades, and many SMBs digitalized their management practices with our help: Gemba Walks, daily checks, audits, inspections, operational meetings, digital procedures, improvement management, and much more.

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