Why Your Leader Standard Work Isn’t Working

It can be hard for leaders to take the initiative to implement their own standard work because it takes commitment and patience. It also requires you to look closely at the purpose of your job and whether the activities you are doing align with that purpose.

We often see leaders giving up on their leader standard work (LSW) after a short time because it doesn’t seem to be working, or they just can’t stick with it. Here are some common problems we observe when leaders are adopting leader standard work and what to do when facing each one.

Lack of Discipline to stick with it

You may find that you aren’t following your leader standard work, but don’t dump it!  Try to understand why this is a struggle. Some questions you might ask yourself are:  Do you have the right things on your LSW?  Are other things getting in your way?  What can you learn from not following the standard you set for yourself and how might you adjust your thinking and actions to get better?

Confusing LSW with Outlook Calendar

It’s easy to confuse leader standard work with your Outlook calendar.  While you may schedule some activities from your LSW in your calendar to ensure you get them done, not everything in your calendar will be in your leader standard work.  For instance, I schedule reflection (something on my LSW) in my calendar so I don’t miss the opportunity to reflect because other things got in the way.  Or you may schedule the gemba you want to go to in your Outlook calendar so other things don’t get scheduled during that time.  Depending on your level within the organization, the amount of standard work that fits into your calendar differs.  If you are a frontline leader, maybe 50% of your day will be driven by leader standard work.  If you are a senior executive, maybe only 10-15% of your day will be driven by LSW activities.

Check-the-Box Mentality

A “check-the-box” mentality usually stems from a leader not fully grasping the why behind using LSW. Sometimes it turns into a to-do list rather than leader standard work.  Just including easy stuff on your leader standard work so you can check the box will not help you with your development to becoming a better leader.  Go back to the purpose of the activity, why is checking that box important?  How will it help you and/or your team develop?

Hopefully you can avoid these common problems when adopting leader standard work. Remember, the purpose of leader standard work is to help reduce variation and improve performance, develop direct reports, model the way, and support your teams. It defines what the leader should be doing, when the leader should be doing it, and how the leader should be doing it.

What have you experienced when adopting leader standard work? Please share in the comments section below.

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2 Responses to Why Your Leader Standard Work Isn’t Working

Mike Hill says: 11/04/2021 at 6:43 am

A good trick is on the back of your LSW (printed paper), write down why you missed an item. Create a Living Pareto at the end of each week or day for the items that you missed. You will soon start to see a pattern forming on those common reasons. Then ask the 5 Whys around the misses. If you have the wrong items, it will come out. If you have to much, it will come out. But, discipline, discipline and discipline to follow the LSW is the key harness the power behind the LSW.

Andrew Bishop says: 11/04/2021 at 7:08 am

It might help if one’s mindset changed from “implement LSW” (grab a hammer and start looking for nails) to “standardize my work as a leader”. What’s the difference?
*Focus on the work rather than the tool
*Focus on what is subject to standardization, rather than thinking the tool applies to everything
*A more reflective, improvement oriented approach
*Allows more latitude up-front for adapting the tool to individual needs


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