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Peter Handlinger

Peter Handlinger: Use standards as a rallying point, not in a punitive sense!

By Peter Handlinger, - Last updated: Friday, March 22, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

Before considering the question directly it might be useful to understand that it only applies to the uptown white bread world of organisations that actually have standards, however misguided/informed the underlying thinking that created them may have been. There is, in the real world, a huge heaving mass of the economic sector that has very little comprehension of the benefit that ‘standards’ can bring to the organisation (this issue of establishing standards is perhaps the subject of another debate on The Lean Edge).

I don’t feel that there is a simple Yes/No answer to the questions posed. It depends on the situation … and above all on management’s intent regarding moving the business forward. And this is where the success, or otherwise, of improving standards occurs. The ability to effectively deliver training (in its broadest sense) will impact on your ability to effect the improvement. Using the Yokoten principle the success (or failure) of the improvement can be distributed and considered for broader implementation where applicable.

But, at the end of the day it is up to management to decide how they wish to position ‘standards’ within the business. If, for example, management choose to position the ‘standards’ as a rallying point then the approach to improvement is predominantly problem solving based with the standards providing the gap. The process of improvement then proceeds, on the whole, relatively smoothly based on the technical & process ability of the staff re problem solving.

However, I have found that many businesses use ‘standards’ in a punitive sense. This is where improvement activities come unstuck simply because the improvement process is then embedded within the industrial relations space of a business. Any form of improvement thus becomes an industrial relations consultation (technical definition) – staff will feel that the business is changing their basic conditions of employment which leads to discussions regarding pay ….. you can see where this ends up. Your ‘consultation’ re standards to improve the business has ended up as a negotiation and is then mired in the murky world of bargaining. The first casualty is any form of improvement.

So, the first imperative to improve a standard is for management to:

Ø  Ensure that standards are used as a rallying point (cf. Mike Rother’s visual depiction of this concept)

Ø  Separate conditions of employment from the improvement process

Ø  Coach first line supervision in problem solving practices

Given the above you will have set the foundation for standard improvement activities.

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