Upcoming Video Podcast, Getting Buy In for Standard Work


Hi everyone — sorry there was no post this morning, my flight home landed at 1 am and I was exhausted this morning, taking it sort of as a vacation day.

I have a lot of blogging to catch up, so look for more over the weekend and next week.

Later this afternoon, our friend Jamie Flinchbaugh and I are going to try the first LeanBlog video podcast. We're going to talk about coaching and the role that plays in leading Lean transformations. Stay tuned for that, I'll try to get that turned around and on the website ASAP, our “beta” version of a video podcast.

As a separate discussion point… I was doing some Lean training yesterday and one of the major topics of discussion was about getting people to buy into standardized work. If you're “going live” with a new process, ideally you'd have 100% consensus from the team about the new process… do you wait for that 100% consensus before starting (which might take a long time) or do you get started with 80% of the staff being on board, assuming that the better results of the new process will get the rest to buy in… or, as a last result, you can use your formal authority as manager to say “you must follow this new process.”

There's a lot of nuance here… the fine balance about when to get input versus when to be directive as a manager. If you do tell people “you must follow this process,” I think it's a given that part of that involves explaining “why” the new process is better (for the customer, for quality, etc.) and making sure people have the chance to give input into making that new process better (through kaizen). Thoughts?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I just had this conversation yesterday with another consultant I work with. Many times we create standard work just to have a baseline for improvement. If the need for creating standard work was created as a response to a PROBLEM, it is easier to get buy in.

    This has been a shift for some of our process owners and sponsors. They claim the problem is the lack of standard work. The deeper question is understanding the impact of not having a standard. Fixing the problem threough means of standard work.

  2. How long to wait? … not for 100% … only for the “critical mass” of agreement needed to sustain the new standard work (analogous to Gladwell’s tipping point).
    If a manager has to say “you must …”, there’s generally something missing in the work of achieving alignment/agreement.
    “Musterbators” are not often successful :-)
    /Dr. Pete

  3. If leadership hasn’t fully committed to “managing and improving from standards” then you’re really just dabbling in lean. By the same token, if you haven’t mad this a clear and non-negotiable point with the workforce, there’s some change management lacking. As Jamie Flinchbaugh would say, you need “high agreement on both what and how”. You can’t just agree that continuous improvement is good but that standardized work is optional.

    Looking forward to the video interview by the way.

  4. Good question .. I’d like to add that great Visual Control boards (4′ x 8′) really help the change management .. and so does creative participation by all ‘team members’ during the initial stage of process development.
    Mike Davis (ex-Toyota guy)

  5. I’d say that if you’re looking for ways to convince the workforce to adopt a new process, you’re thinking about work and change in the wrong way.

    As an alternative, try fostering an atmosphere where every process flow is an experiment.

    Collect data about how well it’s working and continually challenge the team to come up with ways of improving it.

    The leadership role is then to ask thought-provoking questions, not to make a convince the team about their decisions.


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