Dec 11 – Standard work is not to sing to one, and only one tune


One of the most misunderstood concepts from Lean is the concept of Standard work, or Standardized work. Standard work is not a straitjacket, not a script that is supposed to turn us in to non-thinking robots. No, Standard work is before anything else a learning tool. A tool to help us understand what works and where improvement is needed.

The primary intention of specifying standards at Toyota is not, by doing so, to establish discipline, accountability, or control the workers, but rather to have a reference point; to make plan-versus-actual comparison possible, … , so that gaps between what is expected and what is actually occurring become apparent. In this way we can see what the true problems are and where improvement is needed.

Mike Rother – Toyota Kata : Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results

Another very common misunderstanding of Standard work is that everyone should use the same Standard work. If that would be true how could it then be a learning tool? No, Standard work should be defined by the people doing the work. It should represent what the team currently considers to be the best way of working. When better ways of working is discovered, the Standard work will be changed by the team to represent the new current best way of working.

If the Standard work is what is aimed for. All the deviations from the Standard work would represent opportunities to learn.


In Lean we love our deviations. In Lean we love to learn and improve.

You can read some more on Standard in software here and here.

This is my Lean/Agile Advent Calendar. I will publish a short post on a Lean/Agile topic every day up until Christmas. I will based each days topic on what is behind the door in the LEGO® City Advent Calendar.  So be sure to check back every day!

DISCLAIMER: LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this post and blog in any way.


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