Work Smarter, Not Harder

What’s the secret to working smarter, not harder? The answer is standardized work methods. If you do not have documented standards for your work, then you are working much harder than necessary.

Standards, by their nature, imply that they are good. And they are. When we have standards for the way we work, we have a method that enables us to improve control of our operations. Documented standards provide us with the baseline against which to measure our performance. When we have standards, we are able to optimize our performance by reducing waste and variability in our operations and improving the quality of our product or service.

When developing standards for work methods, here are some considerations to help you get started:

  1. Standards must be followed. In order to achieve this, buy-in must come from all of those who are using the standard. One way to accomplish this is to engage the people who will be following the standards to develop them. This approach enables a “self-governing” process. Also, locate a copy of the standards at each workstation (or ensure people know where to find them online).
  2. Standards must be monitored for improvement opportunities. Continuous improvement is key to ensuring that your standards are always current and that they meet the organization’s and customer’s needs.
  3. Manage exceptions by documenting, reviewing, and acting on the exceptions. If exceptions are too frequent, this is an indication that the standards need to be changed.

Without standards, an organization cannot improve. Trying to do so is like trying to hit a moving target. If the current process is in control and stable (through standards), then it can be improved. If it is not subject to standards, then it cannot be improved, since there is no baseline on which to gauge improvement.

The benefits of standardizing work methods through documented procedures cannot be overstated in terms of benefits to the organization. These benefits include enabling problem-solving, reducing costs of continuous improvement, highlighting waste and problems in processes, making new employee training easier, and improving operator control of operations.

In short, standardization is the best, safest, and easiest way to do your job. It’s a way to work smarter, not harder.