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Using Standards to Empower the Frontline Workforce

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Chad Nelson is a Lean Six-Sigma Operations Manager at 3M and has a wealth of knowledge about standardized work and engaging frontline workers with improvement efforts.

Join this insight-packed conversation and learn how you can apply Chad's tactical strategies for using standards for process improvements, succession planning, upskilling employees, and more.

A full transcript along with additional resources are listed below.

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Additional Resources

Episode 6: The Voices of Manufacturing

Brian Sallee: Welcome to the Voices of Manufacturing. I'm your host, Brian Sallee and joining me today is Chad Nelson. Chad is a Lean Six Sigma Operations Manager at 3M. Welcome to the show, Chad.

Chad Nelson: Thanks for having me, Brian. It's my pleasure.

Brian Sallee: Well Chad you're, as I mentioned there, a Lean Six Sigma Operations Manager at 3M. Do you mind giving us a little background? What exactly do you do at 3M? What kind of, what have you done in the past at 3M? I know you've had a long career there specifically around Lean Six Sigma.

Chad Nelson: Yeah. So currently I had the responsibility for. Deploying Lean Six Sigma across our global footprint. So 3M is a $30 billion company that has a global presence not only in manufacturing but also in logistics and distribution. And so over the years, I Migrated from a deployment leader, a deployment manager, responsible for migrating improvements across our footprint of operations to now leading on having a responsibility for developing and training leaders within 3M to be able to go to deploy good Lean Six Sigma methodologies. Then ultimately make sure that we have a high level of standardization, which we can use to accelerate our efforts.

I currently have a small team but we use an extended network of practitioners as our sounding board to validate our knowledge, to make sure that it's that we can apply those in real life, situations and scenarios. My background is an engineer. And so a 3M fits me well, it's a heavily science-based engineering geared organization.

And so in my past life, before joining 3M in 2012, I really spent most of my time through the mid 2000's and later part of the 2000's really developing and implementing Lean methodologies and a lean man management system across a couple of industry-leading organizations. And so my background, although I'm in the Lean Six Sigma organization, most of my experience has been on the lean side of that equation.

Brian Sallee: Excellent. And something you mentioned there and your background, when it comes to standardization standards, that's something we're going to talk about today. We're going to dig in with Chad here and really talk about standard work. And I wanted to open this up with a quote that I heard from Chad in the past, and one of our previous conversations. It's harder to follow a standard than it is to create a work. And I want the audience to think about that for a second because I think we're, we've all been there before. It's harder to follow a standard than it is to create a workaround. And Chad, you mentioned this was one of your colleagues who had mentioned this in the past. You might share a little context around that before we dig deep into standard work.

Chad Nelson: For sure. So Julie Bushman, she was a senior vice president executive vice president at 3m, and she had responsibility for moved into that, had responsibility for business transforming. Uh, It was really standing up and creating the it platform for our new ERP system. And one of the things taking in that new role, she had spent a lot of time traveling around in deployed areas to understand some of the pain points, as we were trying to scale that common SAP environment across our global service centers and other business transformational areas.

We had a meet and greet with our executive team. And she was one of the panel members. And I remember her specifically saying one of the questions was where are we at in our ERP deployment? And how will you measure success? And one of her comments to that was if you've lived in an ERP and. It's highly standardized, right? We want to move away from the manual manipulation and the workarounds, and we want to move to a standardized way. We send and receive information. And Julie's comment to a question that she had was exactly what you alluded to Brian was it's a harder to follow a standard than it is to create a workaround and how true that was and how well it resonated with me because we oftentimes measure individual success on heroic efforts.

We tend to take information out of a standard system. We manipulate it the way we used to always do it. And then we try to upload it back into the system to get a different or a similar result. And in this. Transformational business, transformational environment, that basis for standardization allows us to understand where we're at. And then it creates that baseline. Do we need to improve or not? And by how much? And so we start to move away or at least balance that manual effort to more systems and automated lights out processes. And it definitely was important then, and that was a few years back and I think it's even. On the forefront and important today, as we think about the future of our business tomorrow.

Brian Sallee: Absolutely. And that quote really stuck out to me because I see this, I've been working with manufacturers for 10 years now, and the one common thing I see is a lot of what we would call firefighters. So being very reactive. So rather than, creating the standard and training folks to standard and, really getting agreement around, Hey, this is the best way that we're going to do things.

We see a lot of folks who, as you mentioned, there are these heroic efforts, it's that one individual who knows how to run that machine really well and has their own process for how they do it. The organization's heavily reliant on those types of people. Versus, how do I train everybody to be able to do it the same way? And so we can get the same outcome every time. And this idea that it's harder to follow a standard and create a workaround. I think that resonates with a lot of our audience as well.

This'll be great to dig into the conversation about standard work and really the first question I have for you. I think, our audience has various levels of understanding of what standard work is. I think there are quite a few definitions. I know some of my friends and colleagues on the automotive side, they have their definition of standard work, which is a little bit different than, maybe some of the folks who are working in process manufacturing, like you are. What is standard work and kind of, what's the purpose of standard work based on your background.

Chad Nelson: So the way I see it, and maybe the non-traditional textbook answer is to really focus on and build process stability. And in building process stability, it helps us make abnormalities visible. And as we bring those abnormalities to light, it helps improve the capabilities. Of our employees and our people to help see and solve those problems in real time. And so at the end of the day, I think that's really what standard work is trying to do is to create a visual workplace that allows us to see and solve problems against a no one standard or a no one way that we want the work to be done. I'll add a couple things that I think are probably not in textbooks that I've learned through experiences. Is what's the role of Standard Work? As we think about standard work there's two key roles that standard work plays.

I think the first thing is in our ability to learn the work, as we onboard and as we do succession planning, as we have healthy turnover in our organizations, we want to bring people and acclimate them into the work as quickly and as efficiently as. Whether we're upscale up, where we're growing the business or we're, right-sizing the business based on demand. And so learning the work is really important aspect of what standard work plays and it's about supporting the operator. And so it's giving the operator a sense of what good looks like and allowing them to achieve it on their first day. The second role that I believe standard work plays in an organization is simplifying the work. And not only does it support the employee, it also should support the process.

And so the couple elements of supporting the process, I think are obviously one, it forms the baseline for improvement, pretty standard. But there's two other things that I think that I would like the audience to take away is one is, it is an auditing tool. And it, we use that as an auditing tool or a way to see and remove sources of variation. And I think leaders stand at work has to be, has to incorporate time on the floor, observing the process and looking for those areas of variation. And I think the second part of that is, is it must the at work must set and, or establish the work plan for the day. So if we say we need a hundred widgets an hour, then the plan and the standard work should reflect that hundred widget work cycle.

Brian Sallee: Yeah. And I want to dig into that for a second there. Cause there's one area that I think I'd like you to expand on and, identifying abnormality. Or, as you mentioned variation as well, how does standard work help you do that? In which way are you using standard work to where you can see that, Hey, James over here is doing the process differently than Steve and that's leading to, some quality issues. Practically. How have you seen that work at 3m or other organizations?

Chad Nelson: Yeah, so quality is a key component of standard work. So when standard work in its simplistic form looks at sequence, timing, and outcome. And part of that work sequence and the timing is we want to give the process and the process owners time to do it safely. so we oftentimes see safety elements built into the work standard or the standard work.

The second part of that equation is the quality. Oftentimes because we can't either design out the defects or we don't have the process capability to do it right the first time oftentimes we see in line inspection as a result of our process. And so we want to make sure that we give time to the operators to do that.

When we think about auditing, it's not about comparing and contrasting to operators. It's really looking at what is the best way to perform the work, as we know it today. And so when we think about understanding that variability it really helps us frame a couple things, right? So one is it frames our basis for the conversation. So when I watch an individual perform I'd given work cycle, or I worked at. I'm using the process that they created. And I think that's important, right? This isn't telling them how to do their job. This is seeking to understand. And as a leader, it's helping document what they currently do. And so creating standard work is not opposed. The headline. Yeah, please.

Brian Sallee: Oh, I had to interrupt you. You said that the operator created the standard that's. That's what you're suggesting there is. It's not the engineer didn't create the standard work. The operator did.

Chad Nelson: Yes. Standard work should be owned and operated by the person who does the work. They know the job, the best. And it's our job to document what they do in their ability to demonstrate and consistently do that day in and day out cycle after cycle.

One of the things that I've learned in documenting or capturing standard work is, as an engineer, as a supervisor, as a plant manager, this isn't about who does it the fastest, who can do it the quickest. This is about documenting what they can do consistently across a spectrum of individuals performing that work. And so we want to be inclusive and have multiple people perform the work cycle after cycle so that we can, what we call not clean cycle or the fastest cycle, but what we can consistently demonstrate because that sets the standard for us then to architect and design our entire supply chain. So if they can only make 80 widgets an hour and not a hundred, even though the machine was capable of doing that, 80 becomes how we set our entire supply chain, is based on a delivery of 80 units per hour or per day.

Brian Sallee: Yeah. And I had to interrupt you there. Cause I think that's a key point that, a lot of our listeners, a lot of our audience maybe struggles with sometimes is, how do I involve the operator? What's their role in developing the standard work? What's their role in developing the documented standard work? And as you're suggesting here, maybe they're not creating it, but they are part of the process. You're seeking their knowledge, their experience, and pulling that into develop that standard.

Chad Nelson: And I can give you a real-life example. So. A year or so ago, we were in Poland doing a conference at a breakout session that was a question that was posed to the team. " How do you get operators to want to engage in creating standard work?" Because it becomes then a disciplinary tool where if they don't follow it there's consequences. And I said, true, can I interject? And so my response to this was go out and lead with humility.

Ask the operator if you can watch what they do. You're interested to learn what they do and why or how they do it that way. And what I found is a best-practice is I will say, "Hey, I can't remember things I'm getting older. And so would you mind if I just take some notes and document what you do, just so that I can have that for future reference? And so I will write down what they do; i.e. Standard work. Because a lot of times people don't want to write their own standard. And so after I watched them do the work a few times, I will show them my notes because now I'm not trying to hide something from them. I'll say, based on what I saw is these kinds of the five things that. And what nine out of 10 times, what they'll do Brian is they'll actually say, "No, not exactly. Let me rewrite that for you." Or let me wordsmith that for you. And so what they do is not like engaging them. 

So now they understand what I'm doing and why am I doing it? And so I'll say "by the way, it looked like it took you 30 seconds." "Yeah. I can do it in 30 seconds." And so what I just did is I in a real. Empathetic way or a genuine, sincere way. I had a conversation with an employee about the work that they do. I lead with humility. I showed that I care about what they do and why their work's important, to the point where I actually documented their work for them. And I'd say is this something that you could do consistently time on time and could we document this? I almost always get the answer, "For sure! I have no reason not to." And so that's really our first attempt to get them to buy-in.

And then I say, "Well, would this be something that you could help us either be the voice of reason. Would you be willing to share this with maybe your peers or colleagues at an upcoming standup meeting? Could I post this at the lines when next time I come out, I could use it as a reference document?" And I always get the answer, "For sure! I don't understand why not. it sounds good to me." And so it really starts to create that momentum, where people feel it's not leadership against operations. We really have a common reason why we want to see and improve our processes.

Brian Sallee: Yeah, I, that approaches to me what strikes me about. You'd really get the operator to open up and feel comfortable. It doesn't feel like they're being interrogated. I've worked with some companies where the process is, quite a bit different where it almost does feel like an interrogation will tell me why you do it that way. And the way that the question is asked is really important. It's asked in a way that is almost demanding, the operator almost shuts down.

And it changes their process too, I've noticed. Operators, if the question is asked in a certain way, and again, like you said, you're leading with empathy. If you're not leading with empathy there the operator might even change their process. They might make mistakes, they might be nervous. So it's really interesting the way you're suggesting going about that. I want to move on. I want to talk now a little bit about really, I think we see this a lot in organizations, there are no standards, there might be standards that are in people's heads. But they're not documented. They're not agreed upon they're not using the standards to train. They're not using this standards to audit the process.

And I think, one of the things that would be helpful for audiences, what are some of the ways that you've seen or some of the impacts that you've seen for businesses that don't have standards or don't fall asleep. How does that impact the business? And let's go deep here because I know you've got some some ideas here on how this really impacts the bottom line.

Chad Nelson: Yeah. There is a, there's a total cost of not following or adhering to good process standards. There's the positive side. And we can talk about that later. When I think about the negative side, Brian, you're absolutely spot on. Variation is our enemy. And what I would challenge anyone online is anytime that you see a form of waste in your organization and I'll use the example of inventory. So they give everybody in today's world inventory, tends to be a common theme in any aspect of business.

So when you think about inventory, it is truly there as a temporary countermeasure. We don't build inventory and suck our cash up and put it into stocking positions because we can, because it makes me sleep better at night. Although it might. The reason that we see inventory is because it protects us against process variation. And again, whether it's the snow storm out east or out west, that keeps our logistic team from being able to deliver the next day. But it really comes down to when I miss a cycle, when I miss a daily output, when I miss a changeover, when I miss whatever the plan is, I have to protect myself against that variation. And it might not just be a single part. It might be a load. It might be a flat, it might be an entire truck.

And so what we really want to think about is, if we don't follow and have good process discipline and adherence to standards, the outcome is waste. And so if I don't follow standards and I make a defect, it's quality, right? If I don't follow a standard and I'm too slow on my cycle, somebody waits. If I work too fast and I don't follow the standard, then I have to create a second stocking position, or I make the upstream operator increase transportation.

And so what you typically find the output of not following standard is truly one of, if not all the waste that we know so well. And so when you start thinking of the value realization or the the value driver of not following standards it's a multiplier. It's something that we typically don't see because it's inherent to what we do every day. The unfortunate part of what I see in standardized work is we actually document the standard with waste in it. We actually want the operator to walk across the aisle to get the load, and we build that into their work cycle. And so that is a cost. That is a true cost. Whether it's indirect, direct, at some point for me to sell that product at a price point that keeps you profitable.

I got to figure out how to understand and use standards and work standards as a way to improve the work each and every day. Because if I don't, I can tell you, it will be part of the demise of your organization, right? Your competitor, the person in your job in another company is actively trying to reduce that waste in every step. And what they're doing is they're doing it through a good process design and standard work.

And so if I just follow up with the inventory. Yeah, it's inventory. Yeah, it's work-in-process (WIP). But what it does is it increases my footprint. It increases my material handlers. It increases my warehouse, my real estate. It increases the number of transportations that I need in a given period of time. It increases the number of touch points. Again, it's so hard for organizations to not do it, but to get your arms around the total cost of not adhering to and following standard work is really, it's something that will suck money out of the organization fast.

Brian Sallee: Yeah. And I just want to hover around this point for a little bit here, because. It's hard to wrap your arms around just how big of a challenge this can become, because as you're pointing out here, not only are you talking about if you don't have standards, it's going to lead to variation, but you've also seen companies that do have documented standards, but they've basically built waste into their standards. They're not focused on eliminating that. And that's also leading to these outcomes that you see, with, excess inventory, which leads to all these other challenges, as you may know. So that's really an interesting point.

There is that it's not just companies, that haven't documented standards. It's also documenting standards, but having waste into it. And that's where I think you've talked about this before, but an auditing process, or I think I've heard some companies refer to it as a coaching process where you come in and you actually observe the operator doing their process and compare it to the documented standard work to identify what is it, waste and variation, right?

Chad Nelson: So just one final thought before we turn the page to, maybe auditing and its intent. One of the questions. I tend to ask people when I engage with them or when I actually go out and observe their process, right? So they have a daily management system, or they have a production status board, a plan versus actual board. And all, a lot of times what I'll see on the board from management is, "Great Job!", "Power Hour", "Best Day We've Ever Had!" And it just sends a tingle up my spine, because any variation to the plan is bad. My goal is 1,000. 900 is bad, we understand that.

But 1,100 is just as bad.

Because when I make a hundred more than I plan for, what do I do with that extra hundred? The reality is I don't have a plan for it. I don't have a place for it. I don't have a lot of things in the system to manage that extra hundred. And so oftentimes, although we see it as a very bright spot and daily performance, the reality is that variation has just as much negative effect on the total fulfillment stream or supply chain or operating costs as if we underperform. And so I encourage people if you can make 1100. But a thousand is your plan.

Then when you can consistently make 1100 set the new standard and make problems, the new reality. So continue to use Stana work as a dynamic document to ratchet the organization towards improvement. Because if we can make 1100 units a day on the same head count, that lowers my unit cost and now I add it to more profitability. So continue to use standard work as a mechanism to drive the organization towards the aspirational goals versus just, "Hey, we had a great day!" Do not allow the great day to happen. Actually send the crew home early. Your supply chain isn't very flexible. And so just like when we underperform we see disruptions, when we over-perform we create inherently the same disruptions.

Brian Sallee: What are some of those disruptions? Cause I think our audience, most people understand, when you miss your target, you're below. You've got to work, maybe an extra shift, you've got overtime, you've got to run that equipment longer. It's clear, you know how that's impacting the business, but when you overproduce it, it seems less clear. What are some of the consequences of overproduction? Because. You've just made more product and maybe the same amount of time that you typically make, 9,000 units as you were. That seems like a good thing. Why is that so bad?

Chad Nelson: So what we try to think about it here from a 3M perspective is it's this end-to-end thinking, right? Versus siloed thinking. If my goal is to win the day and winning means to make as many as I possibly can make, because it helps me from a unit per person or a labor cost per unit produced because cost tends to be the biggest lever that we predict that we managed to because it's the easiest, right? And so a lot of times when we have siloed thinking, one process will outpace the upstream for the downstream process. And so the downstream process sits there.

Literally, if I could paint an image in your head and I put a hole through the wall, and if process age just keeps pumping product through the wall, but process. Isn't ready to receive that product. It becomes instantly overwhelming to them. All of a sudden, I want to put the stop, sign up and say, stop. I can't, I couldn't make what you sent me last hour and you just keep sending me stuff. And so what we want to create as a demand driven replenishment system only make and produce what I need next and give it to me when I want it. And so by just producing early or producing too much, you instantly start to cry. Inventory piles of inventory, unused unwanted inventory, because I don't have a plan for every part or a plan for every location.

All of a sudden that extra inventory that came through the wall, I got to go find, I got a rat hole at somewhere where I've got to stick it out in an aisle somewhere where I got to find a hiding spot. And because now it's not part of the standard process. It's not part of the standard Pfeifle lane. It's not part of standard replenishment. All of a sudden they start getting debt in excess inventory. I forgot about the load that sat behind that the supervisor's office. And so all of a sudden I have to start putting manual workarounds. I have to have leaders going out to Matt. I have to have my supply chain analysts go out and tag these loads. They're outside of the normal process.

And so inherently. Yeah, it feels like it's a good thing, but again, I want to replenish base consumption model and truly pull value through my organization and pace it based on what my operational performance is at. If, If the upstream process is outpacing the downstream process, I need to stop. Pull the andon and ask why. And then I need to create what I call a bucket brigade. I need to have variable staffing models. And if one area is falling behind, what can I do to accelerate and improve? Put performance. So that downstream process, which is now the new bottleneck, so that I can level my load and that my demand and be able to make it at the price that I expect.

So there is a lot of consequences with overproduction, although we inherently traditionally see that as a good thing, right? We pat ourselves on the back and we go home with a smile on our face. But when you think about it from a true end to end perspective, it doesn't help us when I start creating piles of inventory along the supply chain, because I can outpace my downstream process.

Brian Sallee: Yeah. As you're saying that I'm just visually thinking through all the moving of that additional excess inventory and all the labor that goes into that, your transportation costs, as you mentioned, your real estate costs. And then now you've got basically, money tied up in that inventory. You haven't sold it yet. If that's going to the end consumer, you haven't sold it yet. So that's money tied up there that you can't maybe put into the organization in other areas. I've been to some factories where they have entire warehouses full of excess inventory that's been sitting there for a long time, so this is a very common scenario that I see in manufacturing.

Let's move on. I got excited there and tried to move us on to auditing a little too early. I do want to dig into this though, because I think this is an area where one of the overlooked benefits of having documented standard work comes into place. How do you use standard work to audit a process or to coach an operator? What does that typically look like for you?

Chad Nelson: Yeah, so I will take you to one end of the spectrum, and then you'll find your work environment that, that supports your team. What it looks like for me is we create standard work, and we post the standard work document at the process where the work resides. So if we're using an electronic system, a tablet, a piece of paper, we want to have it readily available in handy on the shop floor, for instance, or in Gemba, where the work cycle is actually being performed. So we oftentimes we call it a layered process audit. We can call it a layered process coaching. What we're really doing is we're focused on the process to see how the process processes performing against this standard work elements. And we're looking for abnormalities or variation within that work cycle. One of the things that's interesting is where you position yourself. So as you're performing an audit. You want to position yourself in the same spot so that you build consistency around what you observe. If I sit in one side of the building and look at the parking lot, it looks like everybody left early on Friday. If I sit in a different part of the office and I look at a different parking lot, or I look at a different time during the parking lot, I'm going to get a different perspective of reality. And so one of the things we encourage the auditor to do is audit from the same location. In the same time in the same atmosphere in the same venue. This is not a witch hunt. This isn't a go out to try to find people doing things bad. This isn't going out to try to find fault in your process or to find bad people. The audit process should be well communicated and advance. It's highly standardized and structured. I know that every Tuesday between 9 and 10, somebody comes out and performs a work audit against my cycle. It's also a great opportunity for the operator to say, "Hey, today, I'm glad you came out because something happened last week that I want to let you know about." And so it really is more about the coaching and the communication as it is about understanding the process and the variation. For the listeners, the number one variation that I see within a given work cycle is transposing steps. So we might have eight steps between operators.

They might change step five and six around. Because that's just the way they've always done it or the way they like to do it. And we want to understand why is that? Because maybe it's because one's, left-handed, one's, right-handed. Maybe it's because of another reason. But what I want you to understand is transposing steps is a source of variation, and we want to be able to combat that.

Brian, I will give the team and the audiences are listening, I think there's three types of variation that auditors look for. If you don't mind. The general abnormalities, okay? I think those are seen through standard equipment breakdowns, material defects, maybe even a lack of knowledge or training where maybe an operator comes in and they don't have the same skill set or experience. And so I would call those or put those in this general abnormality bucket. They're fairly consistent. They're fairly frequent. And I want to understand what ails me.

The second type of variation that we typically see is what we call process design. These are things that are designed inherently in the process that we have to manage around. And so it's typically seen as non-cyclical work cycles or tasks that aren't performed every single work cycle. It's changeovers. It's lockout tagout. And the third thing is I, and I think this might be the most important one, is product or process. Or offerings and choices. We will have one line that we try to run a gamut of products through, or we have one order entry system that we're trying to get customers to order through.

And the reality is they're not all created equal. So it's big ones. It's little ones. It's red ones. It's blue ones. It's faxes, it's emails. And those are all variables. And so they're not all created equally. And so what we want to do is we don't want to have standard work for every one of those, because it would become a repository of documents that we couldn't manage. What do we want to do is understand what are the differences between big ones and small ones. And although we may have one single standard, because the six steps might be the same, the auditor will be able to say, "The big ones we know take longer. And I give you credit for that." Because what we're looking for, isn't again, it's not punitive. It's not a micromanagement tool. It's to understand, is the work being performed at an expectation and level that we deem good.

Brian Sallee: Got it. I want to go back. I think that auditing to the standard is, I would say it's a foreign concept for, a lot of manufacturers. And I know a lot of manufacturers want to try this or are considering it. And the biggest thing I hear is, " I'm not sure how my operators are going to react to being audited." And I know, I've heard great recommendations, call it a coaching session or whatever.

But how do you get the operator to let their guard down, and not be, if I got audited at my job, that would feel you know, someone's looking over my shoulder, it might feel like know, a little intimidating. So how do you handle that part of it with the operators to make them feel comfortable?

You already mentioned you try to do it at the same time. You try to explain why, but what are some other tactics just like you mentioned earlier where you really communicate with empathy when you're building the standards,

Chad Nelson: So the first thing that I've found in my own personal experience that work really well. Is any of that, any of the feedback or documentation that I take during that audit or that coaching engagement Is, I leave it on the shop floor.

So the documentation stays with them. I don't take it back into my office and write a report. So if there is an audit finding, I write that down, I document it and I have a conversation with them and I seek to understand. So this is what I saw. It's not good or bad. I'm just here to listen and learn.

And what I asked them for is, "You do it a certain way. Would you be willing to share an improvement idea or could I capture the way you would do it as an idea that we could use that tomorrow's stand-up meeting?" Because if they do it that way, that must mean they're passionate about that. And I want them to be a steward of their own ideas. So I moved from carrying their idea forward to helping champion them, to get them to speak freely about why they feel so important about the way they do their work. Then it's consensus. We'll never get there. We'll never get a hundred percent agreement across multiple operators and multiple shifts, but I want that person to feel like they have an active voice and that we as leaders listen. So I take notes. I document my report or my audit findings if I, if there are any. And then I share that back with them and solicit their ideas.

And what's important is. If it's their idea, I make that as a supervisor or an auditor or a team leader. I make that my most important thing, because if they're willing to share an idea, then I have to make sure that I find a conduit or create an environment that allows that idea to be moved forward or to be acted upon. The worst thing to do is to ask for their idea and then do nothing about it. That'll create a disengaged employee overnight. So yeah, so those are some things that I would encourage.

When we do have an audit I fall in that when we are transparent they do see it as a way to improve their work. It becomes more contagious than it does punitive because what I call it as "Across-the-Aisle" Syndrome, right? So we have a known issue. It's a problem that we can consistently or continually face in our design work. But as a leader, I come out and I observed that with you. And we have a conversation and tomorrow we actually implement an idea or a solution or an improvement to solve that issue. And we can actually bring some closure to it. All of a sudden, you know what happens is the next day, "Hey, I got another idea. Hey, I got another idea." Or quickly, all of a sudden people on the next line goes how come their lines improving all the time? Or because they're open and honest, and they're sharing things about their given process that we're fixing. And so that would be my, I guess my ask of the audience, is be genuine, be humble, go out, make it a dialogue and support your team and the work that they do and make them part of the solution. This standard work document is the way to frame the conversation because it's process focused and process-driven, not people.

Brian Sallee: Yeah. And the scenario I see here, though I'm really curious about knowing more. You're talking about engaging it. You want to solicit ideas from them, and then you want to take those ideas and share them with the group during a standup and show them that their ideas are being considered. What about the scenario, you just have a lazy operator or an operator who doesn't want to follow the standard because they think their way is the best way. How do you deal with someone like that? Who. They don't have a good idea for how to do it. They're just doing it that way, because it's the easiest, it's the least amount of work. How do you engage someone like that and get them to open up and be receptive to doing things differently?

Chad Nelson: Yeah, I think unfortunately there's probably one of those in every crowd. And so oftentimes that person, I see them as an informal. They're the loudest one of the group, or they maybe are the ones who tend for people to look at; whether it's positive or negative. And so when we think about change, managing change, it's easy to go to the early adopters, the "yes people," because they just always agree to what you want them to do. People we should focus on, as leadership. It should be those people who and I wouldn't call them combative or negative, I would call them as they're they're challenging. They're questioning, hopefully in an inappropriate way. My advice to the people online is although standard work was never designed to be a disciplinary tool.

If a person consistently refuses to follow the standard, there should be consequences. And unfortunately, in this case, there would be negative consequences for that individual with some sort of a verbal or written write-up. Because it's not about standard work is not about necessarily just. People downstream and other processes depend on your ability to follow that standard.

And so if we design the standard and you don't follow it, there are downstream impacts both financially, personally, professionally with the work that you do. And there are negative consequences for the people who are probably a little bit resistant to doing that. Where I've been able to maybe crack that nut is I tried to make them part of the solution. I try to get them to be an advocate for, I try to get them to work with their peers to try to find a standard way. And so oftentimes what you'll find is we're trying to do the same thing, but we do it a little different. And as an auditor, it's okay to have adaptation to a work standard, provided that you do it in a safe way, with a predictable outcome, in a time that that we need to deliver on. If, because people are tolerant, shorter, people are left-handed and right-handed, there are nuances that makes each person special.

And I think as an auditor or a supervisor it's absolutely in your best interest to understand what they need to do in their work environment to make equal success and to provide that work environment that allows them to be successful. Don't manage the details. Standard work is high level, right? Place the part, move the part, index the part punch the, you know, move on to the next part, right? If we want to get into the details, then we would use SOPs, work instructions, job breakdown analysis, to get into the more specifics, if it's critical to the equipment or critical to the component or the product that we're making. And those would be probably less negotiable.

Brian Sallee: Got it, okay. As you're going through that, it's reminded me of what you brought up at the beginning of the call is, people tend to shy away from developing standards. Because they see it as a potential way to there could be consequences right by because they don't follow it. And so it's the going full circle here. As you mentioned, early on in the call next thing I wanted to hit on here before we wrap up I think this one, we see this a lot, especially here at Disney, we work with a lot of companies that are growing quickly. How can standard work, help your company scale up production? I think that's one of those things that, you know, as you're growing, you're hiring a lot of people. How do I maintain quality? How do I, reduce variation? How have you seen standard work help companies that are going through that, that scale up?

Chad Nelson: The million-dollar question. Almost all answers that I get from companies, industries, business leaders, myself and others, is we struggle on a downturn, right? All we're just, we need more volume. We need more volume. And so volume becomes the number one scapegoat, but I will tell you as companies grow, it's just as painful, if not more. And the reason is because we don't have standardized processes in place and the word I'll use is playbooks. So we have to have a flexible staffing model to be able to make our unit price or our unit costs to stay profitable. And so what we want to do is figure out what is the right staffing model so that we can design standards and design work processes, and line layouts around, to be able to hit that demand at a cost that keeps us viable. And so it starts with good process design.

The other thing that standard work should do is, should be used as part of your training matrix. So as you think about the skills and versatility of your employees, certain jobs are easier to do. And so we will put less experienced people in those. As we gain upskill or gain knowledge, or we build the knowledge and skills of our teams, we will place those individuals into expanded roles and those roles will add complexity through the standards that we provide for them. They might have to do quality checks. They might have to do some safety thing. They might have to do an OSHA requirement or a compliance document.

And so as we start to understand the work that's in front of our teams, standard work will then also serve as a mechanism to help make sure that we have the right person in the right seat, on the bus to do the right job. When I think about the developing that skillset is succession planning. And I don't know if you're going to go there, but I also see standard work and auditing as a way organizations can use that, not only to build their talent pool, but also as a mechanism for succession planning going forward.

Brian Sallee: Let's jump into that succession planning real quick here. And then I've got a few other questions for you to wrap up. But yeah, tell us a little bit about how standard work can help with succession planning, as far as finding your next leader, your next supervisor, your next team lead, whatever it may be.

Chad Nelson: So again, I would look at it as there's three components. It's no longer where we find the best operator. And then we make him the supervisor, or the team lead. What we want to do is, obviously find the best operator who has people skills to promote into leadership roles. But I think there's three elements that really define that next layer of leadership or that frontline leader. One is you gotta be able to understand what a standard. Okay. So you have to be that informal leader that abides by adheres to and advocates for good standards. And what I mean, and as an observable, what I would see in this individual would be, as they have the ability to see abnormalities, they can spot an audit or diff detect abnormalities to the workstation. They have that trained eye and they know what good looks like.

The second thing is they have the ability to train others, that person who maybe isn't on the person who on the fence or the person who was not, you know, all in, on following standards or they're new to the job. This person not only can see the abnormalities. They have the ability to teach and train others on what good standards. So that becomes your production trainer.

So as you have turnover, you have somebody who can train others to do the work cycle. And not only can they spot and see abnormalities and sources of variation, they can teach and train others, but they have the ability to solve problems and improve the process because improving the work really becomes the work that we do. It's no longer to come in and check. And just use our hands. We have to use our hearts and our minds.

A good operator who can teach, train and audit, but also has the ability to see improvements and act on those improvements really becomes, I think the three things that defines the next level of supervision. And so if those people reside in your organization, And you haven't seen them or put them in, into a development opportunity or expanded their responsibility and roles to do one of those three things, shame on you. If you have identified them and you start to give them some expanded responsibility to perform either audits or to be a production trainer or to drive some sort of culture of continuous improvements, ideas, suggestion system. Then you've already identified who that person is and put them in that role. And you will you will reap the benefits tenfold

Brian Sallee: to me, you're talking about identifying them. I'm almost seeing how it standard work helps develop this way of thinking too, which is turning them into this next great leader. That seems like one of the major benefits, as well as just developing that type of thinking. Chad, this has been great. I've got just a couple of questions to wrap up. We ask all of our guests when they come on, what is your favorite industry or business quote?

Chad Nelson: So one thing is there's and this is probably my best gift I can give to you. And then I'll answer your question, Brian. There's always two questions. I always have. And it's a core, it's the core fabric or my DNA on every engagement, every site every leader I engage with. The first question I always ask is, "What's the standard?" My second question always is, "Is it the right standard?" And I think if you put those two into your Rolodex and you become more thoughtful about asking those two questions in that order, you'll be amazed by how the organization will respond to. Ryan, that, the quote that obviously I there's lots of them. One that's probably most recent is, "Improving the work is the work."

If you've ever had a chance to see Toyota, they're a union shop. And so one time I got a chance to visit Toyota and they were all the employees were wearing black arm bands, and I didn't know what that was. And somebody finally asked the question and they said they're on. And I'm used to people on strike, wearing a, going around, out on the sidewalk with a sign.

And they said, "No, that's different. They are actually on strike, but they're working today because what they were telling management was is I'm willing to come in and do the work you asked for, but I'm not going to improve it." And so I thought that was a really powerful message. So improving the work becomes the work.

Brian Sallee: Yeah. That's That's fantastic, Chad. I really That "Improving the work is the work."

Chad Nelson: Improving the work is the work.

Brian Sallee: I love that. That's a great mindset to come to work with every day. We kind of have a similar philosophy here with uh, 1% better every day. So that same mindset. "We're here to get better every single day."

That's great. Chad, this has been fantastic. You've shared a lot of knowledge with us on standard work. We went really deep in some areas and I think our audience got some great takeaways out of this. So thank you for joining us today. We appreciate the time.

Chad Nelson: Thank you very much. It's been my pleasure and anytime I can help it in the future, please don't hesitate to ask. 

Topic(s): Training , Podcast
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Written by Dozuki

Founded in 2011, Dozuki has been the leader in connected worker solutions for over a decade. We’ve helped hundreds of companies plan, implement, and scale our frontline digital transformation solution.

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