How to apply standard work to meetings

I've been writing a lot recently about standard work, and how it can reduce waste and improve efficiency. But knowledge workers often feel that standard work isn't applicable to their jobs, because they're so highly variable and unpredictable. This simply isn't true.

Let's take meetings (please). If your meetings are like those in most organizations, they're flaccid, bloated, puffy things have half the attendees struggling to control hypnic jerks and the other half checking their Blackberries.

Last year, I wrote about how Fabtech Systems, a custom prosthetics manufacturer in Washington, has defined standard work for its weekly meetings. The company figured out how long it takes to cover all the bases in the weekly meetings. Each operator has a standard reporting sequence that lasts a specified period of time. And everyone follows the standard work to the minute. The company also tracks performance on a variety of metrics after meetings. Are people getting the answers they need? Are problems resolved? Is there a higher or lower level of production problems following the meeting? Etc.

This is a great step in standardizing meetings. But you can go one better by making these metrics visible to everyone involved, including you. A simple andon system can help you identify variation from the ideal, spot trends, and create countermeasures for commonly recurring problems. I've created a sample Excel spreadsheet that you can download here to see what this kind of andon might look like.

This isn't perfect or complete by a long shot, and your specific needs will certainly be different from what I've created here. But it might serve as a starting point for you to apply standard work to your job.

Let me know what you think of it.

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