Dec 03 2013

What is the standard? Do you have a standard? When drilling down to the root cause of any problem, this is probably THE key question to ask. Arguably, any root cause will be related to either a lack of a standard, a standard that exists but is not being followed, or a standard that exists, is followed but is insufficient to complete the task properly, repeatedly.

In any process there are inputs, the actual process & the outputs. In pretty much any process, we want the output to be predictable, repeatable. To achieve this, we need to use the same inputs each time, the actual process is also a set of inputs to the process. The activities that we carry out to transform the inputs, whether physical or information, into the outputs.

Imagine you are baking a cake, you have the ingredients and the recipe. The ingredients are of course the inputs, the recipe the standard for how to make that cake. The sequence to add the ingredients, the length of time to mix/stir or otherwise combine the ingredients, any dwell time & of course the temperature & time to bake that cake.

You wouldn’t provide all the ingredients to a varied group of people without giving them the sequence required to mix the ingredients & of course the oven temperature & time required to bake it. Recipes even include information about greasing pans, pre-heating ovens, special ways to mix, fold, sift, stir the ingredients in advance of the baking part of the process, as well as how to handle the cake afterwards, whether to remove from the pan quickly or allow to cool completely, partly, etc…

When we undertake our processes at work, the same level of information should be set, as a standard – how the process should be completed. Not just a few notes on temperature, time & other limitations, but the whole process, from start to finish. The sequence, the specifics about how, special techniques required for certain aspects etc.

Without this information we are hoping that our operators, technicians or other front line staff can combine the ingredients of our process & achieve a standard output based on their skill & experience. Without this standard, we are using hope as a strategy, not good for any organisation!

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