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Jeff Liker

Jeff Liker: Standards might stem from an individual’s suggestion or it could be the result of a group discussion

By Jeff Liker, - Last updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

In the Toyota Way the purpose of standardized work, or any standards for that matter, is to provide a baseline for kaizen.  If 5 people do the job differently than any individual with an idea will only apply the idea to her own work.  The individual will learn something, but the group will not.  In order for a group to learn they have to agree on a standard and then when a new idea is tried and confirmed it becomes the new standard.  If only one individual was doing the job they might be able to learn in their head and perform at a high level improving over time, but even then the next individual who takes over would have to start learning from scratch.

Exactly how the standard comes about, or the kaizen idea comes about, can vary.  It might be an individual’s suggestion or it could be the result of a group discussion.  In any case Toyota always wants one individual to take responsibility for seeing through the change.  Teams disperse responsibility and work in very inefficient ways.  In Japan they only have one individual doing a given job on the day shift and one on the evening shift.  As long as those two people agree on the improvement and the group leader improves it is written into the standardized work.  In the United States at NUMMI they started to have job rotation because of ergonomics issues and 4 people do the job on the day shift and 4 at night so many people have to agree.  In general Toyota does not like this system, but they went along with it because it became very important to the Americans to have variety in their jobs.  So this adds complexity and variability and there must be strong leadership to facilitate improvements and insure team members follow the standardized work.

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