Can Kaizen be part of Standard Work – notes and observations

Joe Dager (@business901) has posted a video interview with Dr. Michael Balle, the Gemba Coach at the Lean Enterprise Institute about Kaizen Teams without Kaizen Events, or Can Kaizen be part of Standard Work?

[slideshare id=8394746&doc=kaizenpartofstdwork-110623020735-phpapp01-video]


Balle makes some key points:

Standard work is about routine v non-routine, prescribed v non-prescribed

Standards are not the same as saying everything the same for everyone everywhere

Standards = a scientific process

  • the few things we know “mountains of certainty” – standards are very useful here
  • “the islands of we believe so” – standards are looser and we need to understand if the standard applies – need to do kaizen to understand why situation is different
  • “the oceans” of “we just don’t know” – need to do kaizen to see if we can find a starting standard

Dager makes the point – how do we make this real for the busy middle-manager?

Balle’s view is that it is about a change of mindset, from “too many fires for Kaizen” to “the fires are in a state where I can live with them, I have to do the Kaizen first to reduce the number of fires”.

What is the first step of the 100 steps? What can you do in 1 minute every day?

Aligning the steps with the strategy, but break it down into small steps.

Typically takes five or ten  Kaizen to understand a topic.


For me this was a very timely post – in my last post on making a Kanban Review and Retrospective part of  Standard Work with the team I am coaching I describe our first steps to standardise the process of reflection – which should enable a bootstrapping to a more effective process.

It always helps to have a conceptual framework for what you do, and I sense  the differentiation between “mountains of certainty”, “islands of  we believe so” and “oceans of we just don’t know” will be most useful.


Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change