What is Leader Standard Work (LSW)?

Leader Standard Work (LSW) is a set of recurrent management techniques, tools, and skills that are standardized in the manager’s daily and weekly routines.

Leader Standard Work empowers managers of all levels to maintain systematic practices through floor tours (Gemba), and collaboration in recurrent meetings. The management system is based on processes and goals, rather than individual rigor towards excellence.

It is intended to improve management performance, foster cross-team communication, and promote an improvement culture.

While standard work is a common concept in LEAN, it is quite different from standard work for operators. Standard work for managers and team leaders includes up-and-down accountability. This is assessed daily, or multiple times per day with visual controls. It is crucial to have a daily evaluation. This not only ensures that work is done correctly but also holds everyone accountable for meeting the standard. The leader’s standard work focuses on activities at the workplace (Gemba), with the rest of his time supporting incremental improvements.

Are leaders making sure that their direct reports standardize their work with the leader’s standard work? Or are they only standardizing their own leadership tasks?

Two-fold standardization is required for Leader Standard Work (LSW) leaders: They need to standardize their work tasks and ensure that those reporting to them follow standardized work processes. It is not about leaving the team with a checklist of tasks to complete, but it is about ensuring that they are confirming the standard of their reporting. It’s about setting a standard for them and showing them how to live up to it. Leader Standard Work (LSW)is structured coaching.

To empower your employees with proactive management, download the Leader standard work how-to guide

Why is Leader Standard Work important?

A standardized process, especially one that is visible to all stakeholders, can be a way to ‘pin down’ and ensure everyone agrees to it. It provides a platform for teams to review and improve the process. It is hard to improve a process if every team member or shift does it differently. Leaders who want to empower their team to solve their own problems or improve their processes must first establish a standard.

Standardizing leadership tasks

It is not possible to standardize all leadership tasks, particularly those that are ad-hoc or strategic. The need to standardize work practices is less important for those who are more senior. There is still some work that can be standardized, even at the top. Leader Standard Work (LSW) does not just focus on standardizing leadership tasks. Leaders should be focused on the results and processes that led to them achieving these goals. Leaders can shift their focus from managing crisis situations to coaching others by examining the processes. Leaders can shift their leadership mindset away from issuing orders, directing, and solving team problems to one that empowers and coaches’ teams to solve their own problems. This will allow them to spend more time on strategic issues.

Shifting the mindset

Leaders must understand that the actions and words they speak have a profound impact on an organization’s culture. Leaders should have the mindset and behavior that supports practice and improvement. Leaders should consider both the results and the leadership methods used to achieve them. Leaders should also reward and recognize their direct reports for their performance and practices.

An effective way to encourage leaders to adopt Leader Standard Work (LSW) is to conduct organizational surveys. Leaders will be able to give feedback on their leadership style and encourage them to act.

Be a humble Leader

Standardized work can be applied to all levels of an organization. How much of the work of a leader can be standardized and what types of tasks and processes are possible to be standardized?

LSW’s core function is to ensure that all levels of the organization follow standard procedures and processes. Because this is the closest point to customer value, standardization must start at the operator level and work its way up to the executive level. Standardized, structured work should account for around 95% of all work performed at the operator level. As one climbs up the corporate ladder, the percentage of time spent on standard tasks decreases.

Leader Standard Work (LSW) for team leaders

The tasks of a team leader should be standardized and shared by all leaders at the same level or in the same role. These tasks could include handovers of shifts, problem-solving methods, and administrative tasks. Routine, scheduled activities could be used to ensure that shop floor operators follow their work procedures.

Leader Standard Work (LSW) for middle managers

There are still parts of work that can be shared between leaders at the same level. These include meetings, problem-solving, and reporting, as well as administrative tasks. Routine and structured activities for middle management LSW are used to ensure that supervisors and team leaders follow the same procedures. This could be done by conducting on-site or remote Gemba walks and documenting the team leaders’ reviews. While team leaders and supervisors are the primary focus of middle management, coaching should still take place at the shop floor level.

Leader Standard Work (LSW) for leadership

There is quite a bit of standardization even at the site leadership level. The activities that are shared between these leaders should also be standardized, such as meetings, problem-solving methodology, reporting, and administrative tasks. Routine, organized activities are necessary to ensure that middle managers follow their procedures and do the same work. This can be done by direct observation and review of standard documentation. Although site leaders are primarily focused on the middle managers, there should still be coaching at all levels.

Leader Standard Work (LSW) for C Level

The executive leaders need to have a consistent process for goal setting and strategy development. They should also include routine-frequency Gemba walk at all sites they are responsible for. While their primary focus should be on-site leaders, coaching should also take place at all levels.

Leader Standard Work (LSW) should be used as a collaborative effort by the work owner with their immediate superior. They should come to an agreement about the tasks the work owner should do daily, weekly, and monthly. Also, a period. This establishes a minimum standard.

Without standards being established in the actual work, leaders cannot verify them. By starting from the bottom, the process will be guided by the standards that support the business’ priorities.

Visual tools like charts, digital or physical boards, document trails, and scorecards, should be used to clearly show standardized work. These visual tools should be visible near the place where work is being done or in general meeting areas. High visibility helps everyone stay focused on their goals.

How to Standardize the Work of Leaders?

What are the daily tasks and management methods of your managers? Do your supervisors conduct recurrent meetings and inspections? Are they responsible for daily checks between team leaders and directors?

Standardize your management practices

Standardizing management practices can help an organization establish control and supervise activities, escalate problems, and improve communication between levels and teams. It formalizes the process by which managers are to detect and correct problems.

Audits and recurrent inspections
  • Standard Operating Audit
  • 5S Audit
  • Quality Inspection
  • Inspection of safety and health
Daily Checks (Proactive Gemba Walks)
  • Supervisor Gemba Walk
  • 5S, and Performance Gemba Walk
  • Validation objective
  • Team leader Gemba Walks
Training and procedures
  • Preventive maintenance
  • Onboarding employees
  • Training methods
  • Operational procedures, Setup
  • Evaluation of employees
  • Best practices
Tiered-meetings structure
  • Direction Committee
  • Improvement meeting
  • One on one meetings
  • Daily production meeting
  • Shift, Action Follow-up
Visual Management
  • Monitoring KPI dashboards

Set daily, weekly, and monthly routines

Managers’ recurring management practices are determined by their daily, weekly, and monthly routines. These include recurring inspections (audits), floor rounds, daily meetings, and recurring inspections. Top managers can monitor these management rituals.

Managers and team leaders are equipped with the right tools

Traditional tools like email, SMS, Excel, paper-based inspection, and whiteboards can make it difficult to maintain management standards. The administrative burden and the transcription of information can make it difficult to adopt strong management practices over time. A digital daily administration system improves the adherence of supervisors to the organization’s management processes. Kruger Products, for example, has gone digital to manage its daily operations.

Encourage the best management behavior

To improve everyone’s performance, global manufacturing leaders have standardized management behaviors. These tools and management procedures promote the best possible management behavior for supervisors and team leaders. The 1-to-1 meeting provides an opportunity to discuss objectives and the performance of frontline managers. 

Set goals and performance indicators

Managers will find it easier to track the goals they have set for their departments using key performance indicators. Manufacturers often standardize the monitoring of performance indicators in their daily routine. Setting objectives promotes ownership and accountability for management roles.

The benefits of Leader Standard Work (LSW)

Leader Standard Work (LSW) allows companies to standardize their management systems and empower managers to promote proactive control. This increases ownership once objectives have been met. Some benefits of Leader Standard Work (LSW):

  • Facilitate employee onboarding
  • Take control of your operations and solve problems faster
  • Assure a safe workplace.
  • Standardize the management performance of teams and departments.
  • Help frontline operators and workers
  • Participate everyone in continuous improvement to ensure a bottom-up approach

In Conclusion

Leaders must have a mindset shift that encourages accountability at all levels to be able to apply Leader Standard Work (LSW) to their leadership tasks. Visual tools help leaders stay focused and show the minimum level of work required at all levels. This is visible to everyone who enters the leader’s workspace.