Following standards in Kaizen is like driving a car. The driver must follow certain regulations and yet, as a result, he or she gains the freedom to go where he/she wants to go. Likewise, when workers follow standards and do the job right, the customer is satisfied with the product or service, the company prospers, and the workers can look forward to job security.Standards play vital role in Sustenance and Implementation of Kaizen and Lean and have the following key features:

1. Represent the best, easiest, and safest way to do a job. Standards reflect many years of wisdom and know-how on the part of employees in doing their jobs. When management maintains and improves a certain way of doing something, making sure that all the workers on different shifts follow the same procedures, those standards become the most efficient, safe, and cost-effective way of doing the job.

2. Offer the best way to preserve know-how and expertise. If an employee knows the best way to do the job and leaves without sharing that knowledge, his or her know-how will also leave. Only by standardizing and institutionalizing such know-how within the company does it stay in the company, regardless of the comings and goings of its individual workers

3. Provide a way to measure performance. With established standards, managers can evaluate job performance. Without standards, there is no fair way to do this.

4. Show the relationship between cause and effect. Having no standards or not following standards invariably leads to abnormalities, variabilities, and waste. Let’s apply this concept to the sport of sky diving, for example. When people first begin sky diving, they depend on their instructor to fold their parachute. As they become more experienced, they begin folding their parachute with the help of their instructor. Before they can become full-fledged sky divers, they must learn how to fold the parachute correctly by themselves.

Suppose a sky diver has folded the parachute for the first time in his life and is going to jump tomorrow. He goes to bed but cannot sleep and starts wondering, ”Did I fold it right?” He gets out of his bed, unfolds the parachute and starts all over again, goes back to bed, but still can’t sleep. How many times does he need to fold it before he is convinced that everything is OK? The answer is that he should need to do it only once. The way to fold the parachute today is the best, easiest, and safest way, reflecting the experience of many thousands of parachutists-and the aftermath of various tragedies. Every time a parachute did not open up, it gave rise to wrenching questions: “Where in our way of folding the parachute did we go wrong? How can we change and improve the process to prevent a recurrence?” What are the consequences of not following the folding standards? By the time you find it out, it may be too late.

5. Provide a basis for both Retainment (Sustenance) and improvement. By definition, following standards means maintenance and upgrading standards means improvement. Without standards, we have no way of knowing whether we have made improvements or not. Management’s duty is, first and foremost, to maintain standards. When variability occurs due to a lack of standards, one must introduce new standards. If variability occurs even with adherence to standards, management must first determine the cause, and then either revise and upgrade the existing standards, or train the operators to do the job as specified by the standards. Perhaps something about the existing standards is unclear, or the operators need more training to do the job properly.
Maintenance activities should constitute a majority of managers’ tasks in their day-to-day activities in gemba.
Once maintenance stabilizes and controls the process, management can plan the next challenge: improvement, or upgrading the existing standards. Where there is no standard, there can be no improvement. For these reasons, standards are the basis for both maintenance and improvement.

6. Provide objectives and indicate training goals. Standards can be described as a set of visual signs that show how to do the job. As such, standards should communicate in a simple, understandable manner. Normally, standards come in the form of written documents, but at times, pictures, sketches, and photos may facilitate understanding.

7. Provide a basis for training. Once standards are established, the next step is to train operators to such an extent that it becomes second nature for them to do the job according to the standards.

8. Create a basis for audit or diagnosis. In gemba, work standards are often displayed, showing the vital steps and checkpoints of operators’ work. These standards no doubt serve as reminders to operators. But even more important, they help managers check whether work is progressing normally. If maintaining and improving standards are the two major tasks of management, the primary job of gemba supervisors is to see whether standards are being maintained and, at the appropriate time, whether plans to upgrade current standards are being implemented.

9. Provide a means for preventing recurrence of errors and minimizing variability: As already stated, standardization is the last step of the gemba principles.

Without Standards there can be no Kaizen. and without Kaizen there can be no standards. RIB Consulting helps organisation in Kenya, India, Uganda to implement Lean and Kaizen. Our Kaizen Consultants have expertise in creating and implementing Standards. RIB Consulting provides training and implementation of Daily Work Management and Standard work to organisations as part of Kaizen journey